Summary: Life batters and breaks us in a variety of ways, but then God makes us stronger and more beautiful in that very fragility and brokenness.
Title: Fragility and Brokenness
Text: II Corinthians 4:6-10; 12:7-10
Thesis: Life batters and breaks us in a variety of ways, but then God makes us stronger and more beautiful in our fragility and brokenness.
In that this is the 1st Sunday after Epiphany we are once again reminded of how Christ is made known to us, in us and through us.
This is a fairly serious talk today so let me begin with a bit of humor. I was in King Soopers the other day and observed a mother trying to get her unruly little boy to sit down in the shopping cart. She had reached the point just one step below yelling when she said, “If you fall out of this cart and break your leg, don’t come running to me.” (Actually, I made that up…)
This week I read about a Japanese art for repairing broken pottery. They call it kintsukuroi ( kin-tsU-kU-roi). It means: golden repair. It is a process in which lacquer resin is dusted or mixed with powdered gold and used to, for lack of a better word, glue the piece back together.
The idea is that breakage and repair are part of the history of an object, so rather than something to hide or disguise, it is illuminated.
In part, this art form is a reflection of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which embraces the flawed and imperfect. By highlighting the cracks and repairs they are demonstrating the service value of an object by simply marking an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.
While here in the west, our landfills are cluttered with our broken and discarded things, in Japan they fix the cracked and broken objects. The brokenness of a repaired object is highlighted or illuminated by the golden resin that marks the repaired seams. It is so beautiful that some have been known to deliberately break an object so that the object has the enhanced beauty of the golden repair.
It is an easy leap from the brokenness of a piece of pottery to human brokenness…Life batters, chips away and breaks us in a variety of ways, but then God makes us stronger and more beautiful in our fragility and brokenness.
I have selected two texts this morning to help us better understand, appreciate and even value our human fragility and brokenness.
In II Corinthians 4 we see ourselves described fragile clay jars.
I. Fragile People, II Corinthians 4:7-11
We have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. II Corinthians 4:7
As we begin there are a couple of things we need to understand about the contrasts implied in this text. We are described as “clay jars” or “earthen vessels.” Human weakness then stands in contrast with the glory of Christ, who is the exact image of God. (II Corinthians 4:4) At the onset we are aware that these two contrasts are essential to understanding the text:
1. The contrast between Human Weakness and God’s Power…
2. The contrast between Human Insignificance (Cheapness) and God’s Glory (Treasure)…
Now that we are aware that we are mere clay jars or earthen vessels marked by weakness and insignificance we can fully appreciate how God’s power and glory play out in and through our human frailty.
When Bonnie was born her grandmother bought her a set of fine China. When we got married that crate of China that had been moved around for 21 years was given to her on her wedding day. For nearly 45 years that China has occupied a place of prominence in our home… displayed in an antique hutch. It is beautiful but rarely used. The fact of the matter is, God is not looking for delicate, hand-painted, fine China that has to be kept in a China cabinet good mostly for looking at and keeping safe from human handling and practical use. God is into people who are made to be used… we are well-worn pots and plates and dishes designed to serve God and others over and over and over and over…
In verse 8 we see what life is like for a clay or earthen vessel:
• Pressed but not crushed
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. II Corinthians 4:8a
Life is predictably unpredictable. We may know the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We experience the good, the bad and the ugly. But when we are under the pressures of life and we feel we are absolutely caught between a rock and a hard place and in our human frailty we are sure that we will either implode or explode… we are reminded that these earthen vessels contain the precious treasure of Christ’s presence and with that knowledge there is a resilience of spirit.