Growing up my brothers and I spent a lot of time on the beach, swimming, playing with friends, and building sand castles. Sometimes we’d work for an hour or two digging a moat, hauling sand and packing it in buckets before carefully placing it on our rising structure. We never made them elaborate—not that we had the talent to do so—but because we knew that within hours the tide would turn and come in. Our castle would be washed away in minutes.
For years I was of the opinion that making sandcastles was a children’s activity. After all that what sand boxes are for—right? However a few years ago, my son-in-law, and his Texas friends talked about getting a team together to enter a sand sculpting competition in Galveston or on Padre Island. I had in mind a group of overgrown kids building sandcastles oh bigger and better than those built by my brothers and me, but still sand castles. That was until I came across an article about an artist whose medium is sand—yes beach sand!
The artist is Randy Hofman whose art is described as “fantastic sand sculptures, has created monumental works such as “Christ on the Cross,” The Last Supper,” the Face of Compassion,” and “The Resurrection.” His medium is sand and sea water, primarily on the beach at Ocean City, Maryland. The article said Randy creates new sand sculptures every day, because the ocean tides wash away the previous day’s work. Can you imagine creating a new sculptures everyday knowing that it will be washed away by the next high tide.
Although Randy Hofman is an ordained minister, he earns his living as an artist and considers his sand sculptures as his ministry. Randy uses his God-given talent to further God’s Kingdom on Earth! (Note 1)
I read a couple of years ago now that sand sculpting is growing in national popularity. It is, I think, a purposely temporary and fragile art form. Sort of here today and gone tomorrow taken by the tide or rain or wind. Sand sculpting competitions, like kids building sand castles seems like great fun for a day at the beach but at the end of the day, its done. But Randy Hofman has taken his art form to a new high. It is his ministry—sharing his faith with those who come to admire his work
I think generally speaking that we desire things which last —whether it be things like homes, or loving relationship. We seem to cling to the permanent, perhaps because deep down, We know that life can be a sand castle before the coming tide.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians urges us to: “Be careful then how we life, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time because the days are evil.” (5:15,16)
Paul seems to suggest that we have so few opportunities to create something beautiful. So we need to make every moment count. There are a couple of themes in our text worthy of consideration: prudence, and what constitutes meaningful worship.
The text opens with a word of caution: “Be careful then how we live”. Let me be clear Paul isn’t talking about building sand sculptures, however his admonishments about how we should live can be applied to life generally.
That is good advice if you build sand sculptures in the tidal area of the beach. After all, that is where the best sand is located, sand which packs well, and stays together for a while. But since the time between low and high water is less than 12 hours. It is prudent not to build something which you want to last for more than 12 hours.
Fred Craddock writing in Preaching Through the Christian Year (Note 2), noted that “Prudence is such a universal virtue that one does not normally consider it necessary to remind people to behave “not as unwise people but as wise” (v15). Yet, he went onto say virtually every culture and possess a tradition that embodies the proven wisdom of the ages.
Paul says “Make the most of the chances you get to do something right, because evil always threatens to get in your way.” Randy Hofman said “Make something beautiful now, because the tide will wash it away later.” And in the immortal words of Geoffrey Chaucer “Time and tide wait for no man.”
So why build something out of sand? I suppose the first response might be, “Why Not?” The choice to use sand is that it remains merely sand. Sand that can be used over and over, sand that stretches endlessly along the shore—flat, formless and undistinguished. But in the hands of an artist can be fashioned into something beautiful—while there is time to do so.
Paul, whose sense of time is layered with an end times (eschatological) urgency. He understood that life was but a stretch of sand in which the Creator was at work. So he is urging us to adopt the same attitude toward our daily lives
In notes from years ago, I made note of the following. Whoever wrote it said it better than I ever could:
+ Be careful (v15)
+ Make the most of the time (v16)
+ Don’t be foolish (v17)
+ Do understand the will of God (v17)
+ Don’t get drunk (v18)
+ Be filled with the Holy Spirit (v18)
+ Sing songs (v19)
+ Give thanks (v20)
Sand is one of the most plentiful resources we have. It may vary in color and texture—but sand is sand. It is simply ordinary. But out of the ordinary we can make something which is extraordinary. Since sand is so ordinary, it may be a metaphor for humanity.
If we are willing to open our lives to the work of God, live life according to the scriptures, seek to understand the will of God be filled with the Holy Spirit, sing and give thanks—we could become a breathtaking art form. Can you imagine being molded into the image of Christ? (Note 3)
Anyone can be sand! Not everyone can be a castle in the sand. That’s why, like Randy Hofman, we must make the most of our time, possibly creating sculptures to spiritually please any viewer. Hofman uses a child’s materials—beach sand and sea water. Elements which within a matter of hours will once again simply revert to be sand and water. Whether we recognize it or not, we are in many ways made of sand and water—well at least dust of the earth. “The Lord God formed humanity of the dust of the ground, and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, and we became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7 modified)
Let’s face it. Our days are numbered. Our time has inherent restrictions. The tide is rising. The wind is blowing. So we need to consider using our time , wisely not foolishly. We need to use our talents, our calling to be kingdom builders, and to try to live a godly life.
Randy Hofman builds sand structures knowing they will collapse. But for a brief time it may have been a worshipful experience for those who happened up it.
George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
We could just become sand sculptures in the hands of the Master Artist! Something worth seeing, experiencing and being.
Wm Peter Bartlett
1.Randy Hofman, Sculpting a Beach Ministry. The Baltimore Sun, May 24, 2013
2.Preaching Through the Christian Year, Cycle B. Craddock et al. p 379
3.Source of quote unknown.