The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn
Deuteronomy 5.12-15; 2 Corinthians 4.5-12; Mark 2.23 - 3.6
One of the joys of Sunday – for me – apart from being here with you of course – is watching ‘Antiques Roadshow’.
What could be more quintessentially British – a bunch of well dressed, well spoken people in the grounds of a stately home talking in the sunshine about a piece of pottery – and envious, intrigued and delighted faces looking on?
But then, horror of horrors. The pot that was grandma’s, given to her after the war by an old spinster neighbour who looked after them as children – there’s always a good backstory – the pot has been repaired, it isn’t perfect after all. The owner looks closely as the expert points it out. Eagle eyed they’ve spotted where the damage has been concealed. It would’ve been worth millions but now ….
Alison Clark is with us as our Artist-in-Residence, part of our commemoration of the events one year ago when terrorists attacked our neighbourhood, the events we’re marking all day, but especially this afternoon as the families of those who died in that attack, people who were injured and representatives of so many groups of people caught up in the terrors of that night gather here to remember the past and look forward to the future. And in the evening, with the local Muslim community, we will be hosting a grand Iftar and local people will be sharing their memories.
Alison is calling her work, ‘Broken Beauty’ and as part of it she’s employing a Japanese technique called Kintsugi. Instead of concealing damage to a piece of porcelain the Japanese repair it using gold, the scar is not hidden but glorified, the damage not avoided but confronted.
St Paul in our Second Reading likens us to clay jars. In the world of the Corinthians into which Paul was speaking, these jars were as commonplace as plastic bottles are to us. They were used for everything, transporting, storing, but they were fragile and the rubbish heaps that archaeologists dig through testify to that.
Paul suggests that we’re as fragile as these clay jars and that that fragility is not a mistake on God’s part. This is who we are. We were made from the clay of the earth and God breathed life into us, but ‘remember you are dust and dust you shall return’ says the priest to us on Ash Wednesday.
We are very easily damaged, very easily scarred.
Jesus is in the synagogue. It’s the Sabbath and there were rules about the Sabbath, handed down from God to Moses, the rules we heard in our First Reading. And then a man approaches Jesus. He has a withered hand. It meant he couldn’t work and people look on him as cursed. It was the day when no work could be done but it was a day of blessing and Jesus gets to work and tells the man as the others look on
‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
The hand was repaired but the hard hearts of those ready to condemn Jesus for making good what was bad, for showing compassion, those hearts couldn’t be changed, until they were broken.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
Paul’s powerful words spoken into the fragility of our lives speak to our community today. Those with such hard hearts that they sought to destroy what was beautiful here have not succeeded. Yes, eight lives were lost and eight families and eight groups of friends will be grieving today in a way I cannot imagine. Yes, numerous people were injured, physically and mentally and they bear the scars. Yes, this church was damaged and this area was scarred. But what is fundamental about this part of London, what was fundamental about this community was not destroyed but was strengthened – that deep sense of inclusion, that deep joy in diversity, that absolute passion for life.
Broken beauty sums it up. We carry in our fragile, earthenware body the death of Jesus, as he bears on his hands, on his feet, in his side the marks of the violence we inflicted on him. And God has glorified it, the Lord of the Sabbath, brings us blessing, so that the life of Jesus is always visible in us.
And to remind us of the truth, of broken beauty, bread will be taken and it will be broken. It’s the only way we can share it. We hold in our hands the brokenness of God who touches our scars with his own wounded hands and makes them shine with a glory like his own.