Water is a Sacrament of Salvation

I felt the Holy Spirit move me Thursday morning at Manna House. I had to say a few things about water as I invited all of us to wash our hands before entering the backyard.

“Come and wash your hands!

Wash this death-dealing virus away!

Soap up and let the water flow over your hands.

Water is liberation. Water is life.

The Israelites passed through water on their way out of slavery into freedom.

Jesus passed through water on his way into his liberating work as the Son of God.

In baptism we pass through water on our way to liberation from sin and death.

I got a few “Amens,” and “Alleluias,” from guests as they went to the handwashing stations. I believe the hand washing took on a holy significance. 

Hand washing, especially in this time of pandemic, is a way to promote life, the fullness of life for which Jesus came.

And hand washing points to another reality. Water is at the heart of the hospitality we offer at Manna House. Certainly, without water, no hands get washed. 

Even more, without water we could not offer hot coffee for guests to drink. Without water there would be no cooler filled with cold water to drink on hot days. Without water we could not offer showers for our guests. Without water we could not do laundry to cleanse the clothes and towels for showers. Without water we could not clean the coffee pots and sugar containers, and we could not mop the floors.

From beginning to end, water flows through our hospitality. Water’s role in hospitality signifies God’s liberating welcome to new life. Biblically, water is a sacrament of salvation.

The prophet Isaiah says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Jesus makes offering water a sign of discipleship. “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward” (Mark 9:41). And again, “I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink” (Matthew 25:35).

At the Last Supper, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. After this washing in water he gives them the new liberating commandment for life in God, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

Paul writes that we are buried with Christ “through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4, see also 1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:5 and Colossians 2:12).

In the Book of Revelation, the final vision includes “the river of the water of life.” This life-giving river flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and the hospitable invitation is given, “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:1-2, 17).

On Thursday morning, I felt the Spirit hover over the waters of hospitality at Manna House (Genesis 1:2). There was a hint of the new creation made possible as water flowed and offered life. And it all started with the invitation to wash our hands.

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