El Poverello, the Little, Poor Man of Assisi

Next Thursday is the Feast of St. Francis.  To celebrate, I thought that this morning we could look at some events in his life and how it might tie into our lives today. [The photos illustrating this homily were taken earlier this year on my pilgrimage to Assisi,]

Francis’ Early Life

View from Assisi

In 1182, Francesco entered this life in the Umbrian town of Assisi, a walled independent commune situated on a spur at an elevation of 1,300 feet overlooking the valleys of two rivers. The hilly town has narrow, winding streets and is surrounded by medieval walls.

 

The Font where Francis and Claire were baptized

Francis was not brought up to be particularly holy. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a merchant. In fact, when he came home from a long business trip and found that his wife had named the baby after John the Baptist, he renamed him Francesco (Frenchman) after his beloved France. He didn’t want his son to be a churchman! As a child, Francis worshipped in the Church of St George which is now a part of the Basilica of St Claire. The font where both he and St Clair were baptized was moved to the Cathedral of St Ruffino.

As he became an adult, Francis was the leader of a group of young people who enjoyed wild parties, “addicted to evil and accustomed to vice” according to a contemporary biographer, Thomas of Celano who knew him well. He was good at business but wanted to be a nobleman, a knight. So he joined the army when Assisi declared war on the nearby city of Pelugia. Francis became a prisoner of war, held in for a year a dungeon waiting to be ransomed. He went back to his old life of business and partying, but still craved glory. His next chance for fame and fortune came with the fourth crusade, and off went the 25 year old Francis  in a rich cloak and gold trimmed armour on a new horse, saying he’d come back a prince.

God Intervenes

a copy of the San Damiano Crucifix

But God had other ideas. Just one day out of Assisi, God spoke to him in a dream, saying he had it all wrong and to go home. Which he did. Can you imagine how the townspeople would have derided him and called him a coward?  He started spending more time in prayer, while still working in his Father’s shop. It was in the ancient run down church of St Damiano on the hills outside Assisi that his life changed again. He was meditating in front of an icon of the crucifix, when he heard speak to him: from the crucifix:  “Francis, repair my church”,

Assuming this was church with a small c and referred to the building,, he took fabric from his father’s store and sold it to buy building materials to repair the church. His father accuse him of theft and took him before the Bishop for judgement. The Bishop told Francis to return the money and that God would provide. Francis not only gave his father the money, he took off all his clothes, also provided by his father, and gave those back. Wearing nothing but a hair shirt, he announced that “Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father” and set off into the freezing woods, joyfully singing. This was a turning point in his life. From then on, he had nothing, but he had everything. Begging for stones, he carried on what he believed was his calling, to rebuild the church of San Damiano with his own hands.

The Franciscan Order

He started preaching and soon had a following of people who wanted to follow his simple life, living in the open, begging for food and loving God. This was the start of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor. Realising that, with the growth of followers he needed to provide them with some direction for the new life, he opened his Bible in three places and read how Jesus commanded the rich young ruler to see everything and give to the poor, how he told his disciples to take nothing on their journey, and his command to take up one’s cross daily. Here is our rule, he said!

It would take too long to follow the life of St Francis in detail, so I’m just going to pick out a few key areas

Franciscan Alternative Orthodoxy

One of the things that drew people to Francis was that he offered an alternative to the established Catholic Church, which at that time had become fraught by scandals, greed and heresies.

The large, ornate Basilica of St Francis, built shortly after his death, is typical of churches of that time

His life of poverty and simplicity was the antidote many needed. But that doesn’t mean he gave up on the church – he eventually realized that his calling was to reform the capital C Church, which he did by calling people back to the Gospel as demonstrated by Jesus. He was grounded in the Church, believing the essential doctrines of the trinity, the incarnation etc. His genius, or his gift from God, was sorting out what was perennial wisdom from what was merely cultural (and sometimes downright destructive).

An Alternative Orthodoxy

Rather than rejecting traditional Christian images, history or culture, Francis, and his later followers, chose to focus on what they found deep and life giving. This is recognized by the Catholic Church as an “alternative orthodoxy”. It has much in common with Celtic spirituality. They see God in his first “Bible”, his creation; they understand Christ’s death, not as a vengeful God sending Jesus to be punished as a response to Adam sinning and tainting all of us (substitutionary atonement) but as a loving God’s initial plan from before creation to show us how much he loves us. The Incarnation was a very important part of Francis faith; he saw in Christ the mystical union of the physical and spiritual worlds. When our outer world and our inner world come together, we are whole; we are holy. Part of the genius of Francis is that he was at home in both worlds at the same time and thus made them, in his life, into one world. He lived the gospel in radical simplicity. 

