The Clay Pot Boy – A Russian Parable (Harry Currie)

Once there was an old couple who were childless. They had longed for a child for many years. One day it came to them to stop waiting and to shape a child for themselves out of what was available to them. The old woman looked around their house. The first thing she spied was a clay pot. That gave her an idea! Quickly she went to the riverbed and found the best clay in all the area. She brought it home. That night she and her husband loving fashioned a boy in the shape of a clay pot. They left it to dry overnight. Then it was fired in the oven the next day. And lo and behold, out of the oven came a delightful little boy! 

Like any newborn, the little clay pot boy was very hungry. He ate and ate and ate and ate. When the old woman and the old man had fed him all the food in the house, he began to eat their possessions. He ate the old woman’s weaving loom and the old man’s axe. Finally, he even swallowed up his parents, the old woman and the old man! Then he headed out into the world. 

And there his eating grew even larger. First, he met the neighbors. “I’m hungry!” cried the clay pot boy! The neighbors quickly offered him bread and milk. They had heard how he had literally eaten his parents our of house and home. He drank down ten tubs of milk and ate five baskets of bread. He met a bull in the next field and ate it horns and all. At the next farm he didn’t even as politely. He swallowed the farmer and his plough, the farmer’s wife and her hoe, their rooster and their hens sitting on their eggs. Finally, he swallowed the whole barn! 

Then he headed toward the billy goat with curly horns who was grazing in the next field over. When he reached the billy goat with the curly horns, the clay pot boy cried, “I’m hungry!” The billy goat saw all that the clay pot boy had eaten and he decided to the boy needed a lesson! When the clay pot boy headed toward the billy goat with his mouth open wide to eat him, the billy goat put down his head with the curly horns and charged. Bang! Boom! Smash!

The billy goat hit the clay pot boy smack in the middle and he burst into many, many pieces! Out tumbled the old woman and the old man and all their possessions. Out tumbled ten tubs of milk and five baskets of bread. Out tumbled the bull, horns and all. Out tumbled the farmer and his plough, the farmer’s wife and her hoe, the rooster and the hens and their eggs. And even the farmer’s barn! And…that was the end of the clay pot boy. The old woman and the old man never made a clay pot boy again. And the billy goat with the curly horns was always much beloved by all. 

The clay pot boy story is a story that speaks to our time specifically of consumerism, but to any time and to much larger issues when nations, cultures, empires, groups, or individuals consume others.

The Me Too movement is a backlash against men, sometimes powerful men who have consumed women… taken what was not theirs. The growth of the Western World, or the First World and Capitalism was growth often at the expense of poorer countries who were exploited. We can tell of the terrible consumption of the Holocaust, or Residential Schools, or the Inquisition, or of war, or of Colonialism, or other events where larger powers ate up smaller powers. And we have to look at our own lives and think about where we are more interested in taking, having, gaining and/or consuming. Things like goods, emotional leverage, position, perks, money, favours, sex, food, or other things we want.

Jesus offers a different narrative. In a world that often has a slogaon of “Eat or be eaten,” Jesus offers himself to be food. He is bread. He is water. He is wine.

Instead of taking from others, Jesus offers himself to others. He is food to a person’s soul. To those who hunger for justice, to those who thirst for love and acceptance, to those who want the bread of equality and the wine of peace, Jesus offers himself. To those who want to taste inner healing, Jesus is a balm. To those who are starving for forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus feeds their souls.

So, the question we can ask ourselves. In what we can we be food to souls. Instead of taking, what can we give?

The Rev. Harry Currie
First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton