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This message is from April 1, 2001.

Scripture Reading:
I Corinthians 12:4-6

Water Works

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful castle. It rose from the earth with authority, like a geyser. It glittered like frozen dew in the cold November sun. It was called the Palace of Living Water.

Inside the castle, there lived a great King. Known as the Lord of Living Water, this king could make water appear. Bathtubs and teapots were filled with water at the King's command. Every dry and empty place could be filled to overflowing.

There's more.

Every vessel that received Living Water... was brought to life. Teapots would sing. Bathtubs would walk about. Ice trays would rattle with laughter.

All of these containers lived together in a single village. They lived as people do: raising their children and growing old. They did the sort of work you would expect of them. The bathtubs and the wash basins did most of the cleaning. The teapots served tea. Ice packs and hot water bottles were available in case of injury.

Every receptacle put the Living Water within it to some good use. The Living Water brought life to each individual vessel. And through each vessel, the Living Water brought life to the whole community.

* * *

Because she was a watering can, Sprinkle was very good at helping things grow. Motherhood, she believed, would come quite naturally to her.

Puff was an iron. Although his water reserve was rather small, he could produce great clouds of steam. And irons are very useful for smoothing things out. He expected this diplomatic quality would make him a wise and helpful father.

One day, Sprinkle and Puff found their first child wrapped in a blanket and lying on their front step. The child was small, concave and made from porcelain.

"Look dear," said Puff. "I expect he'll be a sink."

Sprinkle adjusted the blanket to get a better look at her new baby. "I think there's something scientific about him," the proud new mother proclaimed. "I wouldn't be surprised if he goes to work in the laboratory."

"That would be something," Puff agreed. And together, the new parents took the child inside.

* * *

Several days later, when the time was right, Puff and Sprinkle carried their baby to the village square. The time had come to learn the child's true name and his future. Without waiting to be asked, Sprinkle offered her opinion to anyone who would listen. "We think he might be scientific," she said. But of course, no one would know for sure until the naming ceremony was complete.

The naming ceremony was conducted by a stately old urn. Once each month, this wise and ancient vessel would come to the village square as an emissary from the King. She would take each child into her arms, and then she would speak the child's name and function. Her judgments were unfailing: she always knew the special purpose for which each child was created.

At first, the gathering was informal. The villagers drifted from one set of parents to the next, eager to see all the new arrivals. Some people asked to take the babies into their arms. Others were content with a look. Almost everyone tried to anticipate what the urn would say.

Finally, the wait was over. The urn stepped forward. A sense of reverence settled onto the assembly.

The urn appeared frail. There were tiny cracks along her surface, as if she had been broken once and glued back together. Despite these signs of age, the urn spoke in a strong and steady voice.

Holding the first child in her arms, the urn pronounced, "He is named Squirt. He is a sports bottle, and he will bring refreshment to those who are weary. The Living Water within him will do this work. Amen."

"Amen!" the crowd replied with one voice. Then everyone applauded as the urn returned him to his parent's arms.

The urn stepped to the next child. She lifted the child into her arms and said, "She is named Seeper. She is a soaker hose, and she will nurture the deep places. The Living Water within her will do this work. Amen."

Once again, the crowd accepted this proclamation with one voice: "Amen!" And once again, everyone applauded as the stately urn returned the child to her parent's embrace.

Finally, the urn stood before Sprinkle and Puff. She took the concave shape of their baby into her hands. The urn said, "His name is Tray. He is a rinse basin, and those who need to spit will find relief in him. The Living Water..."

"Wait a minute!" Sprinkle interrupted. "Wait a minute. What are you saying? I don't understand this at all. A rinse basin? What do you mean?"

The urn shifted her steady gaze to Sprinkle. "It is a vessel from the land of Dentist. Dentist is a weary and joyless land. Any relief in that place of trouble is a great blessing, indeed."

"You said... spit," Sprinkle accused.

"Yes. A rinse basin is a small sink where the patient may spit should the need arise. It can be a great comfort to the afflicted." When Sprinkle said no more, the urn concluded, "The Living Water within him will do this work. Amen."

The crowd echoed this last word with less enthusiasm than before. There was only a smattering of applause as Tray was returned to his parents.

In vain, Puff searched for some way of smoothing things out.

* * *

Tray grew up knowing that his parents were ashamed of him.

Nor did the young dental implement find any relief at school. More than once, Power Washer knocked him to the ground while Sports Bottle and his other classmates jeered.

Tray had no immediate hope for revenge. Instead, he longed for the day when his tormentors would find themselves in the land of Dentist. "They'll beg me for relief," Tray assured himself. "But I won't listen. I won't even listen one bit. Then we'll see how they like it!"

In truth, Tray would've traded an hour's worth of future revenge for two minutes of respect in the here and now.

* * *

Once, an old water closet had advised him, "Be proud of who you are, son! You have been made to serve a purpose. And any service is noble if it is given to the King. Chin up! There is Living Water in your pipes."

For just an instant, Tray was glad to realize that he had not been born a toilet. It became his one consolation.

Otherwise, Tray was miserable. He felt as if he was serving a life sentence: he was a rinse basin without the possibility of parole. He feared a long, hopeless future of stinging ridicule and quiet disappointment.

* * *

Then, one day, the Lord of Living Water appeared to Tray. Without preamble, the King said, "I want a fountain to sparkle and murmur and ease my mind at the end of the day."

"Why are you telling this to me?" Tray asked.

"Because I want you to be my fountain," the King answered.

"Me?" Tray stammered. "But I'm a rinse basin. I think you must be looking for someone else."

"I pick you," the King assured him.

Tray asked, "But how can this be?"

"I am the Living Water in your pipes," said the Lord of Living Water. "Living Water is like a wild river that jumps its banks and sweeps the levies aside. No one can say where it will flow. I have made you and I will remake you when I wish."

"I haven't been a very good rinse basin," Tray confessed. "What makes you think I will be a good fountain?"

"Trust the Living Water within you," the King said. "It will make you what you need to be."

* * *

Thinking about spiritual gifts, we shouldn't we feel stuck in one category or another. We are not so easily defined as toilets or bathtubs or fish tanks.

The important thing is this: there is living water in our pipes. And God will use us for some purpose.