780 million people lack access.  It is the leading cause of death worldwide, more than malaria, HIV/AIDS and piercing bullets.  If you ask any public health official they will plead with you, before sending money or medicine, before food or infrastructure, please, oh please, just send a glass of clean water.

Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” TheLord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The detergents of slavery, the solvents of bondage, the heavy metals of oppression have contaminated the well making us a people who are over hydrated on potable poison.  Yes, the tap is always running in Egypt but it is time to turn off Pharaoh’s faucet because what’s pouring out is the leading cause of spiritual death.

Lent is the forty day invitation, as Walter Bruggemann says, to take a hard look at our broken cisterns where we have tried to store the Empire’s water supply.  If we are what we drink, then the watering holes we gather our lives around are theologically significant.  The gift of wilderness, despite the fountains on every corner and the empty bottles littered about, is we finally realize that we are still a very, very thirsty people.

To be a Christian, then, is to rid ourselves of foreign dependance, to care about our quality of water, to sojourn with a God who multiplies bread for the hungry, offers sight to the blind, says to the lame, “get up and walk,” and promises to pour out his life, pour our his death and pour out his resurrection for the world’s recommended daily intake of eight glasses full of clean, pure, liquid grace.

Booker T. Washington liked to tell the story about a ship, lost at sea in the Atlantic Ocean along the northern coast of South America.  The sailors were dehydrated, parched under the ocean sun, struggling to survive until they spotted a friendly vessel.  From their mast, the adrift vessel signaled, “Water, water. We are dying of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel came back at once: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal: “Water, send us water!” And was answered again: “Cast down your bucket.” A third and fourth signal for water was again answered: “Cast down your bucket.” The captain, dried up and desperate, finally heeding the injunction, casting down his bucket. It came up full of clean and pure fresh water from the mouth of the Amazon River, which extends miles out into the ocean, untouched by the surrounding salt.

Cast down your bucket in the ocean desert of your wilderness to hear the wet Good News that living water is always as close as a staff strike on the nearest dry rock.