Water Knows No Boundaries

Sermon from the September 10, 2023 service

During the summer, I travel to Kentucky to spend time with my family. The drive is an old familiar friend by now. My GPS navigation welcomes me to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and at last Kentucky. If I pay attention I see more revealing signs along the way, the ones that let me know that I have entered a new watershed. 

States are human business, colonial divisions to organize humans by laws, mere hundreds of years old, arbitrary in many cases, only sometimes related to a geologic reality. Watersheds are real. The water we pour to the earth in the Connecticut river valley flows to the interconnected ocean via the trough of that river, as it has for hundreds of millions of years, a rift valley gathering water from 148 tributaries. 

In comparison with the states and European colonies, the native people of the Connecticut River valley have lived and traveled by its waters for thousands of years, including the Norwottuck, Pocumtuck, and Nipmuck people who were and continue to be the stewards of the land I preach from today. 

Not all the waters stitching the land together are as old as the Connecticut. The lower Hudson River is somewhere between 13,000 and 26,000 years, a relative baby–but its power as a watershed is no less real. 

When we look at maps, borders divide us, but water connects us. Water creates communities, economies, families. And by us, I mean not just humans, but all beings. What is an ecosystem if not an economy of the natural world? The migrations and life cycles of fish and birds, guided by bodies of water, just as much as the humans who observe them.

Maps are full of lines, of course, but pay attention to which lines are designed to keep us apart and which trace eons of tangible reality. 

Understanding our place in the world only by the divisions we draw upon it, by these borders of towns and cities, counties, states, nations, we miss so much of the picture. We are not separate from nature, and going back to the paths of water, real beyond all human divisions, reminds us to look for what’s really happening beyond our anthropocentric assumptions.

It grows harder each year for this planet to sustain us in the ways we are accustomed. We break record numbers of weather-related records at an accelerating pace. We know the patterns of climate grief. To make it through the crisis of the coming years, we will need the strength of our interconnections more than we need our external classifications of your problem, not mine, of red states and blue states, of winners and losers.

Our Universalist ancestors knew that there was a single destiny for all people – that God loves everyone, and no one is damned. It’s our business to do what we can to heal this world now. 

To do that, we need one another. We flow together, we pool our strength, we catch one another’s tears, and we flow on, opening our hearts to the wider world, past shifting sands. We find reality in our interconnection, and whatever comes, we face it together. 

Our combined waters are like our covenant, each one of us bringing our whole selves to this community, affirming that this connection matters. There is power in our coming together. Power shared, held with intention and love, is a force for healing and sustaining life, and power out of balance can harm or even destroy.

At the beginning of our year, we come back to one another, come back to this covenant we have chosen together, to create together our stock of ritual water that will bless us this year. 

May we be part of the blessing and healing of this world.

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