We like pottery in our home. Cups and glasses. Plates and mixing bowls. Vases and urns. Various colors and sizes, similar patterns, yet none exactly the same. Common ordinary vessels of life, with beauty beyond their mere functionality. Each unique piece shaped by hands, most of which we cannot see and will never know, but whose work we cherish. According to Biblical writers, it’s a fitting symbol for who we are in God’s grace—human clay in the loving hands of our Divine Potter.
Many pieces used in our home are broken in some way. Handles snapped off cups. Chips in plates. Mixing bowl glued back together from multiple shards. Each chip or crack another unique mark or memory—an expression of life along the way. Some imperfections I remember much to my chagrin! Others are a complete mystery to me.
When Paul wrote to ancient Christians living in Corinth he said the light of God’s love in Jesus Christ is a treasure we hold in clay jars—something like an oil lamp. Maybe a simple ball-shaped piece with a wick out the top. Maybe something more evolved in style like an Aladdin shaped lamp with a spout and handle. In any case, I’m not sure it’s very comforting. Clay, like our pottery. Beautiful, with personality. And fragile. Easy to break. Most unlikely to last forever. Not exactly a super secure, thick-walled, multiple dead-bolted vault in which our society is inclined to hold our most precious treasures.
Is God’s grace and loving presence in our life really that fragile? Ahh, now we get to the point and promise! We are vessels for Holy Love. We are called to burn brightly in our world “so that grace may extend to more and more people.” And yes, our lives our fragile. We face adversity in many ways, which Paul chronicles in his letter. Yet, God’s grace endures. The same power of love that raised Jesus to new life when he was sealed in a tomb, persists among us even in our darkest hour. Even through our most broken hearts and minds and relationships. Even after our mistakes—the moments of “crash” we remember much to our chagrin.
Holy Love fills our human lives, like oil in an old clay lamp. Yet, even when something of our lives cracks or shatters into shards and we seem to be able to hold and burn brightly with that love no more, the fires of God’s Spirit never goes out. The Loving Potter repairs us enough with all our cracks and chips. So that when the sacred light shining in the darkness rekindles a flickering flame in us we can hold it alight again. And maybe here’s one of the best bits of good news. Precisely in our times of humility and places of fragility … that’s where we really see others who need to be repaired, as well. And so in that darkness, when God’s love reignites us again, we can find someone else—another clay jar—longing for that light.
“We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and not to us.” That’s good news to hold in our hearts for the next time we crack or break. That’s good news I’ll remember tonight when I fill a cup that’s missing a handle.
Grace and Peace,