As I’m sure most of you know, the covid-19 virus has impacted many in our nation. As of Sunday the 15th, there were 53 confirmed cases in Michigan. There are no confirmed cases in the Upper Peninsula yet, and we are trying to keep it that way by following the advice of our governor and bishop and canceling all in-person gatherings. (In case you missed it, oOur announcement is added to the end of this letter…) Due to this, there is no sermon manuscript to share, but I will attempt to send a short devotional each week. This week’s devotional
- … we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted……“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” …... For God… made his light shine in our hearts… we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us... We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (Isaiah 43:4b, 1 Peter 2:24 From 2 Corinthians 4:6-10 (NIV))
A man had to fetch his daily water by traveling down a long path to a stream. He used two metal buckets tied to hang from ends of a long pole which he put over his shoulders. One bucket was relatively new and worked very well. The other was clean, but over the years had developed some small cracks and holes. On the trip back this bucket would drip. By the time the man reached his house, there was almost no water left.
This bucket felt frustrated and finally spoke to his owner. “I’m am worthless, broken and useless. Why do you use me to fetch water when I can’t hold it long enough for you to use?”
The bucket’s owner replied, “Because I have loved you from the day I bought you. You are and always will be mine. I have noticed your unique pains and scars and have seen you “crying” all along the path. Have you looked at the path lately? The path is hard, like its surrounding edges used to be. But you have been soaking the soil along the edge of the path, and when the time was right, I planted seeds – and you have watered them into life – and now the seeds have blossomed, and our path is beautiful with flowers. Your friend at the other end of the pole has done his part in supplying the water in need around the house, but you have supplied much beauty I can enjoy along the path and sometimes bring into the house as well. Your wounds bring healing and hope and beauty to all who come our way.”
Some lessons we can learn from the different versions of the story.
1) Most versions have the path cold and rocky on one side and beautiful on the other. It draws out the contrast between the bucket that holds water and the one that doesn’t. In my mind, it almost makes the water holding bucket bad for “hoarding the water unto himself” rather than just doing what it is called to do. I prefer to think of it, as that we are all loved and have different roles to play – the one bucket supplied the daily need of water in the house, while the other’s role was to reach out to the world around it and supply nourishment to others…
a. We should stop comparing ourselves to each other and assigning value of who is “better” – and realize that the Master is always placing us just where we need to be, and we need to worry less about what everyone else is doing, and how we can accept ourselves and contribute in the place he has set us.
b. Closely related – the versions that have only side of the path beautiful make out the Master to be not wise enough that he couldn’t reverse the pole so that both sides of the path get watered. (I suppose it could be argued that the ground needed daily watering and so he had to choose one side or the other) but I like the version where the whole world can be made beautiful by accepting and knowing and responding to the wisdom of the Master’s placement of his people who eagerly fulfill their role.
2) One supplies the house water, one supplies the path water –
a. The first, “good pail” supplying the internal needs of the house generally gets ignored in the story (except perhaps, to making the watering pail feel bad about itself). That is true of life in general, we tend to focus (more) inwardly or outwardly. But we need nourishment both within and without. There is a balance between prayer and action, study and sharing… Connecting with God, with ourselves, but also connecting with family and friends and strangers…
3) Different versions name the cause of the dripping differently. This version is pains and scars and wounds. Some call it flaws; others call it “merely” different. I think I remember (or maybe it is that I imagine) a version in which the pail thought it was supposed to be a pail like the one at the other end of the pole, but was actually a watering bucket by design – it was no flaw at all – it just thought it was flawed because it compared itself to another bucket who was fulfilling another role.
a. I think the point can be all inclusive -- no matter what are our backgrounds, our struggles, our weaknesses or strengths, our joys of depressions, our differences in personality, interests, our unique quirks, be they by God’s design or by our brokenness or beyond knowing causal effect – God has a way of taking whatever we have become something beautiful -- not only for us, but for those around us as well.
b. He helps us blossom through Jesus wounds, and as his followers, we can help our world bloom too.