the penultimate WORD
for Lent - By his wounds you have been healed

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.     1 Peter 2: 24


A looming question for a parent is whether or not faith is communicated.  Especially to our children.  It’s hard to tell.  The normal categories a parent might appeal to aren’t always reliable.  You see, the witness of integrated faith is, well…, let me explain…

My third daughter, Mary, has enjoyed working with clay from the time she was a child.  Modeling clay, and mud in season were favourites.  Very early on, her goal was to become a potter.  In the beginning, I attributed this to her penchant for getting dirty, but that wasn’t true.  Mary is both imaginative as well as creative and working with clay is a wonderful way for her to express herself.

She’s finishing her pottery program at the New Brunswick Craft College this month, and I’ll be there to witness the completion of her life-long dream.  And like all parents, I’ll be bursting with pride.

My pride won’t be limited to her accomplishment.

Her independent study project this term demonstrates my satisfaction.

This term, Mary crafted a Processional Cross.  Well, not a Processional Cross exactly; she crafted a series of five crosses that could be used throughout the year.  She created mosaic crosses using the colours of the church year.  The cross for Advent is blue while Epiphany is green, and Lent is purple.  The cross for Saints’ Days is red while that used for Festivals of our Lord is white.

During Holy Week we used the purple Procession Cross in my parish.  We used the while Cross at Easter.

Having installed the Cross in the wall mount near the pulpit, I stood back to admire her work.  The proportions were good, and the size was ample.  It was a Cross that bore carrying.  The face of the Cross was a haphazard pattern of cut ceramic tiles deliberately placed and grouted.  No two pieces of tile were the same size, and none the same hue.  Each piece was placed, restored I thought, on a plane where brokenness restored took on new meaning.

In the normal pattern of events, broken tiles are accidents that are thoughtlessly thrown away.  A blemish here, a fault there, each piece is thrown onto the refuse heap at the College.  I’d seen many discarded pieces in the over-sized waste bins.

But these pieces were different somehow.  Broken, yes, but still valued for what they might become and worthy of redemption.  Each one by itself had little value.  Devoid of beauty, lustre and shape, you or I would not hesitate to sweep up the pieces and assign them to oblivion.

I certainly wouldn’t have thought of using them for anything!  And I certainly wouldn’t have used them to make a Cross -- not for use in a church!

Mary, on the other hand saw something in broken shards that both stimulated her and inspired her.  She saw the Cross in a pile of ceramic cast-offs that wasn’t a single smooth piece of pottery, that wasn’t whole!  Truth be told, she saw beyond the tiles and even beyond the Cross -- it seemed to me that she saw Jesus.  And in the brokenness that characterizes our lives, the brokenness that we witness on the Cross, she saw redemption.  And she gave expression to it in a concrete way.  She was able to demonstrate an abstraction that is fundamentally central to our faith as Christians.

Oh, I’ve seen Crosses, lots of them:  Crosses made of brass and highly polished, and some adorned with a medallion featuring a symbol of our faith or some semi-precious gems.  I know that the empty Cross reminds us of the cost of victory and that the Victor is no longer hanging from that dreadful image.  I know that the sign of this means of death is a reminder of my salvation, my redemption from when John Young signed me at my baptism.

But the greater lesson  I learned from my daughter, Mary.  She has integrated her faith well and has given expression to it publicly and effectively.  I have not always remembered that our brokenness, my brokenness, is made whole on a Cross that was a means of death and a hope to come: indeed, by his wounds you have been healed!

 Copyright © 2001 James T. Irvine

Series 2001

Thorns and Barbed Wire | the penultimate WORD Lenten Series | Ashes to Easter