Tag Archives: kintsugi

How the light gets in

Readings
Jeremiah 31.31–34
Hebrews 5.5–10
John 12.20–33

Kintsukuroi means “to repair with gold”. When a ceramic pot or bowl breaks, an artisan puts the pieces together using gold or silver lacquer to create something stronger, more beautiful, then it was before. The breaking is not something to hide. It does not mean that the work of art is ruined or without value because it is different than what was planned. Kintsukuroi is a way of living that embraces every flaw and imperfection. Every crack is part of the history of the object and it becomes more beautiful, precisely because it had been broken.

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It’s a bit old-fashioned now, but perhaps you’ve heard of someone being called ‘a jeremiah’. A jeremiah is someone who complains all the time or expects things to go disastrously wrong. A jeremiah is a thoroughgoing pessimist whose glass is always half empty.

We get this name from the biblical prophet called Jeremiah, who is also called ‘the weeping prophet’.

When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, God gave him a commission. God said (Jeremiah 1.9–10):

Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak. Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

It was Jeremiah’s job to prepare the people of Israel for the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC, and for the exile that they would face in Babylon once Jerusalem was gone. He was the weeping prophet because he did a lot more uprooting and pulling down, destroying and overthrowing, than building and planting.

But today, we see that Jeremiah could indeed build and plant hope within the people:

The Lord says, ‘The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep that covenant.

God had made a covenant with Israel when they left Egypt. It was epitomised by the Ten Commandments. God gave the commandments to them as a path to life, but time after time they broke the covenant.

Though God’s heart is broken by the people’s sin, God offers a ‘new’ covenant:

The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts.…’

I read once about how some Jewish rabbis read this verse. They asked, Why does God write the law on our hearts? Surely it would be better if God wrote the law within our hearts?

Surely, that would be a better place. What good is it to write the law on the outside of our hearts, and leave the inside untouched?

I like the way these rabbis thought.

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A broken heart you will not despise

A reflection on Jeremiah 31.31–34, Psalm 51.10 and a cracked pot for Holy Week.

Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering;
there’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.             Leonard Cohen

Did you ever start a job and find half way through that it wasn’t working right? You know, you’ve got this you-beaut flat pack from Ikea and you suddenly realise you’ve put half of the pieces on back to front? All you can do is take it apart and start again.

It happens to God too. Not the Ikea thing, God always assembles Ikea stuff really well. But God does have to start all over again in the Bible more than once. One time God does a restart is the Flood story. Genesis 6 says,

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Now, this is a very troubling picture of God. It’s not one that I take at all literally; the God who wipes out almost every living thing is a plot device to move the story of Noah forward. The rainbow is a much better picture of God; it is a sign of the covenant God made with every living thing to spare the earth in future.

(I’m glad about that, because I think we must be sorely testing God with the way we’re treating the earth at the moment.)

It seems that God was starting all over yet again in the days of Jeremiah. The people were living under the covenant God made with Moses, the covenant which is symbolised by God’s gift of the Ten Commandments.

But the people weren’t keeping their side of the covenant very well. They were breaking God’s laws all over the place. True to the ancient promise, God doesn’t decide to do away with everyone; instead, a new word of the Lord comes to the prophet Jeremiah (ch.31):

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This time, God decides to remake people from within. Instead of laws written on tablets of stone, they will be written on the walls of people’s hearts. Continue reading

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