Riparian Faith Communities
“As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul long for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.”
– Psalm 42:1-2 (NRSV)
What does this world thirst for?
You may have lots of answers to that question: Hope. Love. Justice. Honesty. Peace. But before you get too far in your response, a second question: What do you thirst for?
Before God calls us out to minister to the world’s needs, God first asks us to be honest about what we need. The ancient psalmist knew that. They felt like a deer searching for water in a dry land. As a desert dweller, the psalmist would have known such physical thirst first-hand. The psalmist also knew that regardless of the lushness of the landscape around us, souls can run dry, too. “My soul longs for you,” the psalmist writes. “My soul thirsts for the living God.”
A central mission of any church is to offer those streams of living water, that connection with the living God. A local congregation is like a “desert riparian zone.” Those are the areas along a desert river that abound with life because they offer water, shade, and sustenance. Whether we’re in the desert Southwest or rain-drenched Northwest, the world needs “riparian faith communities,” where souls are renewed and the thirst for love and hope is quenched.
Lord knows, we’re called to be such places in our thirsty world. As Psalm 42 reminds us, God knows we need such places in our own thirsty lives, too.
You know our thirst, God. We thank you for your “riparian faith communities” that offer us your living waters. May their life-giving streams also give life to others. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.