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God’s Fish Tanks

God’s Fish Tanks

Many years ago I had a Big Dream.  Only a few of these nighttime teachings have come to me in my lifetime.  They are gifts of the Holy Spirit, meant to guide my thinking and action, and they never quit informing me.

In this dream I am standing in a very long line of people of all sorts.  Each is holding some kind of vessel, unique to them.  There are small vessels and huge ones — pots, buckets, jeweled cruits, blown glass chalices — a vast array.

At the head of the line is God.  She is a tall, stern woman with a huge vat of water and a ladle.  As each person steps up to her, she fills their vessel with holy water and sends them on their way.

As I wait, moving forward in line, I suddenly realize that I have no vessel.   I am completely without a container in which to put God’s gift.  I think about leaving the line and rushing home to find something, but I fear that I will not be able to get back in time, and I might miss the gift entirely.  So I decide that I will just cup my hands to receive the holy water, and whatever small amount I receive will have to be enough.

When I finally reach the front of the line and stand before God, I cup my hands.  But God grabs me by the back of the neck and draws me closer to her.  She pours the holy water straight into the top of my head, and it flows down, filling me.  I am so astounded that I wake up.  But as I am coming into consciousness, God speaks into my heart, with a bit of holy mirth, “Now you will be my aquarium.”

At the time of the dream, I was between vocations, trying to figure out what to do next with my life.  And I’m embarrassed to tell you that I was frustrated by this dream.  In it I was given no container — no occupational vessel through which to serve God!

How foolish I was!  God was telling me my job didn’t matter.  The Holy water is within me.  In all my moments, even the most block-headed ones, I am an aquarium, a place for relating to Holy water.

James and John, Jesus’ audacious disciples, were like me in missing what Jesus asks of us.  In today’s Gospel story, they want to be seated at his right hand and his left.  They want to be his generals, carrying out his commands in a hierarchical realm where some people are closer to the center of power and others are further away.  They want good jobs.

But Jesus tells them to be good servants instead.  They must be good aquariums — working for healing and justice, praying and learning with their friends, spreading the Good News near and far.  God sloshes and bubbles around inside them.  All we have to do to find God is to gaze at these disciples.

It is in this way that they do sit at Christ’s right and left hand in the Kingdom.  But then, we all do.  No matter where we sit, Christ’s throne is right next to us.  And all he asks is that we be good aquariums, that the bubbling and sloshing God in us be visible to the world through our servanthood.  There’s a bit of humor in that, don’t you think?  We are God’s fish tanks.

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