No one among us would argue that Christmas isn’t about the birth of Jesus. We hear the story every year during Christmas Eve worship about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Of course, Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. But Christmas isn’t significant because Jesus is born nearly as much as it’s significant because Jesus is born “for us.” Anyone can believe that Jesus was born, even born of a virgin, but to believe, as the angels proclaim to the shepherds, “to you is born this day a savior”—that’s the real significance of Christmas. That’s the real significance of God’s incarnation among us. We Christians confess it—“for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and became truly human.”
For us…this little, two-word phrase is at the heart of all that God does in Jesus. For us…this little, two-word phrase is also at the heart of the promise of communion. What God does in communion, that Christ shows us, that God enters into us and takes us into himself—these are done “for us.” God is inherently, by his very nature, relational, and God desperately desires to have a relationship with us that is not merely perfunctory and routine, but is active, alive, and full of meaning. And so when you come to the communion rail and you hear those words, “This is the body of Christ given for you,” and “This is the blood of Christ shed for you”—those words are spoken to you that you might be strengthened and kept more firmly in relationship with God through Jesus. They aren’t perfunctory, routine words, but words that are active, alive, and full of meaning. They are spoken to you for you and for your salvation, for the restoration of good relationship between you with God, with one another, and with his whole creation.
And so I challenge you, as we go into the sermon today—think more on the relationship you have with God and how it shapes who you are, who you believe yourself to be, and who you think God to believes you to be. What does it mean that God has done all this “for you?”
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our heart be acceptable in your site, oh Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
In Japan, there’s form of artwork, if you will, that dates back to likely the 15th century. It’s called kintsugi. Kintsugi is a kind of pottery, but it’s not the kind of pottery that a potter sets out to make. It’s a kind of artwork that can only come about after a piece of pottery is broken. Kingtsugi is the process of repairing broken pottery by putting it back together with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Instead of seeing the broken pottery as destroyed, Kintsugi embraces brokenness and restoration as part of the life story of an object, rather than something to disguise or run away from. Instead of running away from the brokenness, it becomes a new facet in the life of the pottery, and adds a new dimension of character, a new dimension of beauty. What might have otherwise been seen as a loss, Kintsugi embraces as an opportunity for newness.
One thing that we often hear said, when something someone makes some sort of mistake, is “Nobody’ perfect.” Nothing could be more true. We might expect people to try to cover up or hide their imperfections, their mistakes, or their vulnerabilities, and yet, we often will value people who are willing to be frank about their vulnerabilities, to reveal their wounded spirits, to admit mistakes. While some folks might see such honesty as a weakness, others will hold it up as a sign of strength—a true appreciation for who someone is, a willingness to embrace the truth, to embrace reality.
Whoever admits their flaws, whoever is honest about their brokenness—that one understands their limitations, and we are reminded through them that all of us, even the most successful among us, are fallible. And we are also reminded that we possess the potential to heal and grow, to survive blows to our pride, to our reputations, or to our health. We can survive and we can come out the other side. Exposing vulnerabilities, admitting errors—that creates intimacy and trust in relationships, and fosters mutual understanding.
And yet, it’s all well and good for other people to be vulnerable, but for me to open myself up and admit my brokenness, though—that’s something that many of us are more than reluctant to do. We don’t expect other people to be perfect, and we are largely okay with that. Admitting brokenness is courage in you, but failure in me. But here’s the naked truth about that, folks. That’s completely wrong. Like the kintsugi crafters who repair broken pottery with gold and create something new with more character and a different kind of deeper beauty, imperfections are gifts to be embraced, not shames to be hidden.
Everything you’ve been through—good, bad, ugly—can and does contribute to who each and every one of you is as a person, as an individual human being, with your own story—even if it’s stuff you’d never want to go through again. In fact, suffering can be some of most important and influential experience of everything that we go through in our humanity. Our suffering can be shared truthfully with those in need, who can learn wisdom of our own experience. Because the naked truth of the matter is that each and every one of us experiences brokenness. We all get chipped. We all get cracked. We are all in need of restoration.
When we expect everything we do to be perfect, when we expect ourselves to be perfect, we not only miss so much of what is beautiful about our humanity, but we more tragically create a cruel world where resources are wasted, people’s positive qualities are overlooked and we concentrate on flaws, and our goals become impossibly unattainable, unhealthy, and inhuman. In other words, we cease to understand who we are, always grasping at something more and seeking something that we cannot attain—perfection as we think it to be.
