Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost


September 27, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

As I reflect on God's instruction to Moses to strike the rock that gave water to the people, I am reminded that hundreds of millions of people have no clean water to drink. And I am reflecting on what daily actions I can take to participate in moving the dial on the root causes that keep that fact in place in our world.



Current Events & World Affairs

The Top 5 Causes of Global Thirst

staff of Concern

Concern Worldwide US

Statistics on global thrist and a look at the 5 primary root causes that perpetuate the crisis.

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What can we do to end global thirst?


Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.—Exodus 17:6b

I keep a water bottle my mother gave me filled by my bedside at night. I wake during the night and drink from it. When I wake up, my throat is usually bone dry because I have slept with my mouth open. While I have water without limit whenever I desire, that sensation of a parched throat is a nightly reminder to me of what it means for people to crave water. There is nothing like it.

Severe thirst makes a person desperate. It makes a person quarrelsome and angry, and finally, despondent.

The Lord understood that no human could be reasonable facing dire thirst. Which is why he gave Moses water from the rock. The Lord understood that there could be no civil conversation among those whose throats were parched.

In today’s current events and world affairs lesson, we learn that less than 1% of the world’s water supply is drinkable. An estimated 844 million people lack access to clean water and 2.3 billion lack access to basic sanitation services. Think about what this void would mean in your life.

In the article from Concern, we are told that our starting place for addressing this global crisis is to understand the root causes of the problem. What struck me about the five causes identified is that all of them have leverage points that we ordinary citizens can engage. Lifestyle choices matter. And each step we make is meaningful. It’s far better to take the steps we can take and are ready to take than to wallow in guilt and shame about our wealth. We can start somewhere. And one change tends to lead to another—that’s the way transformation happens. I encourage you to read the article and consider the leverage points you can engage.

We use spiritual thirst as a metaphor. And it is a compelling one. But I do not believe we have the luxury to speak only in metaphorical terms about thirst as long as we have sisters and brothers on this fragile earth who live day in and day out with without access to water other than the kind that will make them sick to drink. And by sick, I mean deathly ill. These sisters and brothers of ours will die without water or they will die from water that is contaminated. And die an agonizing death. If you have ever had severe food poisoning, you have a glimmer into what an existence with contaminated water is like. Now, just add the absence of a toilet and running water, and you begin to get the picture. So, when I think about my metaphorical thirst for all the good things of God offers—love, justice, beauty, truth, reconciliation—I pray I will always, in the same thought—hold those who are every minute of every day experiencing unbearable physical thirst.

We live with complexity that is difficult to hold—a world where some of us have riches beyond measure—and if you have a roof and food and clothing and water and safety—you are rich—while others of us have none of these things.

Today’s lesson reminds those of us who have these necessities of life to be as God was among the thirsting Israelites in the desert—that is, to understand that the first order of business is to provide the water—by any means possible, even the striking of a rock.

In all of our legitimate concerns about our present troubles, let us not forget the billions of people to whom we are connected. We have the opportunity to strike the rock every day. And while we may not have the staff of Moses, if we keep at it, I have to believe sooner or later even our small efforts will yield the water that quenches thirst.