Monday, October 28, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 295: Ezekiel 47-48; Psalm 91; Revelation 15

Healing Waters
There was a deacon in the parish that I grew up in back in Ohio. "Dutch" was a big, florid man who loved what he called to do: to serve alongside the priest on the altar; to offer the cup of Christ to the Church; to share the Gospel, proclaiming it in the midst of the people and from the pulpit; to be with the people of God in prayer. When I was a kid, I was a bit terrified of him. He was a tall, round man with a BIG voice. When I was a teenager, I pulled back a bit from him. He was by no means "cool," When I went off to seminary, he gave a YOUNG 20-something a gift...he bid me well as, he put it, "a colleague in ministry and the Gospel."

After seminary and ordination, I was invited back to my home parish to be with them as priest and preacher one Sunday. I stood at the altar and chanted the Eucharist, and Dutch was at my side. He turned the pages of the altar book, he lifted the chalice when I held the paten up to the people. I gave him the Body, and he offered my the Blood of Christ. After the service, in the sacristy, he gave me a hug. "Welcome home, Father. It was so good to have an "old school" Eucharist with you. Don't stay away too long...once you get Hocking River water in your veins, you know that no where else is ever quite 'home.'"

White's Mill, historic grist mill on the banks of the Hocking River, Athens Co., Ohio
As I read Ezekiel's account of the river flowing in his vision from beneath the threshold of the restored Temple, that memory of my shared moment with Dutch in that sacristy came rushing back to me. The Hocking River. It flowed through my hometown. For the greater part of the year, it was just a shallow, muddy trickle. Compare it to other rivers that I have known and seen, it isn't much. And yet, how welcome are our own waters, the ones we know because we have known them our whole lives. I can close my eyes and see the bends and curves of that river in the light of so many seasons. I can see it in flood, and during drought. I can see it nearly frozen over, and in high summer. I can see the old grist mill that stood on one side of town, and the wide river valley farms that hemmed it in on the other. I can smell the organic, gritty scent that river had...a combination of umber-colored native clay, fish and sweet grass. Dutch was right. I can travel anywhere...and walk beside may waters...but only one river is the one I know from start to finish.

Ezekiel and his cohort only knew exile. The rivers they were raised beside were not their own. The waters of their lives were those of another's heritage. They could not begin to know that feeling I just noted above....and yet, with the conclusion of this book, the image of God's waters flowing from the Temple reminds them that there is a place where the water of a particular river is for them. It is deep and wide. It is fresh, sweet and clean. It gives life and growth. Even the Dead Sea will blossom and have new birth. It is the sign of everything they hope for...a home, hope and renewal of life in God's promises fulfilled.

Once you get that water in can fill in that blank.

Dutch passed to Christ not too long ago. I am sure that somewhere in heaven there is a river that flows like that from the Temple threshold; and to Dutch, I bet it looks a lot like the mighty Hocking....

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