(Photo by: Morty Bachar / Lakeside Pottery) http://lakesidepottery.com/Pages/kintsugi-repairing-ceramic-with-gold-and-lacquer-better-than-new.htm
Although I have never tried my skills at pottery, I am interested in pottery at least for symbolic reasons that I have thought about as the potential subject for a future sermonette, if I ever get the chance to give one. Rather than give my sermonette in detail, before its time, I thought it would be good to talk about a curious aspect of pottery that I consider to be of rather personal importance. Kintsukuroi is an unfamiliar term, but its meaning is rather straightforward: “to repair with gold.” It is a style of repairing broken pottery with gold (or silver) that shows us that what is repaired can sometimes be all the more precious for having been broken. As God is a master potter Himself, I am sure that is a sentiment that He shares given the way that we are treated as the work of His hands.
Why would a potter find pottery better when it has first been broken? The Bible itself is full of suggestive commentary about broken pottery. In Job 2:8 Job is afflicted with painful boils and he takes a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself with it while his wife urges him to curse God and die. Psalm 31:11-13 has a suggestive description of David as a piece of broken pottery in ways that I can relate to all too well: “I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and am repulsive to my acquaintances; those who see me outside flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I hear the slander of many; fear is on every side; while they take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life.” It is certainly clear that God’s people, some of his most notable servants, saw themselves in the discarded pottery shards that fill the studies of contemporary biblical archeology.
Likewise, Leviticus 15:12 tells us that there is a distinction made between different kinds of vessels that have become corrupted through uncleanness. Vessels of wood could be rinsed with water, but vessels of pottery must be broken. For whatever reason, it was not possible to clean pottery vessels merely by washing, but they must be broken and then reformed together once again whole. We too are made whole by brokenness. When we partake of broken unleavened bread in the Passover ceremony of the renewed covenant, the broken bread is a symbol of the broken body of Jesus Christ, bruised for our transgressions and broken to pay the price of our sins, which required a perfect sacrifice that we could not give of ourselves or for ourselves. Likewise, those who are called to follow Christ will find themselves broken in innumerable ways and reformed into His image in ways that can scarcely be imagined or understood until long after the fact.
And, to the extent that we are cognizant of our own brokenness, we are often drawn to the brokenness of others. At times we may see the beauty of what was broken and then put together whole, beautiful if marred. At times we may be moved with great compassion by the suffering we see around us, especially if we have deep reservoirs of our own suffering to draw from, to remember what it was like to suffer the same way. In our brokenness we long to be put together whole, but in connecting the pottery together with gold, the potter does not seek to destroy all evidence of brokenness, but to turn that brokenness into an aspect of tremendous and unexpected beauty, a sign to the world that God sees our brokenness and desires to put it back together even more beautiful and precious than it was before, if we will only place ourselves into His dexterous and compassionate hands. Oh, that it were easier to trust those hands to fulfill our longings.