Recently, I read a story about Kintsugi—the 500-year-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with precious metals. The art is thought to have been started by a commander in the Japanese military. The commander, unhappy with repair work that was done on a bowl that was part of a tea set that he loved, asked craftsmen to come up with a better way to repair it that was aesthetically pleasing. Instead of trying to hide the flaw, the craftsmen used gold to add value and highlight the beauty of brokenness. The word “Kintsugi” is translated “joining with gold.”
This week we started our new series “Surprised by Grace” with a special guest speaker. It truly was a great service with an incredible message of beauty and hope. He used the example of now famous composers that had incredible flaws and failures, and were largely ignored by the people around them due to their imperfections. His message focused on looking beyond the flaws of others to see that God’s strength and grace are made perfect in weakness, and asked us to be willing to “walk across the street” to meet people who are potentially hard to love, but may also possess subtle beauty.
Everyone has a story. Like every story, we all experience hardship and conflict. As Christians, we’ve been taught that God permits the hard seasons of life to draw us closer to Himself, and to help us develop the perseverance to diligently follow Him. However, we’ve all experienced challenging seasons have left us raw and in pain. Situations where we can’t see how God could use any of it for good. Seasons that leave us unrecognizable—exposing our cracks, chips, and rough edges for all to see.
Sometimes we meet people in the midst of conflict, and the picture of their life on display isn’t an accurate reflection of who they really are. Brokenness mars their beauty. Their edges become especially sharp to protect themselves from more pain or shame. While doing everything to push people away, what they really need is someone to come into their lives that is willing to be a place of refuge and a beacon of hope, to see beauty in their brokenness, to recognize in them what pain has distorted and to remind them that “He makes beauty from ashes.” This is hard but good work. Not taking someone at face value goes against our intrinsic methods of self-preservation, but good investments aren’t always easy ones. While we can’t always relate to someone’s specific pain, we can still relate to the way pain can affect every facet of our lives.
While none of us are immune to hardship, we all have a choice to allow God to be the ultimate artist-- painting the picture of our lives that most accurately represents Him in us—using our deepest flaws and softening our rough chips and edges to highlight His grace, goodness and healing. Just like the art of Kintsugi, allowing God to shine through our cracks adds value to our pain. Value that helps us relate to the deep pain of others, and be an example of His grace shining through us--even at our worst. A grace that Is available to all who seek it.
What is a practical way to find something to love in a hard-to-love person?
What was a time in your life where some kind of pain or conflict caused you to push people away?
Lets read Isaiah 61:1-3 How can we apply that passage to our lives when we're trying to show love and grace to difficult people?
This week we will look at a massive failure on Peter's part and discuss how God can use those who are fragile, fractured, and flawed (like you and me!) to do his work. This fits with the message of our special speaker Sunday who talked about some messed up people who did amazing things in this world.
When we end a sermon series, we often ask ourselves the question "now what?" What are the implications of living out what we learn about God and about our place in His story? The conclusion of our “In the Beginning” series reminded us that throughout the Bible, we witness story after story of God using the most ordinary, and often least-likely people to fulfil His plans and do extraordinary things for God. How can we apply this series to our day-to-day lives?
I think one thing we must talk about are the things that inhibit us from saying “yes” to God.
Sometimes being open to God's plan feels threatening to the vision we've long-held of what we want or expect our lives to look like. Sometimes that openness even feels incredibly threatening to our very definition of success. What if God calls us to a life absent of our deepest desires?
For some of us, the shame of never feeling quite “good enough” hinders us from feeling worthy of a high calling on our lives. Sometimes we are so painfully aware of our own failures and imperfections, that we convince ourselves that God can’t use us where we are, so we slam shut the doors He opens for us to be a part of His plan.
Maybe you're the opposite. Maybe you desire to be used greatly, but you're just not sure where God is calling you. Maybe you see people around you are thriving in their area of calling, and you're feeling like God forgot about you. Or maybe you even experience an inkling of jealously because you see others that have been gifted in ways you haven't been gifted, and your gift just doesn't seem as essential and impactful as the gifts of the people around you.
I've experienced all of these feelings at one time or another, and still have times in my life where I allow things to hold me back from being “all in” when it comes to God’s plan and calling. Surrender can be so hard! In the times when I’m especially struggling, I try to remember the lineage of Jesus. His family didn’t have it all together. It was quite the opposite. We see generations of imperfect, broken, ungodly, disobedient people. We see many of those broken, inadequate people say "yes" to God right where they were. They didn't ask God to give them ample time to work on being worthy of His call. God's call on their lives to be part of His story didn't even turn them into perfect followers. But God, being perfect in His power, still used their imperfections to bring glory to Himself, and fulfil his ultimate plan; a baby Savior, sent to earth to die, and give the option of salvation and eternal life with Him to all mankind.
In all stages of their faithfulness, God shows up-- filling the gaps of their imperfections and shortcomings with Himself. That’s huge! It also takes the pressure off a bit. He is still perfect. He is still filling the gaps of our imperfections and fears!
Let’s talk about it!
What is the biggest thing that holds you back from saying “yes” to God?
What is a practical way you can use your gifts and talents to serve God right now?
Read Hebrews 11. What hero of the faith is the most relatable or inspiring to your own story?
This week, we're working with the story of Joseph. The Sunday School version of this story many of us grew up with just doesn't relate well to real life. Fortunately, the real story of Joseph does. So do the stories of many others in the Bible who sought after God.
Discussion guide below.
Jake McGregor, Pastor of Missional & Spiritual Formation