Talking of the incarnation, t’s interesting that he was the first to use a nativity scene (with live animals and a real baby).  To Francis, this represented the hardships Jesus went through in his earthly life. There is now a beautiful church in Greccio, Italy where Francis assembled this first Nativity scene during a Christmas Mass which was held in a cave, so different from the church there now.  The church at Greccio is filled with nativity scenes of different types – statures, pictures, carvings, stained glass, etc.

Francis and the Church

Francis’ Robe

Francis relations with the Church were not limited to differences in lifestyle and alternative theology. The Catholic elite saw Francis as a threat to the infrastructure — for he was not about power, he was about responsibility. Many people of Assisi had left the traditional church to follow the poor out-of-towner, known as El Poverello, the poor little man. The elite was losing money. They went as far as to burn down his church outside Assisi. Summoned by Pope Innocent III, Francis and his companions walked over 100 miles through rocky hilly country to reach Rome.  Everyone expected Francis to get firmly told off by the Pope. But tradition has it that the Pope was so moved by Francis humility and charity,  that he abandoned his golden throne, stepped down to the “audience hall”, fell to his knees, and in an act  of complete humility, kissed the feet of barefooted  Francis.

Francis’ relevance to today

What did the Pope see in Francis? What do we see in Francis? If we look beyond the sentimental pictures of Francis preaching to the birds, we see a man living his faith as he saw Jesus live, in poverty, in simplicity and in joy.  We see a man (and in his companion Claire of Assisi, a woman) born into the world at a time when Western civilization began to move into intellectualism, into consumerism as sufficient for human meaning, and also into a world of perpetual war. The Church was materialistic and power hungry; Italy was in a state of permanent conflict between city states; society was moving into consumerism.

During the 13th century, the modern commercial infrastructure developed in the Italian City states, with double-entry bookkeeping, joint stock companies, an international banking system, a systematized foreign exchange market, insurance, and government debt. Sounds familiar?  Francis himself had been a soldier, and sold his trader father’s cloth. He came from the very world he was then able to critique, but he offered a positive alternative to these systems, right at the beginning of their now-eight centuries of world dominance. He moved from the common economy of merit to the scary and wondrous economy of grace, where God does not do any counting, but only gives.

Exactly when we began to centralize and organize everything at high levels of control and fashion, Francis, like a divine trickster, said, “Who cares!” Right when Roman Catholicism under Pope Innocent III reached the absolute height of papal and worldly power, he said in effect, “There’s another, better way!” Exactly when our society began a style of production and consumption that would eventually ravage planet earth, he decided to love the earth and live simply and barefoot upon it. He epitomized the saying “You do not think yourself into a new way of living; you live yourself into a new way of thinking.”

The Way of Simplicity

Francis lived a life of simplicity and service – that’s one very good way to start. I’m not suggesting any of us should give away even our clothes and set out barefoot and clothed only in rags – although if that is your calling go for it! But we can decide to live simply, not buying or hording more than we need, sharing what we have with those who have less, giving of our time and abilities to others. Franciscan alternative orthodoxy asks us to let go, to recognize that there is enough to go around and meet everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed. Having more of anything or more frenetic doing will not fill up our longing and restlessness. Francis knew that climbing ladders to nowhere would never make us happy nor create peace and justice on this earth. Too many have to stay at the bottom of the ladder so we can be at the top.  So he embraced simplicity, which he called poverty. Simplicity levels the playing field so that there is enough for everyone – a worthy aim for anyone who seeks to follow Christ. So let’s stop trying to think our way to happiness, but let love show us the way to live into a new way of thinking, and Francis way of simplicity is an excellent way to start.

The upside-down kingdom

This week, we had a guest preacher while Nigel is enjoying a well-deserved vacation, so we don’t have a copy of the sermon to post. Instead you’re getting a few thoughts from me, Jan, on the Gospel reading.

Who’s The Greatest?

