ocen wave crashing

photo: Public Domain image (royalty free stock photo)

Children, please come up front and bring along the ribbons you should have gotten when you came in. Did everyone get some ribbony strips when they came in today? [Have ushers pass around to anyone who still needs some.] We’re going to use these ribbons and crepe paper to simulate the ocean this morning. Wave your ribbons around to test them out. Now, how many of you have ever been in a stadium or an arena, and done “the wave” with the people there? [Look for a show of hands. If plenty, they will need less guidance with how to do “the wave.” Assuming few hands go up, explain.] We make a wave by successively rising – stand up if you wish, and lift your arms up high with your ribbons, and then settle down again and let the wave pass on to the next people. Now, let’s practice making a wave together. [Depending on the layout of your sanctuary or gathering space, think about where you would like the wave to start and have it end with the children near you. Direct the start of the wave, and guide it verbally the first time through. Do it again once or twice, so the congregation gets comfortable with their ability to do it. The wave moves more smoothly when people can easily see it coming towards them from where they’re sitting and facing.]

Now, I want the children to stand up and get in a row across the front, here. We’re going to imagine that where the children are is the shore. Children, think for a moment about what happens to a wave when it hits the shore. [Give them a moment.] Now, could one of you show us, using your body and your ribbons, what happens to a wave when it hits the shore? [Hopefully a child will sit down, fall down, or mime some form of collapse. If not, try to elicit this by suggesting these are big waves that crash at the shore… and what might that look like?] Okay, now we’re going to start our wave and have it come rolling along and then crash on the shore. Ready? [Direct this, as before, but now with a crashing conclusion. Feel free to encourage sound effects from the children and/or everyone, to add to the drama. If it doesn’t make enough dramatic impact to satisfy you, try it once again.]

Wonderful! With that in mind, I have a story. Once there was a little wave, and she was rolling happily along in the ocean. She loved being a wave. She loved the smell of the salt air all around her. She loved the sound of the seabirds crying in the sky above. She loved the feel of the little fish and other sea creatures tickling her from below. And she loved to see the bright glint of sunlight reflecting off her shoulders on a bright day. How she loved being a wave!

And then one day, she looked up and out ahead of her, she saw… the shore. And what’s more, she saw what was happening to the waves in front of her when they got to the shore. The waves would rise, and crest, and then – crash! All in a great roiling, boiling, jumbled, crumbled confusion of swirling salty water and stirred-up sand… this is what became of each wave as it hit the shore. And she knew she couldn’t escape this same horrible fate and she cried out, “Oh Nooooo!” Say that with me: “Oh NOooooo!”

She was all worked up about this, so much so that she kept crying out, “Oh no! Oh no!” again and again… and then she heard another voice, coming from behind her….

[In a calmer, slightly deeper voice] “Whatever is the matter, little wave?”

She looked over her shoulder [look over your own shoulder, to mime] and saw the big wave who was speaking to her.

[In little wave voice: squeakier, more anxious]: “Can’t you see?! Look ahead! Look what’s happening to all those waves! They’re crashing on the shore and I’m going to crash too!”

[In big wave voice] “Yes, I see. And I understand why you’re so afraid. I can tell how much you love being a wave. I love being a wave too. But there’s something else, something more. You see, those waves before you, and I, and you – we are all waves. But that is not all. We are not only waves. We are also the ocean. Yes, we all are the ocean.”

And in that moment, as if by magic, the little wave understood that she was not just a wave. She was more. She was also the ocean. And in knowing this, she understood that when waves roll… Let’s get our wave rolling again… [Direct the wave to start, and talk as it rolls along…] when the wave approaches the shore, it crests, it crashes… and the waves continue… [Direct the wave to start right up again and direct it through its cycle once more.]

Indeed, what is an ocean without waves? And what are waves without the ocean?


Props required: In advance, purchase several rolls of crepe paper and/or wide, glittery ribbon – in hues of blue, green, silver, and white. Cut them into strips about 18-24 inches long. Worshippers should take several apiece at the start of the service, so they have them for the Reflections.

NOTE: This simple allegory has been used in the Buddhist tradition to teach about the life of the soul (represented by the ocean) which is vast and enduring, when compared to the existence of the wave (which, representing our bodily form, is simply a part of the ocean). Thus, death is a transformation, and our greater form of being endures.

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