Jennifer DeBisschop

Psalm 32:1-7

2 Corinthians 4:7-10



Cracked Pots or Finest China


The other day I was reading “Alive Now”, a devotional booklet that we subscribe to here at the church.  There was a story in it that I would like to share with you this morning.  Rev. Cora Crow Poteet writes:


Ninety-six-year-old Charlie patiently waits to shake my hand following worship.  Finally his turn comes and he says, “I prefer to have company for lunch, Cora.  Will you come to my house around noon on Friday?”

            I accept, out of courtesy and my sense of obligation as Charlie’s pastor.  Little do I know what will happen to me on Friday.

            Charlie greets me warmly when I arrive... I begin to feel glad I accepted this invitation. 

            Charlie moves slowly to the kitchen.  On the counter are green beans, squash, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, okra, and many other vegetables from his big garden.  All are cleaned and ready to be prepared, but none are cooking.

            “This is your lunch,” Charlie explains as he sees my puzzled look.  “I want you to pick what you enjoy most.  Or,” he adds with a laugh, “we can cook them all!”

            I make my choices, and Charlie begins to cook.  When I move to help, he objects.  “This is my gift to you.  Please let me do it for you.  Make yourself at home.  We will feast as soon as the ham is done.”  Though it’s hard for me, I honor Charlie’s loving offer.

            As I wander around the living room, I see pictures of his wife, who died the previous year, and of his children and grandchildren.  I ask a few questions about them.  His answers affirm what I already know: Charlie is a caring, sensitive, and, yes, occasionally confrontational person.  I think to myself, “Charlie knows how to give and receive love.”

            “Come to the table now,” Charlie calls gently.

            The table is covered with a worn, yet clean and freshly ironed cloth.  The dishes, although chipped and aged, are filled with beautiful and tantalizing food.  What a banquet!

            “Thank you, God,” Charlie prays, “for my friend Cora.  Thank you for helping me to prepare a table for her.  Thank you for providing the squash, okra, and all these good foods.  Thank you for giving me strength to garden and cook.”  He pauses, then adds, “Help us not to forget you as we taste your goodness to us.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.”

            We eat, laugh, share.  Charlie’s generosity has touched me deeply: I have changed, I appreciate God’s gifts more, I fully sense God’s presence.  Throughout the meal and long after, I hear Charlie’s words: “Help us not to forget you as we taste your goodness to us.”

            My meal that Friday with Charlie was communion, though he certainly wouldn’t have called it that.  Now I hold that life-giving memory close as I gratefully accept the invitation to the Sunday morning table.  Each enriches the other.  Holy Communion, indeed.


            Do you know a Charlie?  Someone who knows how to show love without trying…someone who uses their gifts to bless others, to help others feel blessed.  Someone who is generous and gracious, not because they feel they have to be, but because they feel that it is right.  This story made me think about two things.  The first of which is what happens when we come to the table, as Charlie invited Cora.  The other is a time when I felt like someone showed me love and graciousness, when I surely didn’t expect it.  The two actually come together when I think of my Confirmation Sunday when I was 14 year old.  You see, it was custom that the Confirmands would serve Communion on that day, and I was assigned the grape juice.  We went over how to serve so that we would not allow any “unfortunate accidents” to take place.  The time came, and there was Bill Boyce.  Mr. Boyce was in his 80s and wearing a lovely light gray suit that day.  He was a very unsuspecting kind man, and for a few different reasons I was having an awful day already.   I went to serve the grape juice, and I came to Bill Boyce.  And as if in slow motion the next thing I remember is spilling the juice on his lovely light gray suit.  And instead of growing upset with me for spilling dark purple juice down the front of his light gray suit… after all what was a child doing serving communion to begin with?... he simply took the cup of juice that he had his hand on and said “That’s okay, honey.”  A day when I needed to be shown graciousness…a day when I felt like a cracked pot, and there was my Charlie in the form of Bill Boyce, helping me to realize that God forgives us and that love and kindness are always better options.   


The Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians about carrying the faith and teachings of God in clay jars, in human bodies.  And that in order to be true to God people must show the life and teachings of Jesus through their actions, their fellowship with one another and concern for every member of the community, through their ministries.  Paul was distressed in his writing because there were some Corinthian people who proclaimed themselves to be Christian who thought that they could do anything, including participate in rituals with pagan cults, as long as they came to the table to share in the Lord’s Supper.  Paul stressed to such people that the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles is direction for living their lives in a way that is pleasing to God.  That in coming together at the table they and we become bound to one another in fellowship.  We are made one in the Body of Christ.


            The truth is that when we look at our lives, at the things that we have done and left undone, we realize that God has given us those treasures in clay jars…in earthen vessels.  And that, much like the plates that Cora speaks about receiving her lunch on at Charlie’s house, these clay jars or pots become chipped and cracked.  We all make decisions that perhaps lead us farther away from the teachings of Jesus.  We make decisions that are based on greed or jealousy or desires that seem beyond our control.  We look at ourselves and what we see are a whole bunch of cracked pots.  Then what we become about is working to repair those cracks and chips…how to put a fresh coat of paint on what was once weathered and aged.  If we follow what the reading from the Psalm says, one of the ways that we go about repairing our cracks and chips is by coming before God openly and honestly with those things that we have done and left undone.  We do not have to proclaim them from the rooftops or even to any other person, but if we acknowledge them before God our transformation begins to take place.  When we acknowledge our wrongdoing or our shortcoming before God we begin a journey of reconciliation.  The gift that God gave us was that God loved us so much that God gave us Jesus to make good of our sins.  God knows that we are not perfect, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are not perfect.  But God gave us Jesus so that we might be reconciled…reconciled to ourselves, to one another, and reconciled to God.  We repair one chip and crack at a time. 


            Whenever we come together we are reminded that where two or three are gathered God is there.  And when we come together at the table we are reminded that God forgives us for the chipped and cracked edges of our lives.  God forgives us for things we have done and left undone.  That is one of the amazing gifts of God’s grace.  Even if we are “cracked pots” God sees us as “finest china.”  Let us fully and gratefully accept our invitation to come to the table this morning.  Let us hear God saying those words that Charlie shared with Cora, “This is my gift to you.  Please let me do it for you.  Make yourself at home.”  And perhaps in doing so even get a glimpse of the finest china that God believes us to be.  What a banquet!  Holy Communion indeed.  Amen.