 

We read in Church yesterday about the disciples disputing amongst themselves about who is the greatest. Don’t you just love those disciples; they aren’t “plaster saints” perfect in every way. They are just like us. Don’t we want to stand out from the rest if the group – to be seen as the best – whether it’s the best athlete, or artist; the best dressed, the one with the nicest house or fancy car?  Or even, as with the disciples, the one closest to God? Yes, our pride can even cloud our faith and devotions, which is perhaps the most insidious way we can try to outdo our friends and neighbours. Jesus wasn’t going along with any of this. He told them:  “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all”. This is so counter cultural. It’s been called the upside-down gospel. Position, power and prestige are not part of following Christ, the one who was crucified for standing up for what he believes, and by that execution, he showed us that suffering and apparent defeat are the way to new life.  This is what St Paul calls “the folly of the cross” in 1 Corinthians.

Turning discipleship on its head

This Upside-downness is central to the Gospel. It permeates Jesus life and teaching: love your enemies; whoever wants to save his life must lose it; the time he spends with the marginalized of society, while calling some religious leaders “whited sepulchers”. He always prompts us to look at our lives, our actions and everything around us with different eyes, the eyes of a servant rather than of the elite. Our culture teaches us that to have more, do more or achieve more makes us better and happier. Jesu says No; blessed (happy) are the poor, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  These are the ones who are blessed. This is how we become children of God. Our ego tells us that popularity and approval are ways to happiness. Jesus says: Blessed (happy) are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. This is the upside-down kingdom.

The Kingdom Come on Earth

This is the kingdom we pray for every week when we pray “Thy Kingdom come …” and it is then up to us, as followers of Jesus, to live the kingdom life. Otherwise, how can it come on Earth? God calls each of us to servant-hood, in different ways, As we listen for his call, he will make it clear to us, maybe in the “still small voice” within our souls; maybe in some words we read or hear; maybe in a need we see around us. As we each meditate on this,

I leave you with the words of the French mystic and teacher of The little Way, St. Therese of Lisieux:

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.

And with a poem by the Spanish Mystic, St Theresa of Avila:

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 

The Bread of Eternal Life

This week we are back to Jesus’ discourse on The Bread of Life, which starts with the Feeding of the 5,000 – we heard that story a few weeks ago.As I thought about today’s Gospel reading, I found myself thinking about life based on these 3 concepts:

 – Physical life – what we know here and now
  -Life after death – which we can’t even imagine; and
 – Eternal Life, which I always want to write in all capital letters LIFE

I have known many people who believed that this physical life is all there is. My Father referred to death as “the big sleep”. I suspect he is now one very surprised eternal soul! Many others, including many who follow the teaching of Christ, see this physical life as something to be endured before we can enter heaven, when the good / marginalized will have eternal bliss and the others eternal punishment. We see this in the songs of oppressed people; such as in African American spirituals “the river is deep and the river is wide. Milk and honey on the other side”. Other people imagine life after death as rather like life here bur without the difficulties we endure now. You hear them at funerals saying things like: “Uncle Fred is now playing golf with my Dad on the great golf course in the sky.” To others, life is a 2 stage event – one life here and quite different one hereafter, perhaps sitting on a cloud playing a harp – who knows?

What is Eternal Life?

But what Jesus is offering in this discourse isn’t a two stage life – Eternal life isn’t the same as life after death. Eternal Life starts here and now. “Having eternal life” is mentioned four times in this discourse and in every case, the verb is in the present tense!. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” and “I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Not will have, has. Eternal life starts here and now, and won’t be terminated by the death of the body. Eternal life is not ‘pie in the sky bye and bye when you die.’ It’s not something that you have to wait for till you die. For John and for us, eternal life is something that begins in the now. Eternal life is life now in Christ, (as Paul calls it) and John asserts here that believers have eternal life now in Christ. Jeus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

So what is this life that Jesus gives, this eternal life? John Wesley once wrote, that religion (I think we’d probably use the word faith today) is not the mere saying over of so many prayers, morning and evening, in public or private, but “a renewal of our beings in the image of God, a recovery of the Divine likeness, a self-increasing conformity of heart and life to the pattern of our most holy redeemer.” Wow! Sounds heavy. If I could put it in other words: Wesley is saying that True religion or faith is a transformation; it’s a new way of living. It’s – well, as Wesley said, becoming more Christ like, recovering the divine likeness that is in us. Saying a few prayers, taking part in a few rituals, believing a few doctrines … we could call that Fast food Christianity – is not true faith; we may feel full for a time, but fast food, popcorn and pretzels, or even a hot dog and fries is not very nutritious. Christianity isn’t even fine dining, although that’s part of it; it’s an ongoing, sustainable healthy diet, day in, day out. And to Jesus’ listeners in 1st century Galilee, that meant bread. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Bead of Eternal Life.

