The Water Bearer

Once there was a water bearer whose task it was every day to go up and down the hill from the master’s house to the river where he would retrieve water to supply the entire home. He did this each day in the traditional method. He had a large pole he carried on his shoulders with a clay pot hanging from each end. Every morning he cheerfully went out and made several trips to the river to gather water singing all the way.

“Some of us are beautiful,

Some of us are strong,

All of us are wonderful,

All of us belong!”

He loved his job so much that when he was done fetching the day’s supply of water, he would go back out and gather flowers from along the path which he would then take back to his master’s house and set in vases. Singing all the while:

“Some of us are beautiful,

Some of us are strong,

All of us are wonderful,

All of us belong!”

As much as the water bearer loved these daily trips, his pots loved them even more! Clay pots are never happier than when they are being used so the fact that they got to be filled and then poured out several times a day made them so happy. Most days they would smile (yes, pots can smile) and they would sing along (of course pots can sing) the whole trip up and down the hill to the river and back:

“Some of us are beautiful,

Some of us are strong,

All of us are wonderful,

All of us belong!”

There was one problem though. One of the pots was cracked. The cracked pot when filled would steadily drip water all along the path. This eventually made the cracked pot very sad. He would notice how as they travelled along the path, the water bearer had to work extra hard to balance the pots because one of the pots was heavier than the others. He also noticed that the water bearer had to take a lot more trips than he would if he had two whole pots. One afternoon, as they were making their daily trip, the whole pot began to tease the cracked pot. It bragged about how much water it could hold and told him that nobody wanted a useless leaky pot. Later, when the water bearer began to fill the cracked pot, he noticed that the cracked pot was very sad. Good water bearers are in tune with emotions of their pots.

“What is the matter?”, the water bearer asked.

“I’m useless,” said the cracked pot. “I used to love making these trips every day but now I just hate them because I know I’m letting you down. I drip water constantly and I make your job twice as hard. Why don’t you just get a new pot and you can fill me with flour or something.”

“You know what would cheer you up…”, said the water bearer, “When we walk up and down the hill to the master’s house, why don’t you admire all the pretty flowers!”

The cracked pot did as he was told and the whole journey home he admired the flowers. They really were beautiful. There were roses, tulips, daisies, morning glories, violets, any flower you could think of. There were big flowers and small flowers, and they were all different colors and each one smelled prettier than the last. The cracked pot gazed at these flowers and smiled and thought of nothing else the whole time the water bearer journeyed back, singing:

“Some of us are beautiful,

Some of us are strong,

All of us are wonderful,

All of us belong!”

But when they finally got back the cracked pot was sad once again. When the water bearer poured the cracked pot out, he noticed that he was still sad.

“Why are you still sad, friend. Didn’t you look at the flowers like I told you to?”

“Yes I did,” said the cracked pot, “and they were very beautiful. I almost forgot about my sadness but when we got back and you poured me out and I saw how much water my companion poured and how little I had, I was reminded of my crack and how I daily disappoint you and I was sad again”

The water bearer smiled. “Did you not notice when you were watching the flowers how they only grow on one side of the road? I knew you had a crack. That’s why I chose you. Every day, you’ve been watering the flowers along the side of the path with each drip that falls out of your cracked clay. All those beautiful flowers are there because of you.”

The cracked pot suddenly realized how important he was. He was filled with a joy that never left him. Now everyday he was once again excited to go out on his daily journey and each time he dripped water on the path he would give thanks for his imperfection that brought such amazing life into the world and he would gladly sing the whole way:

“Some of us are beautiful,

Some of us are strong,

All of us are wonderful,

All of us belong!”

This is my elaborated version of an old parable from India. Sometimes it is our very imperfections that God can use to bring beauty into the world. We often are sad because we feel we cannot contribute the things that others can, and we miss out on what God has in store for us. As disciples, we also see in this parable the great Christian paradox that brokenness brings wholeness. It is through our wounds that God can use us to bring healing to others. We are called to stop comparing ourselves to the people around us and to begin looking for the ways God is already at work in us. For we are, as the Psalmist declares, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Origin of the Teacup

Suppose you walk into a room and find a hot cup of tea on the table. You ask aloud, “How did this teacup come to be here?” In response to your question, I might tell you one of two stories:

Explanation #1- The process starts with the the molecular compound known as h2o pouring in its liquid state into a steel vessel, which is then sealed and heated by an exterior source. As kinetic energy passes from the exterior source to the liquid, the temperature of the liqiud rises until stabilizing at the boiling point (which in average atmospheric conditions is approximately 212 degrees Farenheit). At this point in the process, the h2o begins to convert from a liquid state to a gaseous state. As the vapor rises, it fills the steel vessel and it attempts to expand. Restrained by the shape of the vessel, the vapor forms a jet which then passes through a cylindrical tube situated at an angle at the of the top of the vessel. At the end of the tube are two small holes. As the jet of vapor passes through the first hole, so too do the sound waves formed during the boiling. As the jet passes through the second hole, the sound waves spin off in vortices at a high frequency. At this point in the process, the steel vessel is removed from the exterior heat source and tipped at a 90 degree angle st that the remaining hot liquid flows freely through the tube into a second smaller vessel. At the bottom of this vessel is a packet of herbs and leaves which combined with the hot liquid forms the solution commonly referred to as tea.

