The problem with containers is that I like them. I love their different shapes and sizes and the promise of tidiness that is attached to them. I like stacking them and arranging them on shelves. However, there is a major difference between containers and what they carry. Sometimes I forget that. I can focus on the loveliness of the container too much, and then what is inside becomes almost secondary. Events, meetings, and traditions are containers. They are meant to carry something that is valuable to us. These containers can come and go and morph into different forms, and we should never get too attached to their malleable shapes.
A weekly church meeting is a container. It is meant to carry something really important, but it is only a container. It is a time and place to recognise that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It is a time to recognise the presence and work of an almighty God and see beyond our limited world of work and play. It is a place to devote ourselves to the sacrifice and joy and huge challenge of developing community. Whether the container delivers this or not is another question, and to my thinking, probably depends more on what everyone brings to the container than to those in charge of container maintenance.
Sadly, sometimes we can attend a weekly church service and never really participate in any of these amazing "inside the container" opportunities. But because we have a container in our lives, our perception is that things are in order. Some people will throw out a container because it is broken, and they have cut themselves on it. Perhaps the container is leaking or simply does not fit into their lives anymore. From my limited observation of those who toss out containers, too many of them seem unable to keep a handle on the valuable stuff that they really want and need in their lives. Without a container of any kind, the good stuff all starts to slip away. I have seen some folks jump from container to container, always chasing the newest and shiniest and most exciting one, and never thinking about what the valuable stuff inside might be and what part they play in bringing it.
Ultimately, I am a container, too. I decide what I carry, and I (Matte) have decided to carry faithfulness. I want to devote myself to God. As best as I can, I give him my time and my attention and my thankfulness, no matter what task I am doing. I try to devote myself to others, too. I attempt to love and be generous with my friends. I try to care for those who have needs. I do life together with those who will challenge me to love God more. That's a hard one, to be honest, but the most rewarding one for me.
Oh, and I really love it when, on occasion, I realise that the good things that God gives are not meant to be contained at all. Now we're talking!
Thank to Gary Best who introduced this idea in a webinar that I attended a few weeks ago.
This is a picture of a container some visitors from Dubai brought us. It is filled with exotic spices from the East.