September 28, 2014
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist Church
What image comes to mind when I say the phrase “A River Runs Through It”? A mountain river in the west? A mighty Mississippi flowing from Itasca to the gulf of Mexico?
What about the Root River running through our town? I think we often forget what an amazing thing we have right here in our back yard. And how very precious it is.
Before I ever dreamed of living in Chatfield, my friend Donna and I, put our canoe in at the Root River landing here in Chatfield. It was a cloudy, rainy day. But we were determined to fulfill our goal of canoeing some of the Root River. We had heard so much about it, the beauty, the clear water, the bluff country. So even though the river was running fast and high, we loaded our canoe with what we would need for a three night camping trip and off we went: destination Peterson.
It was wonderful. Even though it was during a pretty significant flood stage and we had to lay up for a while in one camp ground while we waited for the river to go down. And we had to collect rain water for drinking because the river was too muddy for our water filter. We are flexible like that.
Around each bend in the river there was something new to experience. A great blue heron that we kept flushing from his shoreline hiding spot. Cows that would look up as we floated, rather quickly, by. The trip took quite a bit less time than we expected because of the fast current.
We saw the cliff swallows and the barn swallows and the kingfishers. We saw the corn and bean fields, the restored prairie and the way farmers were caring for the shoreline of the river.
We saw eagles, and river otters, and deer.
It wasn’t the Boundary Waters but it was an unforgettable trip on a beautiful river.
The river that runs through our town starts as a drainage ditch in Mower County, then winds 81 miles from intensely farmed areas through more wooded, rolling terrain, and finally empties into the Mississippi River south of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Near Forestville State Park, the river literally disappears underground and resurfaces at the Mystery Cave near Preston.
The mileage of the river and its tributaries, if stretched out straight would go from California to South Carolina! And the watershed itself encompasses more than 1 million acres of land in 5 counties.
That is what a watershed is: all of the area of land where all of the water that drains off of it goes into the same place—in our case, the Root River and its tributaries.
1 million plus acres and 3, 670 miles of river, streams and tributaries….
That is a lot of river and land. That many of us take for granted.
The SWCD has given us some materials and shared their watershed map with us to help us appreciate the preciousness of this amazing resource that enticed two city girls to launch their canoe and spend a long weekend experiencing what the river has to offer.
The river that runs through our town is as precious as a river in Montana or the mighty Mississippi. or a lake in the BWCA.
It is also as vulnerable. And as a Christian living in the Root River Watershed district I believe it is my responsibility to care deeply for this river. To protect it and to revitalize it where needed.
That is why I show up when the Soil and Water Conservation District has meetings. That is why I take my grandchildren and Project Go students to Parsley Bridge to discover the critters that live in the watershed.
I want to encourage you to explore the area around Parsley Bridge. That is the bridge just south of town, where the larger canoe landing is. Wade out into the river, feel the current, look under the rocks and along the shore line for the critters that depend on a cool, clean river. Discover, like one of the project go students did two weeks ago, that ad she said: “if you stand still and really look and listen you see so many wonderful things.”
Experience the river so that you can understand how precious it is.
As Christians, rivers bracket our lives. Did you know that? Our story
begins at the intersection of 4 rivers: From Genesis: A river flows from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides into four headwaters. 11 The Pishon. the Gihon the Tigris, and the the Euphrates.
These rivers symbolize the ways God’s living giving waters flow throughout the world, into the four directions. Giving live to all people of the world.
Then throughout the biblical story, this river of life giving waters continues to flow and weave itself into our lives.
From Noah and the flood, to the crossing of the Red Sea to the water that flowed from the rock, to the desert springing forth with life, to the birth of Jesus in the womb of Mary, to his baptism and the encounter with woman at the well. Where Jesus says: Believe in me and you shall have God’ life giving water springing from your being. You will never be thirsty again.
Did you get that? The River of Life that has been woven throughout the scriptures saving people, nurturing people, giving life to people, now becomes a part of us. Through the work of Jesus in our lives and the power of the holy spirit, the river of life flows in and weaves itself throughout our lives.
Each day we have within us the resources of a renewed life because God’s life giving water runs through us. Each day the thirst in our souls can be quenched by God’s holy water of life because God’s life giving river runs through us. Each day and every moment of our day we are saved from the damnation of our souls because God’s life giving water runs through us.
A river of life giving water runs through us.
But we are not the be all end all of this river.
This river continues to flow to all the corners of the earth. This river is gathered up at the culmination of history and is described as the river of life which flows from the throne of God and the Lamb.
I love the description: water as clear as crystal. You can almost feel it can’t you. A lot like the water that runs through our town, only much, much more life giving and clean. For the water flowing from the throne of God nurtures and sustains once again, the tree of life. The story has come full circle. Now the tree of life is not just for Adam and Eve, nor is the tree a cause for a curse. The tree is now the place from which all peoples are fed with fruit in season and are revived with healing.
Maybe this is why I am drawn to the clear, cold waters of the Root and the BWCA. Maybe this is why it is important to me that we do what we can to revitalize these waters. To protect them. Because they are a tangible reminder of the way God sustains and nurtures us with the water of life. Running through us and by us nurturing all around us with the love and grace of God.
A river runs through our town, a river runs through our lives, a living giving river of God’s grace and love. For us and for our neighbor.