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Treasured Cracks

Date:6/3/18

Series: Ordinary TIme

Category: 2018 Sermons

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

Treasured Cracks
2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Recently on Facebook I came across a video of a Lutheran pastor; Nadia Bolz Weber. I’ve mentioned her more than once in different ways. She’s a pastor that has always resonated with me, because of her authenticity, her openness, her ability to talk about her imperfections. In the video, she talks about these very qualities…She says..

“My transparency about my failings and all of the things that make me seem not ‘like a pastor’ are what allow me to be certain people's pastor.”

In that one sentence, Bolz Weber captures what I’ve been hoping for these past three years. Incidentally, this Sunday marks our three year anniversary together. I meant to buy you all flowers and candy but the week got away from me, so let this suffice...Happy Anniversary, I love you.

 Back to Bolz Weber

“My transparency about my failings and all of the things that make me seem not ‘like a pastor’ are what allow me to be certain people's pastor.”

She goes on to talk about falling in love with Lutheran theology; the idea that we are all simultaneouly sinner and saint, 100% of both all the time, the idea that nobody is worthy but everybody is welcome, the fact that I can make a mistake and its not the thing thats going to determine my value forever…that’s grace.[1]

That’s a good theology in my opinion. To be transparent about our failings, is to let go of the shame we may have acquired along the way. It’s similar to what we talked about last week, to let the old die away, in order to make room for new life. That doesn’t mean we forget or bury what’s unpleasant under the rug, but to accept, and even to embrace what happened then with a sense of forgiveness, in order to embrace what God is doing now…which is to redeem and transform us all through grace.

Transparency; I just don’t know any other way of being and I never have. And not just open about my sins, my mistakes, but also the ones of those around me which had an affect on me, or hardships that just happened, life events that were not in anyone’s control, all the stuff of life that many people might prefer not to talk about, I have always wanted to to talk about… in order to help make sense of them, but more importantly to take the shame out of them. Here’s an example I may have mentioned before. Bu the way, in light of our anniversary, I’m done worrying about whether I’m repeating myself. I figure, just like in any good marriage, you’ll let me know when it starts getting annoying.

I was about 14 and no longer going to church, my parents had stopped when I was about 8. But my best friend Linda Cramer was still going to church and she on her way to being confirmed. Which meant she got a new name that she got to pick. That idea was so fun to me, that I decided I wanted to be confirmed too. Linda said that I should start by going to confession, which is funny to me now because Linda Cramer was far more in need of confession than I was. ;) So I went, and in those days, priests had started coming out of the dark confessionals and meeting face to face. SO there I sat in a room across from a priest and I don't really remember exactly what I said or what he said. What I can  remember this…I had said something like…but I’ve learned form all my mistakes…so I can’t say that I wouldn't do them again. Something to that affect at the age of 14, and what I do remember is that the priest didn’t know what to say, which meant I walked away feeling like in his eyes, I was not only a disappointment but, hopeless and I felt ashamed, like I had disappointed God, because growing up catholic, priests seemed like a direct extension of God.

Looking back, I’m so grateful for that experience, because I believe that today it only confirms (no pun intended) it confirms what I do today as your pastor, but did all my life as a friend.… Which is to understand all our sins, and our hardships and suffering as opportunities to receive God’s grace which transforms us and grows within us…and not only for us…but always-

always in the hope that in sharing those experiences, it will somehow give others the permission they might need to do the same…free of shame… in that place of compassionate listening- free of judgment- That’s where connection and trust is built. And where there is connection and trust there is the community of God’s people.

Connection and trust in this community, and in any healthy church, is built foundation-ally on God, Christ, and Spirit. The greater church, just like all of us individually, has a past, is responsible for transgressions, and has seen hard times…And in this mornings scripture, Paul is pointing this out to the community in Corinth whose animosity in 2 Corinthians now seems aimed at Paul. And Paul in his wisdom reminds them of the stuff we’re all made of.

Clay jars…Clay jars break when they fall.. just as we break, sometimes because of our own doing, and often because of something completely out of our control, like a natural disaster, or a life changing event, which causes great suffering, breaking us…we’re made of clay…

But Paul, perhaps the first transparent and authentic preacher with a past of his own, doesn’t stop there, just to say we’re clay jars…Paul says…we have this treasures inside these jars, inside these breakable bodies…and the treasure is the redeeming power of Jesus Christ…

Vs 7-10 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from 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 made visible in our bodies.

This is not a sweep the unpleasant under the rug kind of theology. This is perseverance and grace. This is God’s ability to take our afflictions, whether self inflicted or by others, and to turn them into enormous understandings of complete dependency on God.  To build on last Sunday’s sermon, the death of Jesus takes with it all those things in your life that no longer serve you, all those ways and things that keep you stuck and unable to express new life, what God wants to do with you today requires a kind of death….And it requires self compassion, and acceptance. And the more we can accept and be transparent about our own life, the good and the ugly of it, the more we can grow with one another into the transforming beauty of it.

SO it would seem, we are purposefully designed as clay jars. A purpose so much greater than ourselves…our imperfection is a gift. This treasure we carry inside is a gift, our reliance on God is not a limitation as much as it is a gift. What a relief, none of us were designed to be perfect, our lives were not designed for perfection…Thanks be to God. And yet, we were also designed to understand these cracks and breaks in our being as made whole by a God given treasure that lives inside of us. Which means there are days when I am so grateful for this design and there are other days when I complain to God for this lousy design. On those days, I can hear God smiling at me, shaking his head, and loving me through despite my annoyance.

~~~~~

Those who got my weekly email know that this week Rev Bentley Stewart introduced me to the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi…

Emerging in the 15th century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all.

Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a gray December landscape and the aching elegance of an abandoned building or shed. It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.[2]

And out of this philosophy emerged the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which takes broken bowls and fills the cracks with gold…

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject.[3]

Highlighting and emphasizing our imperfections is not something we tend to do in our society. But God is doing it…in the very design of how we were created, whether by our own sins, or sins of others, or the very randomness of life, tragedy and events out of our control, all these things that shatter us into pieces, are repaired in grace the color of gold. The more cracked the bowls are- the more valuable they are. How much more valuable are you in the eyes of a grace filled God who fills everyone of our cracks with his love…We have this treasure in clay jars…Thanks be to god…

Show Video…Peter Mayer-Japanese Bowls-BlueBoat.net

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOAzobTIGr8

[1] (https://www.makers.com/videos/5a761ca885eb424e94d6f8dc)

[2] https://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi

[3] Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics