“That evening, at sundown, they brought to Jesus all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
Have you ever heard of the Japanese art of “Kintsukuroi?” I hadn’t until several months ago when a member of this parish who grew up in the Far East told me about it. As you may know, Japanese love their tea and everything about it. The ritualized Japanese tea ceremony is easily more than 1,000 years old. Not surprisingly the porcelain bowls and teapots used for making tea are often exquisitely made and highly prized. Therefore, when a beloved piece of porcelain cracks or breaks, it is sent to a specialized lacquer artisan for repair and this art is known as Kintsukuroi. What fascinates me about this art is that the porcelain is repaired in a very special way. In the West if we break a piece of china we try to repair it so that no one can ever tell it was broken. We try to hide the repair, to make the piece look perfect, knowing that in fact the value of the piece has been greatly reduced because it is now imperfect. In Japan, the Kintsukuroi artist repairs the piece with lacquer, delicately sealing the cracks and mending the broken pieces. He does this with great care and expertise, not to hide the flaw, but because the piece itself, broken or whole, is precious. You see, the last thing the artist does before the repair is complete is sprinkle the line of each crack and break with fine gold dust – so that every flaw is visible and every flaw is golden. The Japanese believe that the repaired piece is stronger, more beautiful and more valuable for having been broken. The brokenness is celebrated because it shows that the piece has been used and that is has life. The piece is now especially beautiful because of its brokenness.
In the Gospels, the sick and the broken are constantly coming to Jesus and Jesus is constantly healing people, making people whole. In our lesson this morning, Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law sick with fever. Mark tells us that Jesus healed many from the City of Capernaum that day. Throughout his ministry hundreds if not thousands of people came to Jesus wanting to be healed. Jesus himself was broken, broken by the cross and the spear only to rise from the grave even more alive than he was before. Being broken and yet being loved by God is a constant theme in the Bible.
The question for each of us is how do we deal with our own brokenness? Do we try to hide it, to appear perfectly repaired, flawless? Or do we realize that God has sprinkled our cracks and breaks with a little gold dust so that our brokenness might be a blessing to others?
For years within Western Christianity there has been a sort of ongoing debate about what one should wear to church – dress up or come as you are. Many church communities want people to feel as comfortable as possible, they want to make the barriers for entry as low as possible, and therefore they emphasize a no dress code policy – just come as you are, God doesn’t care. And in fact I don’t think God does care what we wear to church, not one little bit. On the other hand, there are those communities, like this one, where the tradition has been to dress up for Sunday morning, to put on your ‘Sunday go to meeting clothes’ as my grandmother used to say. Beautiful dresses, coats and ties, and in the old days hats and gloves. The idea is that we honor God by dressing up, we show our respect by wearing our good clothes, we put our best foot forward when we enter God’s house. It’s a lovely tradition and it’s always been my tradition. But we run a risk when we dress up, the risk of mistaking someone’s well turned out exterior as a sign of his or her well turned out interior. When someone looks so put together on the outside it is easy to think they must be put together on the inside as well. But look around you; the truth is there is not one unbroken piece of porcelain in room. We all have our cracks, our chips, our repaired pieces, our unrepaired breaks. It is literally the one thing we have in common – we are all broken.
One of the things I admire most about AA is that the whole program hinges on the broken healing the broken. Recovering alcoholics, working the program, never hide who they are from other alcoholics – they do just the opposite. They use their own experience, their own admitted powerlessness when it comes to alcohol, to help others begin their own recovery. Those in recovery have found strength in admitting their weakness and they help others to do the same. In a similar way, I am always deeply touched when someone in this parish who has struggled with cancer takes it upon him/herself to reach out and support someone else who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. I am touched and inspired when someone who has known the devastating loss of a loved one reaches out to support someone who has just experienced a loss of their own. That is what Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer and teacher meant when he said we are to be – “wounded healers.”
I believe in the healing power of God and I have witnessed it countless times in my ministry. Our God specializes in his/her own brand of “Kintsukuroi.” If we will allow it, God can take some of the worst that has happened to us and turn the damaged and broken parts of ourselves into powerful tools to bless others. That is what God did with Jesus after the crucifixion when he raised his broken body from the grave. The idea is not to hide our brokenness as if it doesn’t exist. Rather, God wants us to know that we can be stronger because of it. We are all precious and beautiful in God’s eyes, in the eyes of the artist who created us. We may have our fair share of cracks and breaks but we are beloved. The question is – can we see our own sufferings, our own imperfections, our own failings, as more than burdens to bear. Can we allow them to be a way to bless the lives of others? To be God’s Wounded Healers.