by Sunshine C. Dulnuan, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, Philippines
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
“Water cannot be owned”, my mother emphasized to me while I was leafing through numerous pictures of my father who used to work as a senior forester in our city. Her statement is a strange concept given our global water situation where some natural sources of water are converted into dams to cater to the growing demand for electricity and water. In the Philippine context, more often than not, the conversion of rivers into dams has met oppositions from indigenous communities who have been sustained by rivers for generations; their very lives and security revolving around their confident reliance to the rivers and the land around them which they perceive as sacred. Village leaders were killed, communities displaced, and sources of livelihood were pillaged; a group of people considered a minority, sacrificed for the nation’s upkeep. Yet in all these depressing events, there is one truth that lingers among the ruined villages that once thrived along the rivers of the earth – water has a sense of sacredness to it. Without water, all will perish. Water carries with it messages of hope, life, and growth.
The prophet Isaiah paints a vivid imagery of God who “gives water in the wilderness, rivers in a desert” (Isaiah 43:20); who gives drink to people so that they may not thirst. Those who have experienced drought or extremely dry seasons could easily relate to this text. And perhaps the experience of the Israelites in Babylon could take us deeper into understanding the text in light of our call to be stewards of God’s creation. Displaced from their homeland and longing for deliverance, Isaiah gave them a message of hope – it is a promise that the people who dwell in the wilderness shall never thirst. The gushing sound of the river will be heard once more. And with that water comes life; people will sing songs of harvest for God will restore the watercourses of Negeb just as the psalmist said, “those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126)
Macliing Dulag, the slain pangat or village elder of the Butbut tribe of Kalinga, who fought against the construction of the Chico river dam, presents to us a challenge when he said, “If you destroy life in your search of what you say the good life, we question it.”
Indeed, the waters of the earth and the people who sought to protect them were made to suffer in the name of development. The question then remains: to what extent would we sacrifice life for development?
Old Testament reading / Psalm
– Written in the context of the Babylonian exile, the prophet Isaiah illustrates God as the deliverer; reminding them of their ancestors’ experience in Egypt where God made “a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters … who brings out chariot and horse”.
– The prophet Isaiah aimed to usher the people into a future of hope in view of the sufferings they endured under Babylonian rule. Isaiah emphasized to them not to consider the “former things” but to look forward to God’s redemption symbolized as water in the wilderness.
– This text shows the solidarity between humans and nature, and exudes the idea of the “divinity” of nature. The power of nature brings life. This is a stark contrast from the materialistic view of nature which reduces nature into mere “things” which can be manipulated and exploited for human purposes.
This joyful song refers to the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity after 70 years in exile. The song is metaphorical expressed through imageries of a dream, streams in the desert, and abundant harvest.
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Hymns & Songs
“Lord, your hands have formed this world”, Episcopal Church in the Philippines Hymnal
by S. C. Dulnuan, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary