Yesterday's lectionary passages included Isaiah 64:1-8, and the children's time at Assembly picked up on verse 8: Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Eric, an art teacher and potter, brought along three pieces that had symbols and patterns to share with the children. Here they're passing his favorite mug around.
He also brought this mug, with its doodle of a fish symbol. I was delighted to see it.
A number of years ago, a friend of ours got married, and at the reception in Goshen, the newlyweds gave a gift of a mug to each guest. Eric made the mugs for them, and he kept this one as a memento of the project.
The mug that I took home from the reception was my favorite mug for years. I liked the blue color, it fit my hand well, and the smaller mouth seemed to keep my tea warm longer that a straight-sided mug.
A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to make my morning cup of tea. Reflecting on how much I enjoyed using that cup, I wondered who had made it. I picked it up to look on the underside for a potter's mark and somehow knocked it off the counter. It fell to the floor and smashed into pieces.
A few days later I saw Eric at the potter's guild sale, and as I picked out a mug and a Japanese-style tea cup to buy, I asked him about the blue fish mugs, and if he knew who had made them.
"I did," he said, and I told him about my mini-tragedy, wondering if he might be able to make me another.
"I can't get that color of glaze anymore," he said. "But you know what? I've got an extra mug that I kept from that batch. And we've got plenty of mugs in our cupboards. I'll bring it to church for you."
And sure enough, this Sunday, after the children's time, he gave me the blue fish mug. Definitely a spark of light for the day.
And seeing Eric at the front, talking about being a potter, reminded me of another time when he also helped us better understand what this image of God as potter is about.
During Lent 2000. we worshiped with a theme of Broken and Blessed. One image for our worship was the line from Psalm 31:12: I have become like a broken vessel; the other was God who seeks to make all things new. Worship committee invited Eric to help us more fully understand these images.
He brought a large, narrow-mouthed vase that he had made to the front, and there, in the middle of worship, he broke it. We put the pile of broken pieces on the table in front -- an unforgettable image of a broken vessel.
Then slowly, week by week during Lent, he returned to the front, and began mending the vase, gluing it back together piece by piece, as the congregation read a prayer of confession that included the repeated refrain
We come as we are, O God;
We acknowledge our brokenness;
We look to you for restoration.
By Easter it looked like this, transformed rather than restored to pristine condition. The cracks still showed, and the narrow-mouthed top was left off, and it stood wide open, filled to overflowing with a wild bouquet of spring flowers.
Today it stands in a corner of the counseling room, a symbol of being broken and blessed.
And Eric, in his potter's role, has now given me multiple images of the holy, healing, generous God, who recognizes and receives our brokenness and continues to work for restoration. Thanks, Eric!
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"