Wednesday, March 6, 2019

“Remember You Are Ocean, and to Ocean You Shall Return…..”

“Remember You Are Ocean, and to Ocean You Shall Return…..”

It’s Ash Wednesday.  But maybe instead of ashes, we should anoint our foreheads with seawater.

You have heard, in Ash Wednesday liturgies, “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return, repent…..”  But we Blue Theologians say, “Yes, our origins are humble, but we were not born literally from dust (just as the Bible is not literally a science textbook!).  No, we were born of water, from the primordial seas, where all life began.  Thanks to wise people of faith and science, like Charles Darwin, we can understand and love the miracle of evolution.”

(I was asked to be on a panel about “inspiration” at the Aquarium once – their mission is “to inspire conservation of the ocean.”  They said to me, “You’re sort of in the inspiration business.” After preaching – er, speaking my heart out, based on my pastoral and volunteer experience, about ways to inspire people, someone shyly asked, “Well since you are a Christian, you obviously don’t believe in evolution.  How do you square that with being part of this scientific institution?”  And I said almost without thinking, “I think evolution was one of God’s really good ideas.”  And a tension in the room visibly lifted.  We people of faith  - who know that God gave us brains for a reason and is happy when we use them – we need to speak up about scientific literacy!  Topic for another Tide-ing.)

So on this holy day (here at the Blue Theology Mission Station, we might call it Wet Wednesday) I will get out a favorite spiritual text, Your Inner Fish by University of Chicago paleontologist Neil Shubin. (It’s also a PBS special.) He discovered the fossil Tiktaalik, the animal that transitioned, 365 million years ago, from sea to land, our saline Eve. She has fishy fins and scales, but also the beginnings of hands and a neck.  Shubin explains, clearly and with wit, how so many parts of our bodies bear the marks of our origin in the sea. “We are not separate from the rest of the living world, but part of it down to our bones.”

For example, our salty tears, our salty blood, our salty sweat – they are all the exact same salinity of the sea, legacy of our birthplace.   

So on Wet Ash Wednesday we cry saltily in repentance, we can taste the ocean in the blood of sacrifice, and we smell the sea in the sweat of our Lenten journey. 

Wet Ash Wednesday is a day to repent; we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.  Let us confess our failure to honor the womb of our creation, mother sea.

We are in good company on our Lenten pilgrimage by the sea.  Our marine brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers long for us to walk (swim?) humbly with them and with our God.
____________ for youth service visits and adult pilgrimages beside Monterey Bay.  I post these Wednesday devotionals on ocean spirituality and stewardship here and on Facebook.

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