“Kintsugi: Putting It All Together”

April 8, 2018


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
April 8, 2018

“Kintsugi: Putting It All Together”
Romans 5:1-5

At the beginning of Lent – in February – I spoke about brokenness. The communion table was filled with various broken things – pots and computer screens and china – all broken. The word “break” has a negative connotation to it. When someone says break, we think of finished, never to be fixed again. Yes, breaking things can be bad, but sometimes it is good. Sometimes it leads to new chapters in life; sometimes it leads to stories that can be told over and over again. Our prayer that day reminded us that broken things and broken lives can be beautiful.
• When a seashell is broken open, there is often iridescent shell colors not seen before inside
• When we are broken, it is possible for our lives and hearts to open to a new kind of passion or purpose.
• Broken silences can have deep meaning and purpose.
• Broken relationships can lead to new opportunities to grow and develop better relationships.
After that Sunday, Duane Ellis Jackson took some of the broken things from the communion table. He used my story of the Japanese art of kintsugi – a Japanese practice that highlights and enhances the breaks. It actually adds value to the broken object. Kintsugi is made up of two words – golden and repair.

This traditional Japanese art uses a precious metal – liquid gold, liquid silver or lacquer dusted with powdered gold – bringing together the pieces of a broken item and at the same time enhancing the breaks. The technique consists in joining fragments and giving them a new, more refined aspect. Every repaired piece is unique, because of the randomness with which it was shattered and the irregular patterns formed that are enhanced with the use of metals.
Duane researched the process and found some products online to use. He kintsugi-ed the broken things from the table that day and has brought them back to us to show us how lovely broken things can be!

In Japanese tradition, the broken item actually becomes more valuable once kintsugi is applied. Once there are gold filled cracks, the item takes on a special quality and value. The essence of Kintsugi is the practice of focusing one’s intention on life’s hidden beauty and power.

The master artist can only engage in Kintsugi’s transformational process if they focus on what is possible rather than on what is impossible. Rumi, the great Persian poet addresses this pivotal wisdom …“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Rather than our wounds being only destructive, the moment we realize they are also constructive, we cross the threshold from the impossible to the possible. The moment we do this we are on the way to transforming what is broken into what is beautiful. This is not only true physically – but is the essence of what a life of faith means spiritually.

Kintugi is a powerful metaphor for the human experience. We are the summary of our experiences, they allow us to grow. To make a mistake is to be human; to suffer damage is to be human; to wear our scars proudly is to celebrate the person we have become throughout a journey that will be filled with both joy and sadness. Both should be appreciated for the lessons in which we learn from them. This truth is echoes in one of my favorite scripture texts from Romans 5:1-5…

So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Those who have scars become more powerful because of them. None of us get through life unscathed and it is far less painful to display your scars than to continuously try to hide them. The Japanese art of Kintsugi is a powerful reminder to us that it does not matter if we are damaged. Once we have mended the pieces, we will be far more beautiful than ever before.

When was the last time you felt broken? Was it from a betrayal or a hurtful action? Was it because someone ignored you? Did someone say something demeaning or angry? And how did you feel? Useless or unlovable?

Usually, our tendency is to either withdraw or to lash out. What if, instead, we took a moment to center ourselves and then to realize the spiritual truth that our brokenness and hurt can create a place for beauty? If you apply kintsugi to relationships, you may find a way forward to a new and healthier way to relate.

This is the essence of resilience. Each of us should look for a way to cope with traumatic events in a positive way, learn from negative experiences, take the best from them and convince ourselves that exactly these experiences make each person unique, precious.

What if we abandon the idea of “perfect” and even “good enough”? Life — the fingerprints, scars, wrinkles, and laugh lines — is itself perfectly imperfect, and there is beauty in that. How many of us loved our grandparents’ faces? Yet, when we look in the mirror many years later, we find ourselves critical at the wrinkles and skin imperfections reflected.

Anne Lamott says that “there is a theology that says when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, God often births something big and beautiful.” This is true for nature, for individuals, communities, and nations. Martin Luther wrote, “Our God has written the truth of resurrection not in books alone , but on every leaf of springtime.” Along with flowers, newborn grass, and baby birds, the truth of resurrection is present in other places.

Easter is not only a day on the calendar. It is a season of our lives. It is recognized each time the broken becomes whole.

Resources Used:
“From Broken to Beautiful: The Power of Kintsugi” by Val Jon Farris. Sept. 30, 2014.
Consciouspanda.com. “Kintsugi: The Philosopy of Celebrating Damage”