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A childhood memory surfaced the other day and prompted me to immediately call my mom and ask her this, “Why did you cook split pea soup in a pressure cooker, anyway?”
I was remembering a traumatically funny incident that occurred when I was around ten or eleven. It was a time when my friend and I heard a huge BANG erupt from the kitchen while we were quietly playing in my room. We ran out to be greeted by the nightmarish sight of steaming, thick green goo splattered all over the stove, counter, wall and ceiling. A dripping pressure cooker sat chugging and burping on a burner, like a naughty kid who’s just vomited all over. It was a split pea soup explosion, unlike anything I had witnessed before in my sheltered life.
Mom’s answer to my above question was simply, “It was your father’s fault.”
I pressed for details and she said that Dad figured the pressure cooker could greatly speed up the pea softening process. Mom added that the cooker’s manual advised against cooking split pea soup under pressure, but “of course your dad didn’t bother to read the instructions.”
I asked Mom how long it took to clean up the disaster and she said she couldn’t really remember.
“It was your dad’s problem,” she said. “I told him to clean it up, so he did.”
I have a pressure cooker but am too terrified of it to use it. I think the pea soup thing did a bit of lasting damage to my still-developing psyche when I was a kid. My husband, being much braver and more mentally stable than me, has cooked with the pressure pot a couple of times, but I’ve avoided it, being terrified of having something akin to an over-fired steam engine chugging away inside my home. It seems way too dangerous–no amount of tenderized pork butt is worth that kind of risk.
I don’t think my phobia is completely unwarranted. Pressurized containers burst all the time. In fact, history is peppered with examples of large-scale burstings that terrorized entire communities and even killed people. The “Boston Molassacre” of 1919 is one example. This disaster resulted when a giant storage tank filled with molasses exploded in the middle of a crowded Boston neighborhood, creating a deadly, sticky situation. Read on:
“1919: A giant molasses tank blows up, sending a wall of thick, sticky syrup through the streets of a Boston neighborhood. The blast and the molasses flood kill 21 people and injure 150.
The Purity Distilling Company built the tank in 1915…With a diameter of 90 feet and 50 feet high, the iron tank could hold about 2½ million gallons of molasses, ready to be distilled into rum or industrial alcohol.
… No one is sure what caused the disaster…the tank didn’t merely give way —it exploded.
[T]he tank gave out a dull roar, and then its two sides flew outward with a mighty blast. One huge piece knocked out the support of an elevated railway, buckling the tracks…Fragments of metal landed 200 feet away.
Besides sending shrapnel whizzing through the air, the explosion flattened people, horses and buildings with a huge shockwave. As some tried to get to their feet, the sudden vacuum where the tank once was created a reverse shockwave, sucking air in and knocking people, animals and vehicles around once more, and shaking homes off their foundations.
That was just the first few seconds. The real terror was about to begin.
The tank had been filled to near capacity, and 2.3 million gallons of thick, heavy, odorous molasses formed a sticky tsunami that started at 25 or 30 feet high and coursed through the streets at 35 mph. Victims couldn’t outrun it. It knocked them into buildings and other obstacles, it swept them off their feet, and it pulled them under to drown in a viscous, suffocating, brown death.When it was over, more than a score had died, and seven or eight times that number suffered injuries.”
Can you imagine? What a horrific way to die! Occurring long before the implementation of federal safety standards, this disaster might have at least planted the idea that industrial equipment needed to be regularly checked for weak points.
This story prompted me to run and check our hot water tank for leaks.
It also prompted me to inspect the giant plastic bottle of corn syrup I bought two years ago that’s huddling in the back of my baking cupboard, patiently waiting to be used for the bold Christmas candy-making project I dreamed up in the manic phase of one of my sugar-craving episodes. I don’t think the bottle is big enough to produce a shockwave if it inexplicably bursts and pours out into the cupboard, but it might drown some ants in a viscous, suffocating, clear death.
Maybe I should just use it all up in something today. Hmm. Let’s see. Homemade marshmallows, anyone? Or, better yet–fake Halloween blood. Yes, that ‘s it. Talk about killing two birds with one stone–I can finally use up all my corn syrup and stage a realistic zombie apocalypse at the same time.
So, the potential breakdown of containers like pressure cookers, molasses tanks and zombies’ graves brought to mind a certain bible verse. It’s Matthew 9:17, where Jesus said,
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” (NLT)
Way back, goatskins were used to store wine. While fermenting, fresh grape juice would expand, so it was vital to store it in a goatskin that was stretchy enough to accommodate the expansion. A used wineskin, already stretched to its max and often brittle, would break if filled with new wine.
Jesus used this word picture to show the futility of trying to contain the New Covenant within the parameters of the old order–the Law. God had announced in Jeremiah 31:31 that the New Covenant (God’s promise that people may have a relationship with him based on His grace rather than their adherence to the law) could not be contained, or defined, within the old system.
“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'” (NLT)
So, the Holy Spirit is the metaphorical wine. Our hearts are the metaphorical wineskins–the containers that the Spirit is poured into. I have already written about this before, so I’m going to take liberties with my own words and reblog what I said about this from a May post:
“…Wally, my inner Pharisee, insisted that the real Messiah chose to live inside a traditional system. He made me forget that Jesus said the Holy Spirit, under the new system, would choose to take up residence inside people.
I had definitely known that and felt that energy operating inside me at one time. But as the insidious Pharisaism disease slowly took over, I began losing that power. Wally did his best to make sure that I basically forgot my first love. He slowly turned my attention back to the physical side of my faith—namely, duties, rules, appearances, good behavior and good politics—and away from the mystical, poetic, unfathomable, unsearchable, merciful, joyful, and alive Spirit of God.
The fermenting, effervescing, eternal, and organic Being.
The Love part of Jesus that stayed behind when his physical body left the earth.
The Life part of God that can only be contained within living, stretchy, biological tissue…
…which makes up the hearts and brains of real people…
…even silly ones like me.”
The Holy Spirit is a delightfully dangerous substance. It can ferment, overheat, or explode. Or it can quietly pump, unseen, unheard, through a person’s veins, providing the life and light necessary for true love to develop and overflow from one heart container into another.
It can’t be–won’t be–contained within anything manmade.
Not even a church.
The first wave of the Holy Spirit poured out all over the first Christian believers right after Jesus left the earth. And the effects of that moment continue to seep out, over the face of the whole earth, inside and outside of religion.
That brings me back to the end of the Boston Molassacre article I quoted earlier:
“One of the strangest industrial accidents ever lingered on, and not just in a few safety improvements. On warm days for decades after, the neighborhood smelled of molasses. And if you listen to old-timers, even today, hot weather brings a vague, sweet smell to the streets of the North End.” 
 Alfred, Randy. “Jan. 15, 1919: Morass of Molasses Mucks Up Boston.” Wired.com http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2009/01/dayintech_0115