So what’s this all have to do with the Eucharistic Life?
Today we look at the second action of communion, the action of “breaking.” “In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and after he had given thanks, he broke it…” The first action of communion is taking and giving thanks, which we considered the last two weeks. The third action of communion is breaking.
This action of communion is rooted in the sacrifice that Christ makes—for us. It’s rooted in the very extent to which his humanity drove him. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,” St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “did not regard equality with God as something to be taken advantage of for himself, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, born as a true human being. And as a true human being, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” This obedience to the point of death Christ did in his servanthood. He lived out the fullness of humanity in complete and utter obedience to the design for the harmony and peace that was God’s first intent from the moment of creation. Jesus, instead of thinking of himself and his own benefit, poured out himself in love. He could’ve easily considered the cost and considered it too great—the cost of his life—but instead recognized, understood, embodied the fullness of God’s design for creation and participated fully in that. In other words, Jesus recognized that it wasn’t about himself, but about the bigger picture. It was about God’s desire for life—life strong enough that death can’t stand in the way.
From the moment God first spoke light into existence, God has desired nothing but life—and we are part of that life. And Christ on the cross, in his brokenness, showed us that this life is also for us. Jesus’s broken body, crucified and hung up naked for the world to mock and deride—that broken body shows us just what lengths God will go to share life with us. God will give up his own life that we might live. And that’s the naked truth.
This truth doesn’t make sense by the standards of the world, what with all the ways that we go about trying to escape death or things that might remind us of death or its inevitability. The way of the world is to have us fear death so that it can provide us every and any means to avoid it for as long as possible, but the way of God, the way, the truth, and the life of a believer in Jesus is not to fear death but to know that God once and for all defeated death by dying for us. Jesus’ broken body is our sign, our proof, our confidence that God will do whatever it takes to be in relationship with us. Because we know his broken body is not merely broken, but is raised to life again, is restored with the marks of his human brokenness nonetheless intact. He rises to new life again bearing with him the same marks of humanity that each and everyone of us bears. In heaven, his ascended and glorified body still bears the wounds of his humanity even now. Jesus risen doesn’t mean the past with its troubles is forgotten, but instead is transformed into something new, for the good of God’s design for life.
It may seem unlikely or even impossible that brokenness leads to wholeness, that death leads to life, but with God all things are possible. The cross with Jesus’ body stripped naked and broken for all to see, and the empty tomb with nothing but the grave clothes left behind—they are the new testament, a promise once more renewed that with God, life finds a way. While the world would have us running away from death in fear, God invites us to embrace life in its fullness, no longer fearing what lies ahead, but living in the abundance of the promise of eternal life even now.
Whatever hardships we have faced, whatever tragedies we have gone through, whatever sorrows we have endured—they are transformed with new purpose as disciples of Jesus. We know that even out of the brokenness of our lives, God can and does still use us as instruments of his peace, of instruments of his shalom, as the ones graced with his presence in our lives to bear that presence to others who longingly, desperately desire to experience their own peace, their own shalom. Just as Christ was sent down from heaven and was broken for our sake, so too are we called and sent in our brokenness to bring his wholeness to those we meet throughout life’s journey. As broken disciples of the one broken from our sake, we are called to follow in his wounded footsteps and reveal the naked truth of God’s unbreakable love for us, for all people, for all creation.
The brokenness we bear is not taken away from us by Christ’s sacrifice for us. God transforms it and uses us in the fullness of our humanity, like Jesus, to make of us an example for the Godly life. We bear within ourselves the marks of traumas, suffering, and heartbreaks, yet those make us more ready to meet others in their brokenness—to show compassion and open our hearts to share our own humanity and the Jesus’ humanity, to share God’s love. It’s in our brokenness that we are more wholly human, and it’s in our brokenness that we more wholly know Jesus.
When we acknowledge the naked truth of our brokenness as fundamental to who we are, fundamental to our humanity, only then can we experience the wholeness of who we are, of who God is, and who God intends us to be—his beloved children. Our brokenness opens our eyes to God’s love for us, for in our own brokenness, we understand Jesus’ brokenness on the cross for our sake. We understand that God bared himself, stripped himself naked of all that it means to be God, and lived out his humanity fully and completely to the utter end—not for himself, but for us, in utter, unbreakable love. And that’s the naked truth.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.