Life flowing out from God to us

The more I study the Bible, the more I feel a need to understand the words used by the writers, and what happened to them in translation. What’s the difference when I read everlasting life and eternal life? Well, none. The same Greek word is translated sometimes as one and sometimes as the other. But according to Greek Scholars, neither word really conveys the sense of the word John and other NT writers used, which has more of a sense of flowing – life that flows. It connotes a quality of life, tether than a quantity (length) of life, although the quantity isn’t absent. Jim Finley says it’s “Infinity (God) giving itself away”. A lot of the medieval mystics, especially women, use this language of God flowing out toward them and through them (Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingem, Teresa of Avila to name a few). For Christians it means we are part of the Trinitarian flow of God’s love and life in us, through us, with us, for us—and usually in spite of us.

The same idea is found in 1 John 1:1-4 which the message translates “eternal life” as “The infinite Life of God himself … this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ”! There you have it, The Life which Jesus brings is this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. It’s ours here and now. Christianity is an experiential religion, not a religion of dogmas and rules. The way we live flows out from our experience of the divine, as we in turn, are part of the flow, where love, compassion and forgiveness that flow into us from God flow out of us to others. God doesn’t give us rules for living king of like the “Seven habits for highly successful souls” . Instead, God lets divine Love flow through us and out to others.

God’s Gift to Us

Jesus makes it very clear in this passage from John that this life, the ever flowing, eternal life is not a result of anything we do. “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me” and “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me”. Our eternal life is a gift from God. God, or as Jim says, Infinity, takes the initiative,

But we have to respond with belief – not believing with our intellect certain propositions about God, Jesus or our faith, but the kind of belief I show when I tell my child, maybe as he branches out by himself, I believe in you. I have faith that you will do the right thing, I trust you. Jesus said: “whoever believes has eternal life.” God makes the offer; but we have to respond. If you come to my birthday party and bring me a beautiful and valuable gift, and I don’t take it from you, I don’t have it. In the same way, God offers to each one of us the gift of Eternal Life, and we have to accept this gift by believing, by trusting, by following the one who offer this life. God’s love is constant and unconditional; our part is to be open to it and let it transform us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already God’s; and there is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us less. The only difference is between those of us who allow that and those who don’t, but we all are equally and objectively the beloved. Those of us who allow God’s love in our lives just enjoy it and draws ever-new life from that realization. As RR says “God doesn’t love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good.

How Jesus Defines Eternal Life

So what is this Eternal Life? I spent a lot of time this week trying to put into words (or find words written by others) to express what it feels like to live in Christ. I fall back on the words of Jesus: In his prayer before the crucifixion recorded only in Johns Gospel, Jesus refers to Eternal Life saying: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” And Jesus prays for all of us, who didn’t know him but have believed through the words passed down from the first disciples over the years: he prayers “for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us“ Unity with God, the triune God, Father , Son and Holy Spirit – and participating in the flow us divine love -this is the gift of Eternal Life, and it’s ours now.

God Walks with us in Good Times and in Bad

What a gift! But, please don’t misunderstand me, it’s not the gift of ease and comfort. It doesn’t isolate us from the problems of this world, sickness, unkindness, quarrels, money problems – they will still plague us. But God walks with us in good times and in bad – just read Psalm 23. And there will still be times when it feels as if God has deserted us. Just read the lives of saints and mystics! St John of the Cross called these experiences the Dark Night of the Soul, and they are times that God is letting us grow, like a bird pushing her chick out of the nest, or a snake sheading its skin for a new bigger one. Very often, we think of faith as a feeling or an emotion, an experience, and it is easy to become addicted to this feeling, and to measure how close we are to Jesus by the intensity of the emotion we feel. We become spiritually addicted to this emotion. Mike Glenn, a Baptist pastor, believed that he had a contract with Jesus: if he obeyed Jesus teachings, in return, God was obligated to do something in return for him, namely stop bad things happening to him. Then he was diagnosed with Cancer. He writes: “I lost [my faith]. No, that wouldn’t be correct. I didn’t lose it. That means you put it somewhere and then, when you went to look for it, you couldn’t find again. I didn’t misplace my faith. Jesus took my faith from me. He stripped it away. Jesus will never tolerate the presence of idols or falsehoods in your life, even when we call that idol ‘faith.’”. Love must sometimes be tough live and growth is rarely comfortable. There are two primary teachers (maybe they are the only two teachers) that move us ever closer to this unity with God. They are Great Love and Great Suffering.

