Why is our blog titled "Wading in the Water"? We have drawn our inspiration from a haunting spiritual, Scripture, and tradition.
Wade in the Water is a song of liberation in which "God's a-goin' to trouble the water" to bring about the release of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity. According to Owen Sound, Harriet Tubman sang this spiritual as a warning to runaway slaves. For oppressed peoples, it is a stirring call to faith in the face of fearful threats to the community. To "wade in the water" is to trust in a God who helps the people overcome obstacles to freedom and thwarts the plans of those who tyrannize the poor.
Water is ubiquitous in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. In the biblical narrative of the Flood and the story of the Exodus, water is a source of life and the gravest threat to it. In the context of Christian baptism, immersion in water symbolizes a descent into death and ascent into new life. Where there is water, God's presence has always been near: In the Priestly account of creation, from the beginning "a wind from God swept over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2, NRSV). An Israelite hymn to the God who reigns over the storm, probably borrowed from the Canaanites, offers this praise: "The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters" (Psalms 29:3, NRSV).
Of course, religious symbols gain and lose meaning over history, and Hurricane Katrina has troubled the image of God troubling the water. What was a salvific event for the Israelites was anything but redemptive for the thousands of women, men, and children of the Gulf Coast caught in the deluge. If God's wind swept over the waters filling New Orleans like a bowl; if God's voice spoke when the levees broke; if God was thundering over the mighty waves of water that pulverized thousands of homes and drowned hundreds of people, then what does that say about God? Among other things, our mission team aims to reflect on the meaning of God "troubling the water" and what the call to "wade in the water" means after the devastation of the Gulf Coast.
For a moving rendition of "Wade in the Water," click here: