Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Seaweed


I've been thinking about seaweed all week, the kind of seaweed that gathers in thick sheets on the beach and stinks a bit, decomposing in the spring sun.  I smell seaweed along the cliffs.  I wonder if the high tide might carry it away.  I even had dream about it.  About seaweed!

The thing is, I'm celebrating a baptismal service Sunday, Easter Sunday, at sunrise.  We'll gather on a beach, walk with seven friends to the water's edge, and baptize each one into the grace and courage of Jesus our Teacher.  Total immersion!  All the way down, and then all the way up!  A glorious way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus: who was executed by fear and greed, but rises anew to love and heal and dance to freedom!

But--there's a ton of seaweed on this particular beach.  I mean, a ton of it!  We'll have to step around it, sometimes all over it, to get to the surging surf.  There's really no other way.  And that's had me in a bit of a funk all week: seaweed, seaweed, seaweed!  I've got seven (7!) baptisms to celebrate Sunday, seven (7!) women and men with dreams and vision, with hopes and passion.  I want each to experience the full force of the sacrament: the beauty and wonder of ocean and sky, the powerful renewal of the plunge, and the joy of God's delight.  Can we do all that, with seaweed like a great congregation, filling the pews in every direction?

Sitting with today's story, the Good Friday story, I know the answer is yes.  If the resurrection bears witness to anything, to anyone, it bears witness to the One who rises from everyday decay to new life and new joy and new courage.  That smelly seaweed is part of the strange mystery of this week, something like the communion we share with Jesus in the dark upper room and the lonely garden called Gethsemane.  There's really no way around it.  The Gospel brings us face to face with Friday's death, Friday's sadness, Friday's decay.  And, out of decay, wonder and beauty.  Out of despair, hope and possibility.  Out of the tomb, disciples with new stories to tell.

Of course we baptize new Christians on a beach where the wild surf churns life and mixes it up, where the swells pass seaweed onto the warm sands, where the seaweed invites bugs and decomposition, where life begins anew even in death.  This seaweed too has a story to tell.

And the stench?  It's nothing less than the priest's censor, swinging the incense of Easter across our brow, bearing some strange witness to the Life that cannot be contained by a beach or an ocean or even a tomb.  He rises again: in every one of the seven, and in the broken-hearted church, and in the happy bugs in the decomposing seaweed.  Alleluia!