“Kryptonite? In the water? Wow!” Euan and Zach were down from Cryptosporidium-free Ulverston and were being given the strange rules about water use, now familiar to most of Lancashire. They, however, were not at all fazed by needing to use boiled water to brush their teeth or make up their squash; of much greater interest was the impact of the water on Superman. When you are 9 or 7, the line between fiction and fact is a little more blurry than perhaps later in life, so they were pleased to have Superman’s existence confirmed in passing – if there is Kryptonite in the water, then Kryptonite is real and so is Superman.
The boys are very much into their Superheroes, particularly Spiderman, Batman and Superman, although Lego versions are often the currency and medium of Superheroes for them. I think there was a little disappointment when they realised that Cryptosporidium was a bacterium rather than fragments of the planet Krypton. However, you can’t keep a good imagination down. Before long, we had a series of vignettes acted out: Superman soared through the sky in pursuit of a villain, paused for a drink of water on a hot and dusty day, then leapt into the sky, only to fall flat on his face – deadly cryptosporidium having taken away his superpower. His super breath froze the moisture in the air to rescue some children about to fall in the water, took a swig of water, and blew – a small icicle! He scanned the world with his X-ray vision coupled with his ability to see minute details at incredible distances, paused for a refreshing glass of water – and had to put on Zach’s glasses to read the paper.
It provided a very welcome distraction as we learnt to re-value the gift of clean safe water, so often taken for granted. All around the world, a supply of water that is safe to drink is one of the fundamentals to good health and longevity. A small amount of Cryptosporidium has us all scrabbling for the kettle, an array of jugs – and compensation. Some folk here were even boiling the water for their cats and dogs, although watching Sweep drink the bird’s water with a nice dusting of algae meant that I didn’t think he was that bothered by the water quality. In the meantime, children in some parts of the world are drinking water from the equivalent of puddles.
In a hot and dusty country, water was always going to be a potent symbol of life and refreshment, and as a symbol of God’s refreshing Spirit. Isaiah opens Chapter 55 with the words “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (The Bible, Isaiah 55.1) After a time of judgement and a ‘desert’ period, the love of God floods over his people like freely available refreshing water. Jesus reflects this in his encounter with the Samaritan woman (The Bible, John 4.1-42). Jesus was tired, and sat by a well; he asked a Samaritan woman to draw him some water, and when she was surprised at his request (Jews did not associate with Samaritans), Jesus responded “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4.10) She sticks with a literal interpretation, so Jesus adds “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
According to Euan, Blackpool water could take away Superman’s powers; according to Jesus, drinking from him will yield eternal life. Drink from him deeply and safely!
Praying that you may find refreshment in the deepest parts as you drink on Jesus.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,
You can find the full text of the November Herald Magazine here
Postscript: Our Christmas Card 2015 appeal is themed with clean safe water – we are raising money for water tanks in the Middle East for refugees through TEAR Fund, water tubs in Nepal and water tricycles in Bangladesh, both through Practical Action under the heading ‘Tanks, Tubs and Tricycles’