A New Life – Sharing the Life of God

So, is it worth it? Oh yes! I want to leave you with the words of Richard Rohr: “I think [this] is the central positive theme of the Bible. It is the Divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired. It is called grace and has been rightly defined as “that which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God Himself”

Walking on Water

There is a lot in this reading that we just heard – four incidents and a hole. We start with Jesus inviting his disciples to leave everyone and go with him “to a deserted place” to rest. According to Mark, the disciples had just returned from their mission without Jesus to preach and heal, and were reporting back. Surely they needed this rest. Sadly interrupted by needy people But it was not to be. This is where the hole comes. The crowd were waiting for them and Jesus had compassion in them. You will hear this part of the chapter next week. Jesus feeds 5,000 men + women and children, after which (as we pick up the story), Jesus sent the disciples away in the boat, and dismissed the crowd. Then he goes away by himself to pray. As we heard, when his Prayer time was over, he went looking for his friends, walking on water to reach them – more later. The last incident we read about saw Jesus and the disciples back with crowds of people and Jesus again at work healing.

Back to walking on water. Did it happen? I’m not going to debate today whether Jesus really did walk on water. Three of the 4 gospels have this story. Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, Mathew, who based a lot of his writings on Mark, but adds the detail of Peter also walking on the water to meet Jesus until he lost faith he could do it, and John, believed to have written independently of the other three. Scholars’ opinions range from: He’s God; of course he can walk on water or (a version of this) the miracle was a hologram version of Jesus; to It was an optical illusion (he was on the shore or a sandbar) to It never happened; it’s a myth! Take your choice.

However you interpret it, like so many Bible stories, there is more than one level of meaning in the story. The phrase Walking on Water, like many biblical phrases has been adopted into current parlance and is used without thought of where it comes from.  When I worked at the bank we had a performance appraisal every year, and we were graded from Unsatisfactory, right up to Exceptional. I didn’t know anyone who had ever received the Exceptional rating, and I found out why when I tried to rate one of my staff that way. My boss didn’t believe anyone could ever be exceptional. As a result, the office culture claimed that, in order to be rated Exceptional, you had to be faster than a speeding bullet, leap tall buildings with a single bound, and walk on water! You have to be a combination of Superman and Jesus.  This is the way walking in water has entered our culture – as one aspect of doing the impossible. According to the story, if taken literally, Jesus could do the impossible, but not the disciples and not us.

Haven’t we all been the victim of unrealistic expectations?  Public figures get this regularly, especially after they have just been elected or appointed. There is even a name for it – the honeymoon period + that time before the person has done something to make them unpopular. I remember the headline in 2015: “How long will Justin Trudeau’s Honeymoon period last?” For a while, it seemed like he could do no wrong.  The same thing happens in other spheres of life. Of course there is the original marital honeymoon, but also the new boss, new pastor or a role model who, eventually, because he or she is human, lets us down in some way. We either accept the other person’s failings, or a divorce happens – marriage breakdown, we leave the job or the church, or we force the other person out.

Thinking about these expectations, thought of a song performed by the hip hop artist Eminem, the best selling artist of the 2000x in the US< called I walk on Water and here is the chorus (which I won’t try to sing): I walk on water / But I ain’t no Jesus / I walk on water / But only when it freezes.” Rap (also called Hip Hop)  is the 21st Century equivalent of the protest songs of the 1960’s, and like them expresses anger and frustration at the systems that marginalize segments of the population while making life easy for others – truths that are uncomfortable for the comfortably off to hear. In this song, Eminem laments the celebrity culture which has put him on a pedestal. “Why, are expectations so high?” he asks. His fans expect every word he writes or sings to be exceptional, each new song to be better than the one before; kids look up to him as a role model and he’s afraid to let them down. They expect him to walk on water, but what happens when the is=ce melts?  He raps:

‘Cause I’m only human, just like you / I been making my mistakes, oh if you only knew / I don’t think you should believe in me the way that you do /’Cause I’m terrified to let you down, oh / If I walked on water, I would drown / ‘Cause I’m just a man, ……. Or woman! … : I walk on water / But I ain’t no Jesus / I walk on water / But only when it freezes.

