Like the ticking of a clock marking out time, water drips noisily. Maybe it drips off the edge of a stone or roof in times of rain and plenty, or perhaps from a badly turned off tap in societies where earth's most precious and vital resource is unconsciously wasted. The sound of dripping water is greeted with joy after a time of drought.
The sound of those drops hitting the ground brings the promise of transformation, of seeds germinating, of crops bearing fruit, of hope for the future, of refreshment. That dripping is also the sound of justice.
More than two thousand years ago, the prophet Micah was calling humanity to a threefold spirituality of resistance and persistence, “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” It is to such a spirituality of persistence, to a spirituality of long term sustainability that Christians are called as Lent once more begins.
Centuries ago the Roman poet Ovid said that dripping water wears away stone not by force but by persistence. In a society of quick fixes and instant solutions the Lenten virtues of discipline and going without are not always easy to sell. Micah’s threefold spirituality calls us to be as water dripping on stone, continuing to highlight issues of water and justice in our own communities and across the world.
Loren Kerkof, a Franciscan father in the U.S., also encourages the development of a threefold spirituality as a response to the ecological reality of our planet, one which stems from our need to deepen our relationship with God; a sense of moral responsibility and the call to promote God's kingdom of justice.
“Eco-spirituality realizes that the earth is a reflection of the divine. It sees the universe as a sacrament of God, an incarnation of God. Contemplating the beauty and presence of God in all things can lead us to metanoia, a conversion that moves us to respond to the crisis faced by our planet, our home, God’s creation."
Like the deer longing for pure running water in Psalm 42, there is deep longing in our world for things to be different, for clean water, for deeper relationship with God, for a more related and just way of living between people.
The water crisis and the lack of justice in access to water is part of the crisis facing the planet. Kerkof says that the question facing us today is “How, then, shall we live?”
Seen this way Lent is more about taking time to ask questions, looking at God’s beautiful creation, becoming aware of how the way each of us lives today is linked to whole of life on this precious and fragile planet, and asking ourselves what does it mean today to follow Jesus?
It is about contemplating beautiful lakes, free running streams or simply a glass of clean drinking water and longing for justice. It’s also about committing to being part of the long term work for water justice across the planet.
As we walk humbly with God through Lent we are also looking forwards to the promise of the transformed world values offered by Christ’s resurrection at Easter. That transformation has to begin with ourselves.
Achieving water justice for the more than one billion people on our planet who do not have access to clean drinking water will not come about over night. It will be a long process linking advocacy, campaigning and direct action. Sometimes it will seem as if we are having no impact.
It demands not only our intellectual and political commitment, it also needs a spirituality of persistence which sustains us as we follow Jesus and try to be water wearing away at the mountains of injustice.
The promise is that Christ the source of living waters will sustain us as we go forwards and water the seeds of new life.
Jane Stranz is a minister in the United Reformed Church in Great Britain and the Reformed Church of France. Currently she is working on ecumenical relations, inter-religious dialogue and inter-cultural ministry with the French Protestant Federation, based in Paris.