Psalm 139:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Today we celebrate with graduates of all levels. Some in our church family are finishing Kindergarten, some middle school, some high school, some college. At every marker, as we move into a new era of our lives, we have to learn to gradually adjust our own self perceptions, and those around us must make adjustments as well. Graduations are a visible sign of movement and growth and deserve to be celebrated!
It is a good day to be reminded of the treasure we carry around in us, whether we are 5 or 18 or 21 or 50 or almost 105! Paul’s clay pot metaphor describes us like the fragile, every day clay pots, used for multiple purposes in his day and time, but so very dispensable, easily broken or chipped or cracked. We might equate them to a paper cup or plate in our time. Definitely not long lasting. Yet inside of this fragile container we carry an amazing treasure. That treasure is the power of God who lives in us, the power of God’s glory in Jesus Christ, whose death on our behalf brings life, who shines light into the world through us! We are the containers for the treasure. We do a lot of great things, we receive awards and scholarships, we accomplish various levels of education or success in our careers, all of which should be celebrated. But we still really can’t take all the credit for ourselves. As Paul says, we don’t proclaim ourselves, but we proclaim Christ as Lord and ourselves as his slaves, or his containers designed to carry the treasure. We are the containers, walking carriers of the treasure which is Christ.
That is why I chose the image of a strawberry pot this morning…for me, the strawberry pot is not just a reminder of the wonderful Strawberry Festival of yesterday. Inside a plain clay pot is life, sweetness, a source of joy. The pot is not strong—if it were dropped it would smash into smithereens. It is not particularly ornate or beautiful. It is plain, utilitarian, and it’s primary purpose is to allow what is inside of it to grow and flourish and produce. Inside the clay pot is life, bursting out of all the crevices, providing flavorful fruit that can’t be ignored. And this is the perfect kind of pot, since it already has holes in it. It reminds us all that none of us is without holes or cracks. We all have blemishes, faults, shortcomings, or we would not be human. And yet the power of God, the light of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit spills out through the cracks, through the flaws, through the holes we perceive as negative parts of our particular containers.
There is an ancient story that perhaps you have heard. I believe it bears retelling. A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on an end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, on every trip, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
Every day for two years the water bearer delivered only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke up.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I am flawed. This crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.” the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the masters house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”
The water bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my masters table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But in God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste. Don’t be afraid of your flaws—God uses our weakness in ways we would not imagine!
None of us are perfect. Yet inside of us is a marvelous treasure, the very power of God through Christ. Paul says we are carrying around his death in us. Instead of seeing that as a negative, he intends that to be understood as encouragement: we all are carriers of the light of knowledge of the glory of God—that is Christ. That means we carry the power of his life-bringing death. That means we have the ability to be used for good in a world that is crying for good. That means that even though we are afflicted in every way, we are not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed. We all face obstacles and struggles. We all are fragile, breakable, very disposable containers. We all are damaged goods in some way, shape or form. But inside. Ohh, inside! Inside we carry life that shines through in our actions and our words, life that produces fruit. That fruit comes out through the cracks, through the holes, despite the fragile nature of our container. Thanks be to God that even our cracked selves can be used for growing something beautiful! Amen.