Australia has superb surfing beaches. As well as the excitement of riding the white caps to shore there is also a dangerous undertow or rip lurking beneath them to avoid or overcome.
Lifesavers patrol our beaches, mark the safest sections in which to swim and surf, and stand ready to save any who ignore the markings, become injured or fall victim to the outgoing undertow.
The beach, its waves and undertow, the surfers and lifesavers form a neat picture of God's purpose to bring all of his creation to unity under the leadership of Jesus Christ.
Imagine the picture.
The water is littered with surfers on their boards, having left the shore some time earlier. Some are on the way in, some are sitting waiting for a good wave, some are just enjoying the view, some are paddling around, some are even heading out toward the open sea.
But eventually, at the end of the day, all of them return to the beach.
There are no options in the game plan. All go out to sea and all come back to shore.
But what happens during a day's surfing?
Some surfers immediately catch their wave and come straight to shore. Some choose to ride their wave more adventurously - changing direction, even going backwards at times, through the tube, up on the crest, lost in the foam, but eventually arriving "home".
Others fall from their wave or miss it altogether and have to wait for another.
Regardless of the variety of maneuvers or choices made by each surfer, the waves continue to travel towards the shore and all surfers will eventually arrive there too.
The natural rhythm of the ocean, the unchanging laws of nature, guarantee that!
So how does this picture demonstrate God's purpose in the world?
The surf is the world. The beach is home, the final destination of every person in the world.
The surfers are God's offspring, littered all over the world. Some catch waves that take them to Jesus in their lifetime, others take longer having missed waves or not been in the right place to even see one.
The lifesaver on the beach is Jesus who is watching with great interest and compassion as his creation rides the waves and battles the rips of the world.
God's unchanging purpose for all of his creation is to bring everyone home. We can't avoid it. It's the natural rhythm of the universe. Regardless of the choices we make, the number of waves we miss or ignore or fall from, eventually one of them will bring us to shore.
All of us? What about the surfer who is injured, becomes exhausted, is totally captured by the rip and driven out beyond the breaking waves, or just never sees a wave?
The lifesaver comes to the rescue. He brings to shore those who can't or won't get there themselves. That's what he's there for.
He may even have to fight with them, overcome them, to bring them to the beach. Jesus once said he would even "drag" people home.
Jesus is God's lifesaver. Jesus describes his role in the parables about the lost sheep and lost coin in Luke 15. A sheep and a coin that are lost with no hope of returning home under their own steam are rescued by their owners.
No-one will drown while Jesus is on duty in the lifesaver's box! All of God's creation get home one way or the other.