The Water’s Fine… Really?

Breaking waves on a black rocky beach.
Breaking waves in Pohoiki, January 2019.

I see you waving, Jesus.
I see that mischievous grin.
I see those clenching teeth
behind the dancing laughter.

“Come in!” you cry.
“The water’s fine!”

Uh, huh.

I know that water’s cold.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm reading for Year C, 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus.

The image is the beach at Pohoiki, on the island of Hawai’i. The beach formed from black sand created by the 2018 Puna eruption as hot lava entered the sea. Ocean currents deposited the material here. Photo by Eric Anderson.

The ‘Ea Who Wanted to be a Christian

hawksbill_turtle_doeppne-081

An ‘Ea

One day an ‘ea…

You know what an ‘ea is, right? It’s the Hawaiian name for a hawksbill turtle. They live in the sea, and hardly ever come to shore.

So. One day an ‘ea was sort of lazily swimming along the beach, when along came a group of people. They were part of a church and they were there so that some could be baptized.

The ‘ea watched, first rather lazily, but as time went on she got more interested. The people were talking about how much God loved everybody, and how they should share that love with everybody else. The ‘ea thought this sounded like a wonderful idea. Then, one by one, the people to be baptized stepped into the water with the leader, ducked beneath the rolling waves, and came back up to everybody’s smiles and applause.

The ‘ea was particularly impressed with how broad the smiles were of everybody stepping back onto the beach. With the water still streaming from them, their grins seems to add new sunbeams to the day. The ‘ea, in fact, couldn’t help smiling as well.

Or at least trying to. An ‘ea’s mouth, sad to say, isn’t built to change expression.

So the ‘ea decided to become a Christian.

How to do it, though, remained a puzzle for her. Clearly Christians were baptized, but the ‘ea observed that she’d been baptized nearly all her life, having spent all but a few moments surrounded by ocean water. She didn’t think it would work well to go live on the shore. Her flippers moved her gracefully through the currents, but she’d done enough sunning on the beach to know they were decidedly awkward on land.

The people didn’t help, and I can’t really blame them. They hadn’t thought at all about the problems of a sea creature who’d overheard them – in fact, they didn’t know she’d been listening. So they left her with an awkward question:

“How do I stop being baptized?”

She stayed near the beach for a few days, hoping the people would come back, but even when they did she didn’t overhear the answer to her question. So she decided to go find an older, wiser ‘ea. Perhaps one of them would know.

It took a little while, but she found one, and she described the scene on the beach, the words of love, the entry into the water, the smiles, and the steps of a new life on the land.

“I want to be a Christian,” she told the older ‘ea. “How do I stop being baptized?”

The older ‘ea thought about it. He turned lazily about in the rollers as he did. After a meditative spiral crowned with a gentle loop and a slow roll, he came back and said:

“I’m not sure you do stop being baptized.”

Even without a face that moved much, her confusion must have been evident, because he went on.

“I think God’s love surrounds you all the time,” the older ‘ea told her. “In fact, the ocean bears you up just as God’s love carries you along. Even those humans, once they’re out of the water, dry, and on land, are still surrounded by God’s love. They’re being held up and they’re swimming in an ocean that they can’t feel with their senses, but they know it’s there.

“Isn’t it lovely to be an ‘ea, a sea turtle, where you always feel God’s love right on your skin?”

“I also think the ocean – of water or of God’s love or both – can carry you places where you can share awareness of that love with others. As you did today with me.”

The younger ‘ea watched him slowly roll through the ocean of God’s love, and said, “As you did today with me, too.”

Photo credit: By Tom Doeppner – http://www.cs.brown.edu/people/twd/home.html, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2226375