The Gifts of Water: A Kiss from God
By Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff, Aleut
With introduction and prayer by Rev. Dr. Curt Karns
The whole creation waits with eager longing…groaning in labor pains…awaiting redemption. (Romans 8:18-25)
This year PEC is contemplating the blessing that water is to the world, and the necessity for people of faith to join with others in advocating for a stewardship that better cares for water. In this Advent season of waiting and meditation I therefore asked Larry Merculieff, a Native American elder, to reflect with me on the sacredness of earth’s water.
“I was walking along the beach one day and I noticed that the longer I stayed there the better I felt. I realized the ions in the water that were doing this magic. I wondered how this could be and thought that this was a kiss from God. God wanted to remind us humans of the divine, and so he kissed the universe. The universe sent the kiss everywhere until it hit our galaxy and touched everything. The kiss went to the moon, which then sent the kiss to the waters of Earth. The waters of Earth moved in response, creating swells and waves which came ashore in a way that created these ions which then touched me, making me feel inexplicably good. These waters are everywhere: the brooks and streams, the rivers, this ice, the snow, the rains, the seas, and our bodies. A kiss from God.
“The waters of the riverways and the oceans were and are sacred to all our peoples. Let us remember all her sacred aspects. Water cleanses our bodies, heals open wounds and gives us the sustenance our bodies require to live. Water purifies everything it comes into contact with. Water was and is used in our sacred ceremonies for the life-giving force of Mother Earth. All creatures, including human beings depend on water to survive and thrive. “Water teaches us many lessons. We are taught: how not to fight the flow of the river of life, but to go with it; how being fluid and soft can even mold and shape the greatest of mountains and boulders; that water reflects our moods and emotions. Walking next to the water raises our spirits, even when we are feeling downtrodden. Being in the water always refreshes us. Our bodies are made mostly of water. We are born in a salty sea of water in the womb…
“Water comes to us in the forms all creatures need at the times they need it, be it snow, rain, ice, or fog. Without the ice we would not have the polar bear or the permafrost. Without snow we would not have creatures like the snowshoe hare, the rivers, and the plants would not have a coat to wear while they sleep through the winter. Without rain, we would not have fresh water or lakes, or fertile lands where berries and all the bounty of the land we depend on grow, including all the healing and food plants, vegetables, and fruits… “We are nothing without the sacred waters of Mother Earth. And so, our ancestors built craft in ways taught us by the seas, rivers, and oceans…ways to create beauty and function to honor the waters, and ways of respect, reciprocity, reverence, and humility in the face of the awesomeness of the gifts, wisdom, and power of water…
” Holy God, teach us “to listen and conduct ourselves correctly to receive the gifts and wisdom of water or we will lose that which we are given, and let the Elders lead us in the ways of the Real Human Being. To forget is to bring about our own destruction.”
Contributors: Larry Merculieff has almost four decades of experienceof the Pribilof Islands and other indigenous peoples in a number of capacities—locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. For his entire career, Merculieff has been a passionate advocate for indigenous rights/wisdom, and harmonious relationship with the Earth Mother. Currently, Merculieff is an independent consultant and is working on projects related to the resilience of rural Alaskan communities, assessing the academic needs of Alaska-based wildlife co-management organizations.
The Rev. Dr. Curt Karns and his wife, Cindee, are stalwart stewards of creation. They live in Alaska’s only bioshelter, are teacher and host for the Alaska Permaculture Learning Center, and were the primary founders of the Yukon Presbyterians for Earth Care. Curt is the executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Yukon, which oversees 21 PC(USA) congregations, including eight that are not on any road system. Curt is a son, sibling, cousin, husband, father and grandfather. His family hunts, fishes, gathers, gardens, and otherwise finds every excuse to celebrate and live-out a thriving relationship with God’s beautiful, beloved creation.