The Mackenzie River or Deh-cho, as it is known by the Dene people who live in the communities along its banks, is the longest river system in Canada. It flows from the outlet of Great Slave Lake in the southern region of our diocese all the way to the Mackenzie Delta and the frigid waters of the Beaufort Sea in the north. The river has always been the lifeline of the people of the north who have used it as a highway for travel and trade, as means of efficient communication from one community to the next and as a source of plentiful food all year round. Without the fertile soils of the river deposits little would grow here and without the river itself the Canadian north would be a very barren place.
So, today’s image from the prophet Ezekiel, of a river running from the temple, bringing new life wherever it flows, to all the arid lands and to the distant places is one which is easy for us to grasp. It reminds us of all the life that takes place around our big river and all the rivers and lakes that flow into it. The river is a source of goodness, it is a source of life. It provides us food and gives rise to the cultures that have thrived here for thousands of years.
But Ezekiel’s vision is about more than physical water. He is speaking about a life-giving spirit which has both a source, and a destination. For Ezekiel the source of the water is the temple. The temple, of course, is a place of worship, a place where we meet God, our creator, the one who makes all good things, who gives them life and sustains them. But the source of our life, the source of all good cannot be contained, God wants to be set free across all the land and so the spirit of God flows out and that spirit flows out through you and me.
The spirit of God flows across the land and where it flows the land is changed, it is formed and channeled. And where the spirit flows God’s mark is left there and as long as the spirit flows good things will grow there and communities will thrive. Like a mighty river, God is the source of our life and it is through us that the waters of God’s love will flow.
In the Gospel reading Jesus encounters a sick man who is waiting to be healed by water, but there is no one to carry him to the pool. Jesus looks with mercy upon the man and heals him with a word, “Get up, carry your sleeping mat and walk”. Jesus’ words flow over the man like the fresh water that, until now, had been so elusive.
A stagnant pool does no one any good except perhaps a few mosquitoes. But for this man Jesus was a source of living water, a spring of mercy and healing.
We have been baptized in that spring, into that living water and, in that baptism, we are called to bring the life we have received wherever we are and to wherever we go. Let us be a source of goodness and life in our communities by letting spirit of God flow through us.