The retreat this weekend had as its theme “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. ” (2 Corinthians 4:7) There was much said about the redemptive work of God in using even cracked and broken “pottery”. The implication seemed to me to be that the breaking of the pots was something that happened as a result of some “accident”- poor choices, life tragedies, hard knocks, victimization, etc. and that God was necessarily working redemptively, after the fact.
I had been reading a little book entitled “Salt: A World History” and in it there was the story of the ancient Chinese practice (later carried all over the known world by the Romans) of creating clay pots in which salt water was put and then evaporating the water over fire, leaving precious bricks of salt in the pots, which were then deliberately smashed to release the salt, an item that until the last century was considered so valuable that the very word salary, compensation for one’s labor, is from the word for salt. It has been traded as an article of economic currency and has been the reason for wars down through history. As I thought about pots being made for the explicit purpose of being broken after they had accumulated this valuable “treasure” inside, I thought, “Wouldn’t that be just like God? To tell us to be “salt” in the world could just possibly mean that we would have to be broken, too, in order to bring forth into the world this valuable commodity that brings healing and preservation. It gives a whole new perspective to this business of broken pottery.