IVP - Online Pulpit - June 2010 Archives

June 1, 2010

Seaside Reflections

A wondrous view (and sound) lies before me. I am on study leave on the Pacific Coast in Southern California. It is early March, with a bright blue sky and balmy 70 degree weather. The surf is pounding outside my window. The sand stretches for miles in both directions. A vast expanse is the border God created for the seas. It does not get any better than this! For me the sound, smell and sight of the water always causes deeper reflection. Being a very verbal person, silence comes with great difficulty, but not when I am by the ocean. Everything I see and hear seems to speak to me about deeper spiritual realities. Every shell, every person poised on the shore in a multitude of activities, every wave and even the stillness of the vast expanse of water—they all seem to want me to pay attention and listen.

This morning when I woke up, I could see forty or fifty surfers who had shunned sleep and donned wetsuits, and were energetically defying the forces of the surf in order to get out and catch some waves. I have tried this sport once, so I have a miniscule idea of the effort this requires. There they were, all fifty of them bobbing up and down, and working hard to catch a wave they could ride long enough to be worth the effort it took to even try. When some do successfully catch a wave, the results are not always pretty. Legs and arms fly and boards shoot above the surf—wipeout!

As I watched, I was taken quickly from the world of surf, where I only observe, to the world of church, where I live most of my life. I think I experience similar dynamics. It often feels like I am swimming against the waves—the world around me. It often is exhausting, and I often experience “wipeouts.” Catching the wave of the Spirit at work in the world is not for the faint of heart. I shiver in the often cold waters of ministry even though the sun shines brightly above. And this morning I was especially struck by how the surfers congregate in the same area. Here was miles of beach stretched out in both directions and yet these surfers were all working to catch a wave along the same 150 feet of shoreline.

Where I minister there are no less than seven churches lined up within ten blocks on one avenue. I wonder if we are like surfers trying to catch just the right wave in a small stretch of beach. I wonder if there are ways to “do church” so that we are not all vying for the same worshipers to come on Sunday morning. I wonder if there is other surf to go to where I can catch the waves of the Spirit at work in the world.

These are not new wonderings for me. But the oceanside view this morning has at least temporarily (I do not know if I will be able to sustain this thoughtful stream!) reinforced my thinking about ways of doing church for those who are not already in it:

  • the eighteen to thirty-five year-olds almost completely absent from our sanctuaries
  • the disenfranchised and marginalized people in our community who we all would wish could just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps
  • the immigrant population, especially important in Southern California

Watching the view and just wondering, hoping not to wipeout.

Posted by Candie Blankman at 8:38 AM