It’s not only leaders and celebrities who get idealized with unrealistic expectations.  Just as we have unrealistic expectations of a new boss, (or pastor or neighbour or even spouse) the boss (or whoever) might have unrealistic expectations of us! I doubt there is one of us who, at some time in our life, hasn’t been put on a pedestal, thought of as a role model, felt called to Walk on Water, carried the burden of unrealistic expectations.  Wasn’t there a time when, to your children or grandchildren, you could do no wrong? When people relied on you and didn’t want to let them down, but their expectations were unrealistic? Or have you ever been told: “You’re a Christian … how can you say (or do) that?” Haven’t we all wanted to cry out with Eminem I don’t think you should believe in me the way that you do /’Cause I’m terrified to let you down, oh / If I walked on water, I would drown / ‘Cause I’m just a man, ……. Or woman!

Where do these unrealistic expectations come from? Sometimes from others. Very often from ourselves!. But they do not come from God.  Jesus didn’t call us to be perfect, without flaws. OK, now you’re all thinking of that saying of Jesus in Matthew: “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect”. I’m not a Greek scholar, but I looked that up. The word used in Greek, that was translated into Latin as Perfectus, and later into English as perfect is teleios and it can mean ‘perfect’ but is more usually used to refer to maturity or wholeness. In fact anywhere else it is used in the New Testament, it is translated as mature.  Be mature is very different from being perfect. Grow up, says Jesus. So what did Jesus expect of us as we grow up, if not perfection?

I like Paul’s image (2 Corinthians 4.7) which says that ‘we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.‘ The Corinthians made various kinds of pots and exported them widely. As well as fancy, highly glazed pottery, some of their pots were made of inferior clay that, when fired, cracked and made great light diffusers. Paul is referring to these pots, when hr describes how God’s extraordinary power chines through us, the inferior pots. Paul’s point is that our cracked imperfect exteriors (in this instance his in particular) are nothing to be ashamed of — they are vital. A well glazed pot keeps the light in; only a pot riven with cracks can shine God’s light in the world. The cracks let the light out. A slightly different image with the same idea is Kintsugi pottery, a Japanese practice which mends broken pots withgold or silver so that that resulting pot is more beautiful than the one that broke. In both cases, iy is through the cracks that the light shines through.

As Christians, we are called to be who we are with all our cracks and imperfections, knowing that God’s glory will shine through those cracks into the world around us and that the gold of God’s love will mend our brokenness into something far more beautiful than it was before. We are called to be who we are with all our cracks and imperfections.

The Christian calling is not a calling to perfection. I find it very freeing to know that I don’t have to walk on water, but instead we are called to be ourselves, and to live with our imperfections so that God’s glory can shine all the more powerfully.  I know I’ll never be perfect; I can’t walk on water. Those expectations come from other people, or from myself. I want other people’s high opinion, and I don’t want to let people down. But I do let myself and others down; I’m human, I can’t walk on water.

I don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect. If perfection was the goal, I’d never step out of my house. I’d be too afraid about how I measure up to ever open the door. I’d obsess over everything I say or do  and if I couldn’t measure up, I’d stay under my covers, afraid to face the world. If I had to be perfect. I’d be stagnant and frozen.  That’s no life. Knowing we’ll never be perfect and don’t have to be perfect, means we can be those disciples in the boat, striving against the storm, even though they didn’t recognize Jesus. We can be the pots with cracks, because it’s through the cracks that God’s light shines forth.  God made each one of us, with all our imperfections. God loves each one of us, with all our imperfections. God made each of us to be different. What God want is for each of us to be the wonderful, beloved, distinct individual we were created to be.  He gave us guidelines Love God, Love your neighbour, and Love yourself. Same rules, but each has our individual way to let the light of love shine through. So be yourself, your beautiful, beloved self, and spread Love around.