In Australia, the driest continent on earth, we know how precious water is. When visitors from overseas look at maps of central Australia, they are amazed at the number of rivers that flow through the desert. What they fail to realise is that almost all of these rivers only flow every few years, and in some cases they only flow every ten years or more.
That’s why maps warn us about taking enough water when venturing into the ‘bush’. Many travellers, from early explorers down to present day outback adventurers, have died from lack of water. No water, no life.
This is exactly why Aboriginal people memorised the location of every waterhole in central Australia. From one generation to the next, they sang songs that were like maps of their country. In these ‘song-maps’ the precious water holes were prominent. They treasured water; it meant life.
Fresh water also meant life in the Hebrew Bible. It symbolised the life that God gave people in the present for their crops and livestock, and also the new life promised in the future. This was known as the ‘messianic age’, a time when the great divide between heaven (where God lives and rules with justice and abundance) and earth (where God often seems absentand there is much suffering and injustice) will disappear, bringing about something completely new. Revelation 21:1-6 envisages this time so vividly.
But as Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, this new life is not merely waiting for us in the future. God has already made us part of his new creation when he joined us to Christ in the waters of baptism. Even though we still have to endure many struggles and hardships, God’s Spirit is constantly changing our lives every day, making all things new through his word.
One of the specific ways God’s Spirit changes us is through the weekly divine worship services that are held in our congregations each Sunday. Wherever God’s word is heard and the sacraments administered, there our Lord Jesus Christ is present with the church on earth, bringing down God’s gifts of forgiveness and life from heaven. At our recent pastors course at Ntaria, that wasn’t the only gift that God gave us from the heavens. We also received around 100mm of rain in the local area that caused significant stream rises.
Regardless of the hardships we all had to endure travelling to, setting up, and even leaving the course, 20 FRM church leaders still attended to learn more about divine service. Pastor Linards Jansons from the Australian Lutheran College bravely led us over the four days, even though he must have wondered at times if he was ever going to leave Ntaria because of the persistent rain. Thanks be to God that we all arrived home safely, truly enriched by our time spent together, the teaching that was offered, and of course, the wonderful rain.