A Commentary on the Art Piece
by Rev. Betty Gamble, Associate General Secretary,
United Methodist Church,
General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns in consultation with the artist, Ms. Barbara Herlan,
Biblical Resources, Jerusalem, Israel

Earthen Vessels, 2 Corinthians 4:7
“But 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”.

In this original art piece, the pots rest on the earth from which they were formed reminding us that we, too, were fashioned by God from adom, the earth. They are simple clay vessels – different sizes, shapes and colors. Some are full; others are not. Their purposes are different, each important in its own right. Not all are perfect but can be refashioned by the potter or used to good purpose even with imperfections. Some jars lean against each other; some stand upright. Shadows of some fall upon others.

We, too, are formed by the Master Potter with different shapes, sizes and colors. The same warm light of God’s love falls on each of us, to be reflected back in the different shades and tints of humanity. Some pots are brighter, seeming to reflect more of God’s light to others; pots of darker colors seem to gather more of the warmth of that love. God knows when we need to absorb God’s love and when we can be used to reflect God’s love to others.

Clay jars are fragile, and so are we. Many persons today feel cracked and broken as we face a word of violence and terrorism. Our fragmented world seems to be shattering into ever smaller, brittle pieces. We can support and help mend the brokenness of others by recognizing the treasure that has been placed by God into such fragile, earthen vessels. Our “faith shadows” fall on others like the shadows in the picture. A shadow can be either a welcome shade in which others can rest or a depressing darkness that can cause others to feel worse. We can reflect God’s mercy and share the warmth of Christ’s love as we take up our calling to be vessels of grace.

We can take heart, too, that even when pots are broken and can no longer be used as vessels, the pieces are still useful. Since ancient times, potsherds have been used as a writing medium, a scraper or a jar stopper. Layers of potsherds illuminate the mysteries of ancient history to archaeologists. Broken bits of pottery are used by gardeners in transplanting plants. They make great drainage for the roots when placed in a new pot. We are all useful; all needed. Even in our brokenness and imperfection God has a purpose for each of us, and it is through our weakness that Christ’s power works in us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

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