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Divine Fragility- Sermon for June 2, 2024

My husband has a background in mental health counseling. Somewhere in the first year of our relationship, I was working through some previous relationship harm with my own therapist—struggling through what this hurt was doing to my perception of myself, and trying to understand and regulate some shame and fear I was experiencing. And Thomas— who would not characterize himself as at artist, but whose degree is in expressive arts therapy—suggested an activity for me to do in response to some of this struggle I was experiencing.

We bought a clay flowerpot. I painted it however I wanted. Then I smashed it.

The following task was to glue the pieces back together. It was a slow process, imperfect, and even though in my head I knew the purpose of this was to remind me that broken things can be put back together, I found myself frustrated with the ways that cracks fell over a piece of the painting that I really liked or had spent time on; or that a seemingly small piece had become too small to put back together at all, and now seemed like it messed with the entire look of what I had created.

In our reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul explores this idea of our own fragility, our potential to be broken. For a very small bit of background on a rather complex section of Paul’s letters, this letter is a response to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which did not go over so well. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he gives some guidance on restrictions and ways of life that this group of Christ followers were highly suggested to follow, and the people of Corinth responded to this guidance with a disgruntled letter of their own back to Paul. Because of this, much of 2 Corinthians, which scholars believe is actually a compilation of many letters, has a slightly unsettled quality to Paul’s tone. He employs both self-defense and words of endearment as a way of acknowledging the tenuous relationship and continues encouraging this community towards Christ.

When we arrive at the section of this letter we hear today, Paul is highlighting the the power of God, alluding to God’s creation of the world by focusing on God’s ability to bring light from the darkness. Moreover, Paul is lifting up this glorious ability of God in order to remind us, and those in Corinth, that those who follow Jesus do so— not to lift themselves up— but rather to lift up God; to proclaim that our life is lived in service to this light, this treasure, that shines in our hearts.

We have this treasure in clay jars," Paul writes, underscoring the paradox of holding the light of Christ within vessels susceptible to breakage. In a world that often glorifies strength and perfection, this metaphor invites us to embrace our mortality and vulnerability. For it's in our brokenness that the light finds its way in, illuminating the beauty within our imperfections.

Today, you may notice that the kiddos in the back are creating bowls, jars, candle holders out of clay. This came about for as I was exploring the text, the line that continued to jump out at me was this:

“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.”

What does it mean for us to hold this treasure, the light of Christ, the belovedness of God, in clay jars? Clay is of the earth, as a jar or a bowl or whatever vessel, it is breakable, fragile. And if you find yourself, as I did at first, going—“Hey, wait, I am strong, I am resilient, I power through the hard things and still love God”—I want you to pause for a moment. And wonder at who is being served by your proving to yourself or the world of your own unfragility…

To accept the metaphor of humankind as the clay jar is to recognize our own earthly mortality. Like us, clay will chip, or wear away, or break, or crack, and eventually return to dust. As a society, we often hesitate to talk about our mortality, hesitate to talk about death, hesitate to talk about brokenness. We struggle with not being seen as new, or perfect, or unharmed. There was a reason piecing together a broken pot—a purposefully broken pot—took me forever: I wanted it to be what it once was—unbroken. I wanted to see that time of my life as only a season of fragility.

Sometimes the hard truth, but also freeing truth, is that we are always fragile beings. But if we work to accept this metaphor, we allow ourselves to recognize God’s strength within this fragility. The light and spirit of God reminds us that while darkness or challenges never cease, the illumination of God accompanies us through those seasons. Even in the midst of death and fragility, there is birth and strength. We carry with us the fragility of the human death of Jesus as well as the miracle of his life and resurrection. To accept these things is to recognize that we are called to be vessels which can be filled, can carry, can share, can pour out the light and Spirit of God. And often, the sharing of that light occurs because of the places where we are cracked or broken.

To share in our fragility, our vulnerability, is a counterculture movement that allows us to recognize that we cannot do life alone. Even in the context of Paul’s letter—as he muddles his way through challenging relationships—we see that community, love of self and neighbor and God, is fragile and vulnerable work.  But there is something revolutionary in believing in a God who would put her life, her light, her glory into her creation—a creation she made to have the potential for strength and might AND be  vulnerable and fragile; a humanity that can be bruised and broken and still live and breath and create and exist and flourish in the world. And THEN this God entrusts us with the call to share that light with others, with ourselves, and with the world.


We are God’s clay jars, with the potential to crack and break and wear down and turn to dust. Yet within us, we hold the light of our God—who caused light to shine out of the darkness, who overcame death, who does not leave us forsaken—and that light cannot be contained. It shines through the fragile brokenness of each of us, reminding us that all we do, all we are, comes from the deep love of our creator, who binds up our wounds and fills them with new life.

To close, I offer the words of the late great Leonard Cohen, from his song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

May we continue to allow the beautiful cracks of our fragile humanity to be how the light gets in. Amen.


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