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broken aquarium

on sunday we had our annual church conference.  we were able to do it combined with two other clusters in our district, and we had about 200 people there for worship before we split into our smaller groups for the business of church conference.

one of the themes of the worship service was the idea that we all bring our own brokenness to God, and we all live and minister in communities that are obviously broken.  so when people entered the sanctuary on sunday, they were given a broken piece of colored glass and invited to begin to think about the brokenness of their community.  as i pondered the brokenness in sunbury, i couldn't help but think of Jesus in matthew's gospel, in chapter 9 as he saw the people who needed good news.  "when he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke....'what a huge harvest!' he said to his disciples. 'how few the workers! on your knees and pray for harvest hands!'" (matthew 9:35-38, the message).

and so i wondered, do our hearts break when we see the people around us?  do we feel their brokenness as sharply as the broken bits of glass in our hands; as compassionately as a break in our own hearts?

during the message, our district superintendent talked about the need for us as Jesus-followers to start being fishers of people and to stop being keepers of the aquarium.  as i considered Jesus' words in matthew to pray for more harvest hands, i couldn't help but feel a bit of a sting.  are we praying for harvest hands?  are we willing to stand in the gap and be the hands for the harvest?  or are we too busy keeping the aquarium, making sure the glass is clean and shiny, and the little colored pebbles are all in the right place?  ouch.

during the worship service, we celebrated the sacrament of holy communion.  when people came to receive the bread and juice, they were invited to bring their broken bit of glass and put it in a basket, as a symbol of handing over our own brokenness to God, as well as the brokenness of our community.  then, those baskets of broken glass were brought to me, in a sunday school room in the back, where i began frantically gluing them to a broken window i had rescued from the side of a road.  as i was gluing, the rest of the congregation was in the other room, praying specifically for the needs of their communities, offering up the brokenness of their neighborhoods.  as i listened and adhered glass to glass, my mind went back to that image of the aquarium, and i couldn't help but think that this glass not only represented that God takes our brokenness and turns it into something new, but also that sometimes we need to break the walls that are keeping us comfortable, so that we can get out and get into the harvest.

when the prayer was over, i brought the window into the sanctuary where everyone could see what had happened with their broken fragments.  hopefully it was a meaningful reminder to all of us that our brokenness, and the brokenness of our communities, can be a part of something we can scarcely imagine, when we put it into the hands of our Redeemer, who brings beauty even out of ashes.  and i hope, too, it was a powerful symbol of our need to break out of our comfortable aquariums, to feel with Jesus the brokenhearted pain of our neighbors, and to get into the fields where the harvest is ripe for good news and for love.  because of this, i have called the piece, "broken aquarium" as a reminder for us to stop shining our glass walls, and get into the broken places.

 "broken aquarium"
(assemblage of broken glass on old, broken window, glue)
november 8, 2015
gregory a. milinovich


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