Creation Series Year C, Ocean
September 1, 2019
Lincoln Street UMC, Portland, Oregon
This summer, Anna, Tim and I had the great opportunity to enjoy the warm sea waters of the southern coast of Thailand. It is an unusual event for me - to get to swim in warm sea waters. In fact, I had a hard time remembering when I had last been in ocean waters so warm - I think it was 19 years earlier when we were in Thailand before, waiting to adopt Jacob.
In any case, it was a special treat to be able to splash and wade about in the warm sea. And Tim and I took several trips out in our suits.
But we never stayed that long. For the waves were powerful. And the undertow, sucking the sand back out to sea, was even stronger. I would dig my toes in deep for a hopeful, desperate grasp on solid ground, as sand - buckets of sand - were pulled, dragged and sucked back out to sea. Just as another wave would hit me in the backside.
It was a lot like what I imagine a boxing match would be like. And my opponent was there, quick to exert its strength when I least expected it. And I usually called it quits after being knocked down and scraped up one too many times.
It wasn’t just that one wave that would have its best on me. Over and over and over and over, the ocean would attest to its power.
And later, from the safe vantage of the beach chair or hotel room, I watched hour after hour, day after day, wave after wave after wave, the strength of those waters as they crashed into the beach and reminded us all who is ultimately in charge.
Of course, no example drives home this message more than the recent memories of the Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami.
That massive wave, generated by a 9.3 earthquake, tore across the Indian Ocean and hit all up and down the southern Thai coastland in mountains of devastating water, a wave that was 100 feet high, more than 4 two-story homes stacked on top of each other.
Today we read from Job of God’s description of creating the waters of the ocean. Who birthed the waters and contained them, swaddling them as an infant, in cloud, declaring that the sea shall go here and no further.
When we read this creation imagery set against the backdrop of recent history and what we have learned of the seas, we might well pause to wonder, what can this mighty organism called the oceans tell us about the glory of God?
As conservationists and oceanographers will tell you quickly, there is a vast all that we do not know about the deeps of the ocean.
Even with decades of research and activism, understanding the vastness of the ecosystem and the variety of flora and fauna is endless.
Just this week in the news are highlights of a pumice island the size of 20,000 football fields making its way toward Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. It is thought that this island was created through another earthquake - one with very different consequences than in 2004.
This earthquake instead of destruction, levered up rock from deep in the sea. Rock that could bring the potential of regeneration to the coral reef that our human indifference and abuse has been killing off at a rapid pace. Scientists are quick to say that without human behavioral change, this pumice island will not save the world treasure.
However, I stand in awe of the great oceanic organism. One that against all the odds stacked against it, is working to heal itself in the ways that it can. With or without our aid.
And so, I think back over my little escapades into the Andaman Sea this summer, and I pause. And I would invite you to pause as well. Remembering the oceans that have welcomed you, healed you, held you, challenged you.
Pause and wonder at what they might tell us of the power and might, the care and creativity, of God. If we are stopped in our tracks, that seems only appropriate, does it not? “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or told the dawn that its assignment for the day was to grasp the edges of the earth and shake out its wicked? . . . Do you comprehend the breadth of the earth?
“If so, address the following: How does one get to the source of light? And where does darkness come from? Could you walk them home?”
No matter that this beautiful passage from Job tends toward the creationist rather than the scientific. The message is clear that there is much that should awe us and humble us about the created world.
And that perhaps that stance, as we feel the sand being sucked forcefully from under our feet, can help us to shape our faith in a direction that honors the might and majesty of the universe - another name for God. The one who shakes out the mountains as a cover on the bed. And who lovingly counts the freckles on your face while you sleep.
Let’s let the oceans speak to us, unsettle our footing, and shine a light for us into the great power and wonder of the Ultimate Creator. Amen.
This sermon was written by Elizabeth Winslea and delivered on September 1, 2019 at Lincoln Street United Methodist Church. It is published here with the permission of the author. Please link back to this post and credit the author if you reprint or use any portion of it.