Explanation #2- In the beginning, the table was empty and bare. But your wife loves you. She knew you had a tough day at work so when she arrived home before you did, she decided to make you a nice cup of tea to calm your nerves. She went into the kitchen and got out that old red stainless steel tea kettle you two bought on your honeymoon in the smoky mountains. She filled the kettle about halfway and set it on the stove then she spent a few minutes checking messages on her phone. One of them was from you. You told her you were sorry for snapping at her on the phone earlier; you were just having a real stressful day. She thinks of a couple different responses, but finally just deletes the message and decides to let it go. After she heard the whistle she poured the water into a teacup and put in the last bag of Twinnings Irish Breakfast Tea, stirring in a teaspoon of honey just the way you like it. She also blew on it slightly and took a sip. She doesn't really like tea but she always takes a sip to make sure it's not too hot and in case her tastebuds may have changed their minds. Just then, she heard your car pull up so she put the teacup on the table and went to the bedroom to rest.

Which of these stories would you say is the most true?

This is my embellishment of an analogy used by John Polkinghorne to describe the relationship between science and faith. Each story answers a set of questions the other cannot. Your level of satisfaction with the respective stories will depend on what you are really asking when you ask “how did this teacup come to be here?” If you are inquiring into the process of how cold water becomes hot tea, the first explanation will be the most satisfying. If you are wondering more about who poured the tea and for what reason, the second story will be more satisfying. The writer of Genesis didn't know what we know about the scientific process by which the universe was created, or by which life evolved on our planet. But he did know a story about who created us and for what purpose. A story that is true. Likewise, the writers of our current scientific models can tell us a great many things with stunning accuracy, but there are a great many intangible things that cannot be explained through mathematics and observation. Things like: who created us and for what purpose? Religion and science are both plentiful wells and we can draw from both so long as we understand the difference between “how?” and “why?”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

 

 

The Bow Committee

Before the waters of the great flood receded, while Noah was still on the ark, God met in heaven with eight of His most artistic angels. God opened the meeting by proclaiming in a voice that sounded deep like thunder, majestic like rushing waters, and beautiful like a trumpet: “In just a short time, my servant Noah will leave the ark I have commanded him to build and I will command him to repopulate the earth. At that time, I will set my bow in the heavens as a sign that I will never again flood the earth. I want the eight of you Angels to begin working on the design of the bow so that it will be a powerful reminder of my presence.”

With that, God vanished and the newly formed bow committee set to work. They were all in agreement that the bow should be large enough to be seen from miles away and that it should be made of pure light (angels are quite fond of pure light). The only real sticking point was the color.

The first angel argued that the bow ought to be red, saying, “Red would remind humanity of God’s fierce anger and of the blood sacrifice that must be made to atone for sin. They must be reminded that God is a consuming fire, holy and without equal… a fierce warrior on the side of His people!”

The second angel argued for a different color saying, “Is not our Lord rare and sweet like an exotic fruit? Perhaps the color orange would remind humanity that God is the true source of pleasure and joy in life, and the only thing worth seeking. What better message could there be than an orange bow in the sky?”

The third angel argued for yellow, reminding his fellows that “God is a friend to humanity who radiates love like the sun radiates light. Surely the color of the sun would remind the people that God is faithful and steadfast- as dependable as that great light that governed the day!”

The fourth angel argued for the color green, saying, “Is our Master not also the creator? The God of all creation? Surely a green bow would remind humanity that our God created the earth and continues to be the source of all life!”

“Yes,” said the fifth angel, “But it is also important to emphasize God’s compassion! Does He not grieve with humanity? The color blue would remind people that God is present in their suffering… that He hears the cry of the afflicted, and draws near to the broken hearted.”

The sixth angel argued for indigo, that mysterious color halfway between blue and violet, pointing out that, “God, too, is mysterious and elusive- His ways are not fathomable to humanity. An indigo bow would inspire humanity to contemplate the deep spiritual truths of God.”

The seventh angel cried out, “You fools, you’ve forgotten the most important thing about God: that He is King. Violet would remind humanity of God’s royal rule over them and His sovereignty over all creation, for heaven is His throne and the Earth is His footstool.”

All while this debate was going on, the eighth angel sat quietly, not contributing to the conversation. Finally, the angels looked to him to break the tie. “You have been quiet,” said one of the angels, “Which among us do you feel has the better argument?”

The angel was silent for a moment more and then spoke with great sureness and wisdom: “It seems to me that God is all of the things you describe and much more… Would not a bow made of all these colors show humanity that their God must be truly great to be seen in so many beautiful ways?”

It was then that the argument was ended and the final design for the rainbow was agreed upon.

This is a midrash of my own creation. Often, like these angels, we stubbornly cling to our vision of God as the only right way of seeing… We become upset when people try to paint God a different color by emphasizing a quality we see as peripheral to God’s nature. Many times our vision of God says far more about us than it says about God. If God is God, then He is beyond any one person’s comprehension. He must indeed be truly great to be seen in so many beautiful ways.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…