Water pouring out from under the threshold of our building into the streets of Randolph and White would not seem a good sign. I would be on the phone to my favorite Farmer City plumbers in a panicked heartbeat. But Ezekiel’s image of the river that flows from the temple is of increasing abundance and widespread healing. The Spirit of God emanating from the house of God.
Standing at the entrance, the water ebbing out doesn’t look like much. Five blocks away, it becomes ankle-deep. But in another five to ten blocks, it becomes a river. This is counter-intuitive. Why does it get deeper the further it flows from the source, not dissipate into the dryness of the land? Prophetic imagery is poetic and perplexing. Profound and provocative.
And hopeful. We hope that the blessing within the walls of the church flows out into the streets, uncontained by religious boundaries. That the impact of an apparent trickle out our doors grows and deepens beyond what we can see. Invigorates dead places.
Wherever the river flows, every living thing that moves will thrive. There will be great schools of fish, because when these waters enter the [dead] sea, it will be fresh. Wherever the river flows, everything will live. Ezekiel 47:9 (CEB)
How do we enter into this vision? How do we become part of the living river? Perhaps we must be willing to leave the comfort of our temples, to go out into the streets. To allow the lines between sacred and secular to be blurred. To be fresh water intermingling with the salt water.
But. Lest we think it is our job to change everyone else. To become bulldozers instead of gradually growing streams. Before we flood the marshes and fill in the swamps. We should pause to ponder a perplexing verse that the lectionary omitted:
Its marshes and swamps won’t be made fresh (they are left for salt) Ezekiel 47:11 (CEB)
Why? Because we need salt? Because salt isn’t always bad. (Jesus says that we are to be salt!) Sometimes, those in-between places, the anomalies that we would like to eliminate, are teeming with life. There is a rich diversity in the salt marsh that we haven’t always recognized. We need the swamps; they are part of the beauty of the kingdom.
God named the dry land Earth, and he named the gathered waters Seas. God saw how good it was. Gen. 1:10 (CEB)
The marshes are the in-between. Part of the grand continuum from desert to ocean. The epiphany of all the in-betweens and continua of creation- day & night, land & sea, male & female- continue to astound me, as I share here.They don’t need healing or fixing, because God saw- even when we didn’t- how good it was. And so we pray:
May the water of life pour out from beneath our threshold into the streets. May blessing become a river, the further it flows. May the salt marshes exalt with life. And may we taste the goodness of the fruit and experience the healing of the leaves.