Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus' Wet Holy Week

Jesus’ Wet Holy Week

Jesus gets so wet this Holy Week, on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.  Thursday night he plunges his hands in water, spills puddles on the floor and immerses his disciples’ feet, taking on the traditional footwashing role of a servant. Friday from the cross he cries out in desperation, “I thirst!” and gets a sponge of sour wine thrown in his face.  And Sunday he surprises those clean footed disciples at the beach, as they dejectedly search for fish.  With his help - an abundant wet catch, and they share in an Easter fish barbeque.

As a Blue Theologian I give thanks to God for water every day of the year, but this week, Jesus’ last and first, it is his wetness I commemorate.  Thursday I too will get my feet wet at a Maundy Thursday foot washing service.  Good Friday I will hear Jesus’ Seven Last Words, including that so very human cry, “I thirst.”  And Sunday after Easter services, I think we’ll have fish for our special dinner, and eat it coast side.

The world is feeling a bit dry and barren these days – I am praying for some wet resurrection.

Note to my preacher readers – have you ever noticed how much wetter Jesus is in John’s gospel than the other three?  Only in John (and not the other three) does Jesus turn the water into wine, only in John does he meet the Samaritan woman at the well and offer her living water, never to thirst again, only in John does he cry from the cross “I thirst,” and only in John does he host a beach barbeque. I tend to think of John as a little serious and abstract, but maybe he was actually a water baby.  We do traditionally say that he was an island guy, lived and died on Patmos.  Maybe his island days made him a Blue Theologian, celebrating all things wet.

Unlike the other gospels’ accounts of how Jesus spent his last night, that he shared a meal with his disciples, John’s has no Last Supper.  Instead, his sacramental act of commissioning and sharing with his disciples is about taking on the servant role, welcoming the guest with a bowl of clean water. At various churches I have served we have celebrated Maundy Thursday with this most vulnerable and gentle exchange – kneeling and washing each other’s feet. 

I invite you to get wet with Jesus this holy week.  Serve others in his name with a quiet moment of simple care.  Hear, and answer the cry of those who thirst, for real clean water, and for justice.  And invite others to walk and eat with Jesus beside the sea.  The catch is always abundant.  And wet.
I like this picture by John August Swanson because both men and women receive the sacramental washing, and because of the swirly fluid robes they wear.  I post these Blue Theology devotionals on ocean stewardship and spirituality every Wednesday here and at  Check out for ocean pilgrimages and service trips by Monterey Bay.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Marine Stations of the Cross: Mocked and Stripped

Marine Stations of the Cross: Mocked and Stripped

Asilomar’s dunes were once stripped and mocked, just as Jesus was stripped and mocked on his way to the cross. 

We Christians who follow the call to be good stewards of God’s creation can spend Holy Week walking “Environmental Stations of the Cross.”  As Jesus falls under the weight of the cross, we name the crushing force of pollution.  When Simon of Cyrene relieves Jesus briefly of the heavy cross, we recall environmental saints who pick up the load for a time – Francis of Assisi, Rachel Carson.

This coming Holy Week 15 youth visiting our Blue Theology Mission Station from First Christian Church, Eugene will take a “cross walk” here at Asilomar, and help resurrect the dunes with native plants.  Their service project will remind us that Holy Week does not end at Calvary, but blooms anew at Easter.

The traditional Fifth Station of the Cross is “And when they mocked him, they stripped him of his cloak…” (Matthew 27:31)

With the youth we will confess that we too mock the divine, God’s blessed gift of our planet home.  We strip her surface with destructive agriculture and ravaging coal mining.  Hurricanes and El Ninos, fueled by our climate change, savagely erode rivers and coasts.  We clear cut forests and ocean floors, trawling for paper and rockfish.  Stripped.

But small resurrections are happening here at Asilomar, this “Asylum by the Sea,” a regular stop on our Blue Theology pilgrimages for youth and adults.

Dunes are essential for costal health; high and deep they prevent coastal erosion, recruit sand for eroded beaches, provide niche habitat for dune plants and animals.  For decades Asilomar’s dunes were unprotected from hikers, trash, dogs, invasive plant species. 

