Pentecost 114

Pentecost 114
My Psalm 114

Oil and Water

We’ve all heard the old saying: “Oil and water don’t mix.” Although there are countless other similar sayings in a variety of cultures, this particular one is attributed to Joseph Jones somewhere around the year 1783 as Mr. Jones attempted to describe two things with such contrasting natures that they could not be combined successfully.

Why don’t oil and water mix? It is, quite simply, because of what they are. The website “Let’s Talk Science” explains it this way: “Oil and water are two liquids that are immiscible – they will not mix together. Liquids tend to be immiscible when the force of attraction between the molecules of the same liquid is greater than the force of attraction between the two different liquids. “

Think of it like two bags of candy, both chocolate based. A bag of two M & M’s is lighter than a bag of two blocks of dark chocolate. The two bags contain items with different masses and densities even though they are both chocolate. Although the same, they are also different.

Any liquid less dense than water will simply float on the water. Similarly, a liquid more dense will sink. Density, in case you’ve forgotten your science lessons, is the measure of the amount of a substance found within a specified volume of liquid.

Quiting again the website “Let’s Talk Science”: “To gain an understanding of density, think of two zippered plastic bags of the same size (same volume). Imagine that one bag contains 10 marbles and the other 20 marbles. The bag containing 20 marbles is more dense than the bag containing 10 marbles because it contains more material – even though it is the same material. This analogy describes the relative densities of different concentrations of the same substance.

Also imagine that there is a third bag containing 10 very large marbles. The volume of the material is the same, the number of molecules (marbles) are the same but again, the bag of large marbles contains more material – it has a greater mass and so a greater density. This analogy represents the experiment above since two different materials are used. The objects added to the container will float at different levels according to their density. If the density of the object is similar to that of water, the object will float in the water. If similar to the oil, the object will float in the oil.”

Oil and vinegar are similar to oil and water as anyone attempting make a salad vinaigrette knows. Short of making a salad, what does it matter whether or not we can get oil and water mix? Well, do you like wearing clean clothes or eating off clean dishes? Most of us do.

Soap has no magical qualities for making dirt and germs disappear. I hate to destroy any thinking you might have had regarding such but it doesn’t. Soap is neither a block of superhero dirt-fighting warriors nor does it erase the dirt and accompanying germs and make them magically disappear. It is, however, the way we mix oil and water.

The “Let’s Talk Science” website explains. “Getting oil and water to mix is at the very heart of cleaning dishes and clothes. A lot of agents that make dishes and clothes dirty are greasy or contain oil. Water alone is not attracted to these compounds. However, because a detergent has one end that is attracted to oil-like molecules, detergents tend to bind to dirt, grease and oil. The other half of the detergent binds to water molecules, allowing the soiling agent to be washed away.”

Soap is a catalyst. It breaks the surface tension of the dirt molecules from the object – cloth or dish – and allows the oil within to be released into the water which then washes it away. Never realized the detente that occurred in your sink or washing machine, did you?

When we attempt to mix oil and water or say Israel and Egypt, we need a catalyst, a method for doing so. The history of these two nations and cultures and their conflicts are as old as the history of the world. Peace treaties, like the one arranged by President Jimmy Carter of the USA in the late 1970’s have made some admirable progress. However, they only last as long as people are respectful.

When we live with respect for those of varying beliefs other than our own, when we acknowledge the catalyst that respect contained within all belief systems for all living things can provide, then we live a new creation – a creation of peace and hope. Such a creation provides for a productive and successful tomorrow. Respect should be our manner of living. It is the only catalyst possible that we have for a better tomorrow.

My Psalm 114

O Lord, we treated your children with disdain.
We valued ourselves more than they.
The earth shook and life died.
Your creation was bruised and the winds screamed at us.
The earth knows you are its Maker.
Help us to lie the love you give to us.
Help us pass that along to those who are not our mirror images.
Help us to work together,
Letting diversity be our strength and not our fear.


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