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Faces of Faith: Brown water, bright light

By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

Brown water.

That’s what’s been coursing down the Caloosahatchee River this week. Brown water from Lake Okeechobee.

Brown water marred by nitrogen and phosphorus, run off from farm fields and cattle ranches that made their way to Lake Okeechobee during the recent spate of heavy rain.

Rains that led to the need to drain off some of the excess in the lake, water that threatened to damage the dams that surround it.

Brown water that discolors the San Carlos Bay and fosters red tide blooms, with their noxious and toxic effects. Brown water that leads to the killing off of essential sea grasses that support the whole coastal ecosystem, as well as the local economy, leading to fewer fish, fewer swimmers, fewer visitors.

Brown water that blocks sunlight from reading through the normally clear waters to the plant life below.

For ultimately, many of the problems brought about by the discharged water from Lake O come about because of a lack of light.

Who would have guessed?

When we thought we were talking about water, in the end we are talking about light. The essential ingredient for life itself.

No wonder the ancient writers of Genesis saw it as the first of God’s creations. “In the beginning . . . God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good . . . .” (Genesis 1:1a, 3-4)

From its opening verses and all across its many pages and many authors writing over many centuries, the Bible posits the importance of light.

When something important is happening in the scriptures, it often involves light which functions like a theatrical spotlight From the brilliance of burning bushes to the blazing array of angels over Bethlehem, light is used by the Bible to say pay attention!

This story, this event, this person, this truth really matters!

These past few weeks we have seen incredibly odd weather for this time of year in Florida. January went down in the history books as the wettest January in history. We’ve seen flooding, strong winds, and even a few tornados.

I remember a time several years ago when such weather was experienced throughout the Southeast. Many were killed, and thousands of homes were destroyed.

One survivor, speaking of his experience, described the horrifying sound of the approaching tornado. He and his wife hid under their mattress, hearing the house fall down around them as they prayed for dear life.

When night was over and they crawled out from under the mattress, they were surrounded by destruction.

Unsure what he should do, where he should go, not knowing how to escape the threat of dangling live wires and broken gas lines, he suddenly saw someone in the distance.

It was a rescue worker, making his way through the rubble. A rescue worker holding a powerful flashlight. As he shined it into the ruins, he spotted the survivor’s face and then shouted: “Just come to the light and follow it out!”

What sound advice! If we are only willing to come to the light and follow it, we will discover the truth that we so desperately are seeking! We will find our way through the destruction that often litters our path.

So where is light shining in your life?

What truth is God hoping you’ll see, hear, understand? To what do you need to be paying more attention?

Maybe we need look no further than the Caloosahatchee River and San Carlos Bay. When those waters are clear, the light shines through, giving life to the sea grasses below.

Sea grasses that in the end support a whole chain of being, reminding us of the simple, yet profound truth, that all of life is connected. What happens to the lowly sea grasses, impacts all manner of sea life, and eventually human life as well.

And as is the case in so many other parts of life, we have a choice., Do we cooperate with the truth, do we live out of the truth, or to we block it, deny it, stand in its way?

For make no mistake, our human actions–like failing to deal responsibly with fertilizers and pesticides and other chemicals–flow literally and figuratively, downstream, impacting many facets of the environment.

But so too do our positive, affirming , protective actions. Such a simple lesson. All life is connected. A lesson we must and apply if we wish to end the days of murky brown waters.

Literally, and figuratively as well.

Sunday mornings, I am up before the sun.

In fact, this time of year, that’s true most days. I recently moved off island to Fort Myers.

On the first Sunday after the move as I came across the Causeway at 6:30 or so the sky was lit up with beautiful shades of purple and orange as the sun began to emerge from its nighttime slumber.

It was as if God had placed a brightly colored neon sign over the Bay as a way of drawing my attention to the splendor of the sea, the sky, the earth itself.

It was as if the light of God was spelling out a message. This world is a gift, my gift to you. Take care of it.

For how you care for it, will impact how it cares for you.

-The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner, Senior Pastor, Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.