Sand Pail Theology

I arise today

     Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,

     Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,

     Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

     Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

                    Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, Second stanza

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time at the beach. Exploring tide pools was my favorite pastime – picking up starfish, jellyfish, barnacles, and crabs from the many pools of water hidden among the rocky coastline at low tide. I’d put some sand in my pail, fill it up half way with ocean water, then add whatever I living creatures caught my attention. I’d keep them for an hour or so, amazed by their beauty, sharing them with my parents and siblings. Then I’d return them to their rocks and pools, knowing that my bucket was way too small to keep them alive and happy.

Creeds and statements of faith remind me of my sand pail. They hold enough of God’s truth to let me explore life and hold it in my hands. But they can’t contain God or sustain life any more than my plastic sand pail could sustain the life of even a single starfish. Words and buckets give us just enough time to be amazed by this creation and the God who created and sustains it all. But the lives we hold and the truths we treasure only live when given back to the great big world and the infinite God who loves every single atom of every single thing that lives in its embrace. When I try to limit life or truth to my own little bucket and meager understanding, things suffer: whatever I’ve attempted to keep and the soul expanding grace that only comes when I am content being a child, standing by the ocean in a big, beloved world.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Sand Pail Theology”

  1. “Love isn’t love until you give it away”~~maybe strength isn’t strength and even life isn’t life until you give it away, give it back, return it to it’s rightful place/Owner after having been blessed by the Gift Itself–the only reason we are here is a Gift,right? Maybe re-gifting isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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