But State Parks ecologists started protecting the dunes, removing invasive ice plant, planting native vegetation, building graceful boardwalks to the beach.  For years our Blue Theology youth have worked alongside the rangers and a great local group, Return of the Natives, in this restoration resurrection work.

People had stripped the dunes of their integrity, mocked them. 

But the dunes are rising, the natives are returning, the stripped surface is being restored.  Look – the tomb is empty!  Easter dawns over the dunes.

A prayer from the Franciscan Action Network:
O gracious God, all too often human life and the rest of your creation are stripped of the integrity, beauty and dignity with which you have endowed them.  This happens right before our eyes, and yet we don’t recognize it as part of the modern Calvary.  Like the Roman soldiers throwing dice for our seamless garment, we may even be willing accomplices in your passion, seeking a short-term gain from ecological destruction of the very fabric of life on our planet.  Touch our hearts so that we recognize the wrong that we are doing and change our ways.  Amen

I write these Blue Theology devotionals every Wednesday here and at  We have 7 groups coming to Pacific Grove this spring and summer, and four already for next summer.  Always room for more, as well as individual guided retreats. Come walk with us! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"If Life Gets Too hard, There's Always the Ocean"

“If Life Gets Too Hard, There’s Always the Ocean”

US and UK army vets, wounded physically and mentally on the dry battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are finding deep healing by getting wet, specifically surfing.  One third of all vets suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, but organizations like Warrior Surf are helping vets learn to trust, breath, focus and even get a good night’s sleep, by surfing together.

In a new film, “Resurface” by Josh Izenberg (available on Netflix) one vet, double amputee Bobby Lane, says, “When I came back from Iraq, I started drinking a lot to help me with those issues, memories, pain.  Then I was just drinking to get to sleep, but sometimes you don’t want to close your eyes.”  Bobby had never surfed, but joining Warrior Surf helped him find peace.

“After that first wave I have such an overwhelming respect for the ocean, it is so gentle and so fierce.  When I caught that wave, I felt like a part of me died and I felt like I was reborn.  Now I see it, if life gets too hard, there’s always the ocean.”

Warrior Surf was founded by another veteran having a hard time learning to live again after Iraq.  A surfer before the war, when he went back to the sea he could calm down, trust, breath.  His therapist had already suggested a support group with other vets, and when he told his group about surfing they wanted in.  They found surfing teachers who were vets and could understand their challenges.  Soon their families wanted to join in.  A new healing community was born.

I first learned about Warrior Surf and other groups like it from the book Blue Mind by Wallace J Nichols, an intriguing celebration of “your brain on water.”  He recounts the many scientific studies in neuroscience, psychology and sociology about the healing power of water.  Simply living near the ocean, spending time in any kind of water, or even painting your room blue not only improves happiness, creativity and reduces stress, but actually can heal. Nichols has listed all the peer reviewed research studies, therapy programs and medical endorsers in a project called “Blue Mind Rx.”

Filmmaker Izenburg says surfing heals trauma and stress several ways. The ocean is cathartic and as Bobby says, seems to wash negative emotions away.  Surfers in the film describe being in “the zone,” focused and completely in the present tense; they say this alleviates their painful memories.  Also that surfing simply exhausts them - insomnia is one of the most insidious aspects of PTSD.  “Surfing,” he says, “is a drug free sleep aid.”

I write here each week about our Blue Theology Ministry, where we encourage folks to heal the ocean, and learn how the ocean can heal us. When youth and adults spend a day or a week at our Pacific Grove Mission Station we share how we can heal the ocean of the damaging effects of climate change, pollution, overfishing and other human caused injuries.  But we also encourage all people to experience the healing power of the ocean in their own lives, by walking along the shore, as Jesus and so many holy ones have, or even by diving in and feeling the power and uplifting awe of the deep.  Perhaps we should offer “surfing as a spiritual practice!”

In my own much easier life, I too benefit from that Blue Ocean Rx.  When life gets hard, there’s always the ocean.
_____________  I write here and on Facebook every Wednesday.   Our summer service trips and pilgrimages in Pacific Grove are almost full, but think/pray about an overnight, with a spiritual visit to the Aquarium and a walk by the sea.