Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Water is a miracle: A homily by Dudley Rochester

One of the great treats of being at St. Paul's Memorial Church is our Wednesday Evening Prayer at 5:30 pm. We invite members of the congregation to give the homily, and we have been treated to some extraordinary reflections (and I wish more people would come).

Last Wednesday, Dudley Rochester gave this homily on the spirituality of our Earth's limited water resources. Dudley has spent a great deal of time studying and reflecting on this, and he has ably served on the Diocese of Virginia Committee on Stewardship of Creation. We've posted his homily on our sermon website. Here is the top of his homily, and below that is a link to the full text:

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Earth, Water and Creation
By Dr. Dudley Rochester

The literature of the Bible and other ancient works indicate that man 5,000 years ago was as intelligent, creative, thoughtful, emotional and aggressive as we are now. I like to think that we who live now have some ideas in common with the authors of Genesis about the meaning of creation. Of course, how we think about creation in the 21st century is profoundly influenced by science, but I believe that miracles and mysteries remain in abundance.

Earth is a miracle. The universe as we know it has unfathomable dimensions, and our planet Earth is an incredibly small fragment of the total. Imagine a sphere big enough to contain our sun and its planets. A sphere that big could hold almost a billion, trillion Earths. The whole universe can hold that many solar systems!

Water is a miracle. The chemistry of water is exquisitely right for Earth itself, as well as for life on earth. All our water has been on Earth for almost 4.5 billion years, being used and re-used countless times. Indeed, water contributes to its own stability. 
How Much Water Is There?

Far out in space, in the Orion Molecular Cloud, enough water molecules to fill all of Earth’s oceans are made every 24 minutes. Unfortunately, that water is not available to us.

It is thought that Earth received its water from space, very early in its existence. Ever since, the amount of water on Earth has remained remarkably constant.

Roughly 80% of the water on Earth is totally inaccessible. It is contained in, and is chemically part of, rocks that are hundreds of miles below Earth’s surface. Oceans cover 71% of Earth’s surface, but comprise only 1/1000 of Earth’s diameter. All the water in Earth’s oceans, ice caps and atmosphere comes to 0.03% of the mass of the planet. Only 2.5% of all the oceanic, ice cap and atmospheric water is fresh water, and accessible fresh water is about 1/4000th of that.
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To read the full homily, click HERE.

Photos by the extraordinary Gary Hart.

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