God is a master potter who shapes his church into something beautiful and restores that beauty by piecing back together his creation when it is broken.
That was the message of encouragement from Western Australia District Bishop Mike Fulwood during Saturday’s worship at the LCANZ’s Convention of General Synod in Melbourne.
Bishop Mike based his sermon on Isaiah 64:8 – ‘Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand’.
Showing worshippers a pot made by his wife, Narelle, Bishop Mike reflected further on the text and the pottery metaphor.
‘Please notice something’, he said to the congregation. ‘This verse is phrased in the plural. We are the clay … Here the focus is on community, on God’s people …
‘God, the potter, works on the clay, his people, his church, and he shapes them into something beautiful. Do you see the church as beautiful?
‘The Scripture sees great beauty when she is unified’, Bishop Mike continued, citing Psalm 133: ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!’
‘Yet we know that that same beauty is very fragile’, he said. ‘Pottery does not bounce like plastic. When it breaks there’s a smash and a shatter and an unholy mess. That’s sometimes how we experience the church – a thing of beauty that has been smashed and broken.’
Preaching the morning after delegates at the in-person sessions of the 2021–2023 Synod considered a proposal to allow the ordination of women in the LCANZ, Bishop Mike suggested that during the debate ‘the cracks in our unity were laid bare’.
‘We met one another as irresistible force and immovable object and, in the process, we broke one another’, he said. ‘Not deliberately … but out of human clumsiness and out of our deep human brokenness.
‘This is a tragedy and would remain so except that the master potter has another skill.
‘In Kintsugi pottery, the master potter takes the broken shards of a shattered pot and painstakingly puts them together. Into every crack is worked gold or silver fusing the broken pieces.
‘Incredibly the beauty is restored, even enhanced, by the careful work of the potter. The brokenness can still be seen but it becomes part of the story of the pot and the repair gives witness to the mastery of the maker.
‘Could it be that the Father, the potter, is a master in the art of Kintsugi? Could it be that rather than the church being a flawlessly made piece she is a Kintsugi piece, remade by the hands of the Father?
‘God’s world was broken by sin, but God did not just collect up the broken mess of this world and consign it to the bin. Rather he loved his creation so much that searched for every broken piece. He swept the floor from corner to corner and then he set about restoring what was broken.
‘He entered into our brokenness … He went to the cross where his own body was broken. And in this work, he painstakingly remade his broken creation and filled every crack. But not with silver or gold. [As we read in 1 Peter 1:18,19], ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ.
‘This is the wonder of the church. God has taken broken pieces and made them more than they ever were.’