Lloyd Menke | Our Saviour’s

Bible reference for this sermon is 2 Corinthians 4:5-12 it can be found here.

Do you remember playing with it as a child? Perhaps you have a children or grandchildren that still play with it. Perhaps there are kids here today who still play with it. You can still use it to make things – kind of fun.

Some people are far more creative with it than I am.

© Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

If you take your time you can form a man or a woman out of it. God didn’t use Play-Doh, but in Genesis it says God used something like it – God took the dust and clay of the ground – formed a man – and then breathed life into him and he became a living being.

Paul picks up on that understanding and says that we have a treasure in clay jars. Paul is being intentionally vague about what that “treasure” is. The treasure could be the gift of life we have in our bodies. The treasure could be the good news of Jesus. Paul may want us to think the treasure is both.

Regardless, there is truth to the fact that we carry a treasure in this clay of our bodies. We are in some ways like clay jars. Clay jars is an image that almost everyone is familiar with. In one form or another, clay pottery is something almost everyone uses every day. I would like to have us ponder this image of clay jars for a moment. Have you ever thought of yourself as a clay jar? If you were to think of yourself as a clay jar, what kind of clay jar would you be? A common everyday – but very useful clay jar?

[CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Or a more decorated type?

[CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Would you be tall and skinny or short and stout?

[CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Would you have a special design or shape like this human head jar from Ecuador?

By Daderot [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Would you be ancient, like this Jar with incised hieroglyphic inscription, Second Intermediate Period in Egypt dating from1782-1570 BC?

By Daderot [Public domain or CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Or would you be more modern, like this cookie jar?

By boblloydb (“Cookie Jar”) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are all kinds of jars. What kind of jar would you be? (Take a moment and in a few words share with someone next to you what kind of jar you would be and why? If I were to say what kind of jar I’d be, I’d pick a modern cookie jar like the one pictured above. It is kind of every day and ordinary, but functional.

Out of the clay of the ground God has fashioned and formed us and made each of us unique. No two handmade jars are the same.  Our daughter, Katie, loves to make pottery. So we have a lot of pottery in our house. Not just jars but other pottery too. As we all know, the thing about pottery is that it can and sometimes does break. When pottery breaks, most of us just toss it out unless the piece has some special significance or unless it can be easily repaired.

Lloyd Menke, self-photographed, picture of broken pottery, June 2018

Pictured above is one of Katie’s pottery pieces. As you can see there is a fairly large section has broken off. Because Katie made it, we have not tossed it out. Since it was a fairly clean break, we thought we might try to glue it at some point.

Paul knows that pottery breaks. Paul says that because we are clay jars we also experience things in our lives that can cause us to shatter and break. He doesn’t provide a list of what those things are, but he piles up the words to describe what it is like to break: afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus. Paul was speaking out of his experience; life was not particularly easy for Paul after Jesus met him on the Damascus road.

Have you experienced a sense of brokenness? Most of us don’t talk much about our brokenness. It may even be hard for us to admit our broken places to ourselves. The Wednesday morning men’s group is reading a book by Jim Klobuchar, entitled Pursued by Grace. In the book Klobuchar describes his journey in discovering God’s grace. It’s a journey that recounts his recovery from alcoholism. It’s a journey that required Jim to come clean about the ways he was broken and needed help.

Klobuchar is a good writer. Regardless of whether you have struggled with alcoholism or not he has a way of naming truths about what it means to be human — identifying struggles in spirituality. He is especially candid in talking about the fact that he could not embrace God’s grace without first facing the truth that he was a cracked pot. There is a place in the book where he describes his daughter Amy sharing with him and counselors in an examination center where they were meeting to determine if his drinking history warranted treatment for alcoholism. Here is an excerpt:

“She spoke of neglect in her formative years, hers and Megan’s, a neglect whose damage I was either too busy or heedless to recognize. ‘It wasn’t what you did when you were drinking that hurt the most but what you didn’t do,” she said. There was almost never a family night at the movies.’ Yes, we had vacations in the mountains. Fun. They were so much fun, I heard Amy saying, that they magnified the huge vacuums of time that I could have devoted to their mother’s interests, their progress in school, the routine trials of growing up. And for those, there was almost never an affectionate arm from their father or some sensible advice. I just wasn’t there enough.”

It became terribly quiet in the men’s group as we read that. The words brought to mind the ways we as men felt broken. This is not about navel gazing or being hypercritical. If the church is more than a country club — if it is a place where we can experience real healing and hope — then it needs to be a place where we can be vulnerable enough to get honest about our brokenness.  Because healing and hope comes when we are willing to get honest with God and one another. Paul says we are all cracked pots.

By Giovanni Dall’Orto. – Self-photographed, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2437297

We tend to think that cracked pots are worthless. Most of us think that if a piece of pottery is going to be repaired it’s done best in a way that its brokenness is hidden. But, there is another way of looking at cracked and broken pots. The Japanese have developed into an art form called Kintsugi. Rather than seeing a broken piece of pottery as useless, kintsugi embraces the flaws and imperfections. Kintsugi views the cracks and the need for repairs as simply an event in the life of an object.

By Haragayato [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

And so, it highlights the cracks. Rather than throwing a piece of pottery out when it is damaged or broken, it views it as even more valuable. I see a lot of similarities between Kintsugi and what Paul has to say about being clay jars. Our life in Christ does not mean we will not experience brokenness. Nor does it mean that our brokenness won’t show. The resurrected Jesus showed the disciples in the upper room the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. But, rather than our cracks and brokenness making us worthless, God can take our cracks and turn us into a piece of art.

Because Kintsugi uses gold infused lacquer for repair, the repair is costly. I don’t have any Kintsugi pottery. It is too expensive. The repair of our cracks and brokenness is costly as well.  Only Jesus has paid the price. The gold shining through our cracks is the crucified and risen Lord. Jesus is the gold in our repair.

What does that look like? Paul says, we will find ourselves at times afflicted, but we are not crushed or perplexed, and we are not driven to despair. We may be persecuted but we are not forsaken or struck down, and we are not destroyed. Because God, the great artist is at work! What kind of jar are you?

By Haragayato [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

A kintsugi jar – because of Jesus.  Amen.