Collective Liberation

A Word for the Water

I was humbled and honored to be asked by an indigenous leader in Denver to co-organize a 24-hour prayer vigil in support of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock (see here as well).  With intention we held the vigil over the 24 hours of the US “thanksgiving” holiday, a day that celebrates a myth that disappears the reality of the (ongoing) genocide of indigenous peoples in the service of US Empire (which is why I won’t celebrate it anymore).  This is the reflection I offered yesterday as part of my blessing of the water that will be sent in solidarity to the Water Protectors.

~ ~ ~

Water is life.
Water is life.
Water is life.

This is a Word for the water.

This is a Word for the water.

In our (Christian) creation stories,
In our sacred stories in our tradition
Water is the first element named,
All of creation is lifted up
the heavens and the earth
the whole of it
And then, water: “the deep waters”
That covered the face of creation.
From this water all things come.

The Divine’s breath,
In the beginning,
Her breath
Hovers over the waters
Stirs up the waters
Troubles the waters
And from the water
Comes life.

All the elements are there,
In the beginning
Breath of the Divine
Fire of Light
Waters of the seas,
Land, soil, its vegetation and creatures.

But first, water.
Everything is born from water.
Water is life.

This is a Word for the water.

The waters of the wells of life.

The waters of the Red Sea that
Drowned the armies of pharaoh
And beside which Miriam danced
Freedom songs.

The waters that quench our longing
For the Divine,
The waters that bring life to the desert
The living waters,
The rivers of life flowing out for all people
The springs of water that never fail
When we live in harmony with each other
And the earth.

This is a Word for the water

This is a Word for the water,
for the Jordan River
that we come to
again and again
in our struggle to get free
to get free from pharaoh
to get free from Empire
this river, these waters
that John the Baptist calls us to
that Jesus our good brother
waded into to get baptized
and we follow,
we follow
into the waters of the River Jordan
to be baptized
and get free from the narrow ways
the harmful ways.
We wade into the water
to get free.

This is a Word for the water,
for the Jordan River. And
For the Allegheny, the Ohio
For the Gila, the Colorado
For the Platte, the Animas, the San Juan,
For the Columbia, the Hudson, the Rio Grande,
For the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Arkansas.

For the Cannonball.

Here we are,
At the water’s edge,
Invited, beckoned,
Again and again, to wade in
To the struggle for life,
For transformation,
For freedom and flourishing for all.

Wade in, the Divine beckons.
Will we?
Will we?

Water is life.

But what happens
When those waters,
Those life and liberation-giving waters
Are poisoned?
What happens to our spiritual traditions
When the waters are
Dripping with lead?
Dripping with oil?
Dripping with toxic runoff
That deadens the water orange?

What happens when
We have to baptize our children
In water dripping with blood?

What happens then?

You can’t drink oil,
So the protest chant goes,
So how do we wade into the water, then,
If the water itself could kill us?

This is what is at stake for us,
All of us.

This is a Word for the water.

The living water.

The water we are all born from.


The key to everything is this:

To love the water.
To love the water.

If everything begins in water,
Including us,
Including all of creation according
Our tradition’s stories,

If everything comes from the water

Which is to say

Water is life

Then to love the water is to love LIFE.

To love the water is to love the rivers
The streams, the oceans, the rain

To love the water is to love where we come from

To love the water is to love our own bodies

To love the water is to love ourselves

To love the water is to love our neighbor

To love the water is to want the water to flourish,
Clean and clear and flowing,
And when the water flourishes,
Then so do we,
Clean and clear and flowing.

This is a word for the water.

We love the water
Because we are part of her

We love the water
Because we belong to her

How do we love the water?

How do we love the water?

The water protectors at Standing Rock show us how

We love the water
With our bodies
Our prayers
Our dances
Our songs
Our resilience
Our breath
Our sacrifice
Our hearts

The water protectors at Standing Rock
Show us how

Not just clean drinking water out of our tap

Indigenous ancestral ways
That remember how to love the water,
How to love all the elements
How to love all the creatures, the herbs,
The stones, even ourselves
All part of a whole
Not us outside of it,
Dominating it,
But part of it,
Loving all of it

The air, our breath inhabiting our lungs
The fire, our passion inhabiting our bellies
The water, our dreams inhabiting our blood
The earth, our nourisher inhabiting our whole bodies

For those of us who have forgotten,
Whose imaginations have been held captive
By the devouring monster of colonization,
Capitalism, white supremacy,
Here is the good news:
We begin here:
Loving all of it. Air. Fire. Water. Earth.

This is a Word for the Water.

Thanks be to God.

This image is a protest banner in process for an action that will be led by the United Methodist Women next year. Participants at their Leadership Development Days, which I attended this month as a guest speaker/workshop leader, painted banners like these with leadership by artists from God In the Graffiti.  The theme of the events was from Luke 3, John the Baptist baptizing at the Jordan River.











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