A Broken, Yet Treasured Pot
Our God loves to work with his hands. He’s not afraid of getting his palms soiled. In fact, that is precisely how he made us: O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8). God is a craftsman involved deeply in his creation. Oftentimes though, he is hidden from our human eyes. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb (Psalm 139:13).
As Christians, we rejoice that He has given us faith to see his fingerprints throughout creation. At the same time we sorrow to observe rampant destruction of that creation via human sin, warfare, neglect, and oppression. Indeed, our sin has broken without reserve God’s beautiful handiwork. Worst of all, men whom God made as the crown of his creation persist in stubborn denial of their Creator, His Love, and His Goodness. Folks in Isaiah’s time were the same: The pot says of the potter, ‘He did not make me’; the vessel denounces him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’? (Isaiah 29:16).
In Japan, there is highly valued form of ceramics known as kintsugi. Literally kintsugi means ‘golden fractures.’ This ancient artform developed out of desire to save broken pottery. Rather than discard broken vessels, Japanese artisans repaired the fractures with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. When done well, kintsugi can make a broken tea-cup more beautiful than the original (and much more valuable). In fact, good pottery is often deliberately smashed so it can be repaired with the golden seams of kintsugi.
Philosophically, kintsugi shows a way of understanding humanity’s brokenness and God’s plan of salvation. Christ was sent by Father in order to salvage and repair the broken shards of creation. In divine love, He chose not to sweep us into the cosmic trash of oblivion. He chose to save you. Though broken, you are Christ’s treasured creation!
Our repair was not through lacquered gold but the cross. Christ Jesus suffered brokenness for us. He was crushed and oppressed. He wept for us. He was mortally wounded for us. We sing in one of our hymns: “God knows what must be done to save me; His love for me will never cease. Upon His hands He did engrave me with purest gold of loving grace” (Lutheran Service Book 719:2).
Notice how that even when he rose in glory from the dead, his wounds were not erased. Jesus kept the scars as marks of his love (John 20:27). Charles Wesley described it poetically, “Those dear tokens of His passion still His dazzling body bears, cause of endless exaltation to His ransomed worshipers. With what rapture… gaze we on those glorious scars!” (Lutheran Service Book 336:3).
We rejoice that our risen Lord comes to us at Zion with our wounds. Many of these are open and unclean. Jesus comes to us with his Word and Sacrament. In the Divine Service He washes us, He bandages our wounds, and finally he lays over them his heavenly treasure. Better than gold or silver is His forgiveness and healing. Like a kintsugi master, Christ has made you beautiful through the means of grace.
As a congregation, we weekly discover that this grace is inexhaustible. The Lord invites us to share in his kintsugi ministry. As Paul writes, we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
Following Christ our master let us bind up the brokenhearted, forgive those shattered by sin, lead the spiritually blind to his Word, feast with the hungry, and care for all. Therefore, let us keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).