There is a legend that tells of a man who used to carry water every day to his village, using two large pots tied on either end of a piece of wood, which he placed across his shoulders. One of the pots was full of cracks; every time the man came back along the path to his house, half of the water was lost.
For two years, the man made the same journey. The pot with no cracks was very proud of the way it did its work, and was sure that it was up to the task for which it had been created, while the other pot was ashamed that it could carry only half its task. In fact, so ashamed was that pot that one day, while the man was preparing to fill it up with water from the well, it decided to speak to him.
I wish to apologize because you only manage to take home half the water you fill me with, and thus quench only half the thirst awaiting you in your house. The man smiled and said, “When we go back, be sure to take a careful look at the path.” The pot did as the man asked and noticed many flowers and plants growing along one side of the path. “Do you see how much more beautiful nature is on your side of the road?” the man asked. “I knew you had cracks, but decided to take advantage of them. I planted vegetable and flower seeds there, and you always watered them. I've picked dozens of flowers to decorate my house, and my children have had fresh vegetables to eat. If you were not the way you are, I could never have done this.
Every home in the ancient world had clay vessels or pots. Unless you were wealthy, the pots were not worth much. They were often cracked and chipped because of all the use they got. Yet, in all their ordinary-ness, they had an important purpose. That was to hold the water that was for use in the life of the household – water that was used for cleansing, cooking, and sustaining life. These ordinary pots had an extraordinary purpose.
Paul, the writer of our scripture passage for today, marveled that we, the earthen vessels, are infused with so rich a treasure – the power of Christ within us – and, that, like those ordinary clay pots, we, too have an extraordinary purpose. Through our vulnerability, our cracks and chips, the light of Christ within us shines forth bringing love and healing into a broken and hurting world. If we are not infused with Christ's light, we are simply pots that contain ourselves – and we become filled with ourselves. We know that there are many voices out there that tell us what we need to be filled with: power, money, the right cars, and homes and clothes, success. Yet we also know that while these may give us temporary relief, or comfort, we soon are looking for something else to fill ourselves up with. All too soon our cars get old, our faces get wrinkled and we are looking for replacements and quick fixes. That's our culture. But in God's culture things are different. In God's culture, God cherishes what is broken and vulnerable, uses that to bring about new life and give new hope.
All that distorts and spoils our created goodness, Paul tells us, dies in Jesus. Whether we have created that dysfunction or others have imposed it on us – and it is Jesus life that is manifest as the flourishing of new creation in our lives. But that flourishing and renewal also entails sharing in the sufferings of Jesus -- continually being put to death by all that goes against what this crucified Messiah, who is God's embodied wisdom, came to reveal. And it's precisely as we share in Jesus’ life and sufferings that the light of God’s glory shines in the face of this crucified messiah – amid our fragile human cracked pot existence. This is how death in us becomes life-giving for others. And so, because we bear the light of Christ we are taken into God's realm where we may be afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. God has given us the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to be the way it is for us – to fulfill God's promise that we are never left alone in struggle or hardship, never left alone in death, because Jesus has shown us the path to new life. And knowing that, we also know that this truth is not ours to contain – it is ours to show forth in our lives, so that other lives may find hope and meaning and healing.
Like it or not, we are cracked pots – it's part of being human. It's about recognizing our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and not losing heart. It means knowing we are imperfect and yet we are gifted and special and unique because we have the mystery of God implanted in us. God doesn't expect perfection – God hopes for our faithfulness. God doesn't want us to live perfect lives – but to live whole lives.
Paul’s words are revealing—we are our God's vessels: bearers of his light in a world often engulfed in darkness. We carry the divine message of Jesus in such a way that our very lives, permeated by grace, become a backdrop of God’s glory. Our life stories become songs revealing who God is.