A friend of mine gave me a piece of clay pot she found exposed in the bay mud. Holding the broken fragment, I thought of the woman who collected and shaped this piece, as it was largely women’s work to make the pots so vital to Indian life. Within the pots were stored their most valuable possessions—seeds, food, herbs, beads, etc. This woman wanted her pot to be different, to reflect her uniqueness, so she carefully pricked small holes, perhaps with a pointed bone, into a design and crimped the edges as I might crimp pie dough. Perhaps this was her ‘signature’ design; others might immediately recognize this pot simply because the pattern was so obviously hers.
How God-like she was, making this pot, forming it to mirror her intent! In a similar fashion, O God, you’ve made us in your image, molding and shaping us to reflect your design, your essence. We too are God-like in the way we recreate the world around us, shaping and molding it to reflect our mood or our outlook. While we complain about the cold wind, someone else sails a kite joyfully, relishing how the wind cooperates and lifts and dips the kite in rivers of motion. Some respond to a health crisis with utter despair, never allowing themselves to be close to God again. Others may choose to learn from the experience, using it as an opportunity to live with compassion and empathy. There is no better place to practice being Christian than in the office of a cardiologist or oncologist! How we view the world, how we choose to understand and use it, this resembles God’s creation and identification of the world as His own. The world is God’s handiwork; our interpretation of this world is our handiwork.
We are also like the clay pot, even the broken piece I hold in my hand. Made by God from clay, shaped in His image, we are that creation. We were designed to contain the most valuable possession of all—the message of salvation. St. Paul (II Corinthians, Chapter 4) reminds us that we are like earthen vessels, made by God, holding the good news of His resurrection. We exist as clay pots—troubled, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed.
What a glorious, triumphant message! This shard of pot, colored with red clay, stamped with a unique design, stained charcoal black by a fire’s blaze—this pot symbolizes what it is to be Christian. We are, by our very existence, a crucial reminder of permanence even in the face of impermanence. Again—Paul’s message is one of triumph and immortality—troubled but not in distress; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed. The vital contrast is between the clay and the possession the clay vessel contains. While our bodies weaken with age, the message we contain is immortal. We carry the stamp of God upon us, identifying us. Because we believe the meaning of Christ’s love and salvation, our lives are lived differently, reflecting in all we do the good news we contain, the good news we share. Like this piece of clay, we reflect life’s experiences, but await a different life, a life in which we will be reshaped in the hands of our Creator, a time when we and the message we contain will be one. And so we pray, Hold us tenderly, Dear Creator, and let us share Your salvation story with all whom we meet until one day when we break open in Paradise and are held once more in Your hands. Amen.