Monday, October 17, 2005


Today after Meeting, I went shopping for Halloween, a task I always dread because I can't bear to give junk to young, growing bodies. (Isn't it terribly ironic that at Halloween, some people are worried about the possibility of poisons in the trans-fat, carcinogenic-fried, pancreas-destroying junkfood and candy their kids receive?)

This year, to my relief, I found cases of juice in drink-boxes on sale. At the bulk store, I also found rice krispie squares individually wrapped. Not exactly nutritious, but my conscience was eased.

I would not be poisoning any children at Halloween this year.

(But not my kids' consciences. They were slack-jawed, outraged. "Juice?! You're going to give out JUICE this year?!")

However, there's still the issue of tetrapacks. Drink-boxes have their shortcomings too. Sigh. There's just no escaping The Evil One at Halloween.

Drink-boxes happen to be one of my favourite metaphors. Many religions are drink-boxes. Someone sells you the package, and all you have to do is poke in the straw and suck it all in. You never see what you're drinking. But the package tells you it's everything you need. All the vitamins and minerals, complete in one package. No other drinks are necessary. This faith saves all, covers all, this book tells the whole story, no other book necessary. If you have any questions, these pamphlets provide you with all the answers. Just suck it all in.

However, no one ever explains what happens when you've finally sucked everything out, and the box runs dry. We know what becomes of spent drink-boxes. Recycling if they're lucky. And what if what's on the label isn't really what's in the box? How much are people supposed to just believe, without testing or seeking? Is blind faith really faith?

Not all religions are drink-boxes. Some of them are more like vessels -- coffee mugs or wine glasses. Refillable, reuseable, no shelf life.

But those religions are empty, the drink-box people cry! What good is a religion that doesn't give you the answers?

Ah, but the worth of a vessel religion is its emptiness. You have to seek what you will drink, find it, pour it in, see it, believe it, drink it. You also have to care for the vessel, keep it clean, keep it close at hand. Life in a vessel religion is a constant pouring in and drinking and emptying and pouring in again. There are times of thirst and wandering in the dessert, and there are times of wholeness, abundance and celebration.

But, the drink-box people argue, you could end up putting anything in that vessel— like toxins, concrete, or dirt— so it's better to have a real drink-box, the one true drink.

But how likely are you to put sand or arsenic in your own vessel? In a vessel religion, you are the guardian and keeper of the vessel. You watch what you pour into your soul. You know what it is experimentally.

The drink-box and vessel ideas applies as well to creative and intellectual efforts.

Science is a vessel. With the scientific method, we pour in experimental ideas, test them, compare them with others, then accept them, then clean out the method and use it again.

Facts are drink-boxes. They exist for a while, are disproved or superceded, and then are discarded.

Poetry is a vessel. The words sound empty until you pour something into them, and then they can touch your soul.

Rules are drink-boxes. They have a single purpose in a single context, often for a single person, irrelevant elsewhere.

Drink-boxes are a handy metaphor.

Our Meeting began as an empty vessel this morning. But after the first ministry, people began pouring out their thoughts and worships. The bowl brimmed and spilled over many times, and we all drank till our souls were filled.

And as if that weren't enough, there was potluck Shared Meal afterward!


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