by Mandi Broadfoot
“I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become a broken vessel.” –Psalm 31:12
Or as Patsy Cline sings, “I fall to pieces…”
It’s a familiar feeling. Breaking. Feeling shattered by the world and the people in it, by the loss of someone or something.
Ironically, it is often our brokenness that binds us together. We create community and reflect the love of Jesus not being perfect and whole, but by offering up our own shattered pieces, learning from those experiences and sharing their stories with others. A congregation and a community is a collection of these broken stories, and it is beautiful.
With that in mind, Good Samaritan United Methodist Church created a unique work of art: The cross in our new sanctuary is literally a collection of our broken pieces. Pastor Betsy encouraged everyone to bring something from their home, their life, which was broken and had a special meaning for the contributor. Those pieces would be brought to Jesus, literally collected on the cross and bound together to create a beautiful whole.
We had no idea what this work of art would look like when we were done. We couldn’t have. We didn’t know each other well enough yet to expect a lock of hair, a matchbox car, a roll of film from a camera of the non-digital age. There were broken pieces of jewelry, wedding rings from failed marriages, pottery and keepsakes from grandparents who have long since left us.
Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
As the pieces of our lives arrived on the cross, each one came with a prayer. And something beautiful happened. Spending time with the cross, this work in progress which represents who we are together, became a meeting place. Congregation members would stop by to look at the new pieces that had been added. Children would reach out their hands and touch the objects, trying to guess what they once were and what they might represent. New stories were created and shared over the cross.
Finally the cross was full. This cross was covered with the brokenness of the Good Samaritan UMC congregation, the families of Good Samaritan Academy, the students of Good Sam Arts. The pieces were locked into place, held together by the glue of community – and a fair bit of polyurethane. Up close, it was easy to say, “What is this supposed to be? Some of this stuff is ugly; it sticks out. This stuff doesn’t even go together.”
But an amazing thing happened. The cross was mounted on the wall of the new sanctuary, a sanctuary built through love and sacrifice, and it was stunningly beautiful. Everything worked. Everything fit together: the matchbox cars and the wedding rings, the sherds of pottery and the broken arrows, the locks of hair and the combination locks. Together, these broken pieces formed a perfect cross.
And still the people come. They stand at the foot of the cross and look up the pieces. Sometimes they take photos and point out stories to visitors to Good Samaritan. They hold their children up for a better look. The children reach out to touch the cross. Sometimes they pray at the foot of this cross. Sometimes they cry a little. But I have no doubt that every time they walk away, they feel a little more whole.
As Leonard Cohen sang in “Anthem,” “Forget your perfect offering. / There is a crack, a crack in everything. / That’s how the light gets in.”