I love to collect wooden containers. I have a container for my cuff links and tie tacks (which are rarely worn). I have a box for various collectibles. I have two boxes for my pocketknife collection (an ongoing project that comes from my teens). I have a box for trinkets. And I even have a box that holds other boxes.
The thing I discovered some time ago was that, in time, my beloved boxes tend to decay and fall apart. I had one that I had kept small tools in, and it finally broke apart last fall.
Containers. As I have talked a good bit about Father Richard Rohr, I am drawn again to his idea of a container. In his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for he Two Halves of Life, Rohr talks about a first half of life spirituality as defined by the “container.” He generally is talking about the same thing Paul is talking about when he talks about “the law.”
The Law (Torah), is about providing the structures necessary for living in community. We often refer to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, and they are about the things we are to do (having no other gods before our God) and not do (stealing, murdering, etc.) in the creation of the community who will become the people of God.
The container can also be the church.
Institutions … containers … have their place. They are designed to teach us the boundaries and expectations of our common life together. The problem is, when we elevate the container to the place of ultimacy or when containers cease to fulfill their purpose, they soon decay and fall apart.
So as we consider institutional brokenness this week, the question to what these containers are to hold. If I read the gospel correctly, they are to hold you and me.
And their purpose? Their purpose is to teach us to love … love God … love each other. There may be hope for containers, after all.
God, who uses our containers to further your message of love: May we see how you call us to use the church to create the community of your people. Amen.