Feb 26th, Blessed are the Imperfect, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
Feb 26th, Blessed are the Imperfect, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
What creates the most stress in life is the picture in our heads of how we think life is supposed to be. We think we’ll get back to living our life tomorrow when the message has cleaned up, the problem solved, the conflict resolved, when our bodies ache less and when our grief is healed and our tears are dried. All of that is life. There is no such thing as perfect. There is only the life we actually have.
Can we trust that in the actual days we live painfilled, lovely, ordinary and even garbage days, there are hidden blessings? I’ve officiated hundreds of weddings. I’ve noticed that enormous energy is spent trying to create the perfect wedding. I tell couples that perfect weddings actually leave no stories to tell your grandchildren. I officiated one wedding where an extraordinary amount of time, energy, money was spent trying to create perfect.
There was so much tension and anxiety in trying to create perfect that there wasn’t a whole lot of room for joy. It was time for the ceremony and the mother of the bride, who was the master planner of perfection, was beaming. As everything was going according to plan, the couple were ready to make their vows and I noticed that the bride’s face matched her white dress. She opened her mouth and it wasn’t her vows that came out. She projectile vomited splattering the groom, the flower girl bridesmaids and me.
When the screaming, crying and chaos calmed, I suggested people clean up and we would reconvene in an hour. An hour later, the bride and groom sat on the altar steps in casual clothes. The bride was still pale and weak. The groom had his arm around her, holding on to what mattered most to him. All the perfect decorations, the perfect details, the carefully choreographed service, all of that fell away.
All people noticed was the deep, genuine, loving gaze between the bride and groom. They vowed to love each other on the good days and on the days when everything smelled like vomit, I pronounced them married. And the groom gently held his his new wife’s pale face between his hands and tenderly placed his lips on hers. I mean, everyone was crying tears of joy. This less than perfect wedding, what some would actually call a disaster, was one of the most spiritual, sacred, grace filled moments I’ve ever witnessed or been part of.
I mean, God’s god’s presence was palpable and everyone was blessed. And just imagine the stories they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren when we are able to let go of how we think life is supposed to be. We can meet life as it is with courage and grace. Leonard Cohen says there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in, and maybe that’s how the light gets out as well.
Jesus said, you are the light of the world. Let your light shine. You know, I think when Jesus says things like this, he can’t possibly mean me? Surely Jesus means people who don’t struggle with self doubt, people who don’t suffer from chronic pain, people who don’t suffer from bouts of depression. People who are far more creative and capable.
People who don’t have all the cracks and flaws and imperfections that I have. Surely the people who are the light of the world are strong and capable and have their act together and are nothing like me.
I want you to notice something. The Bible says Jesus went through Galilee, traveling in the synagogues, preaching the gospel, teaching and healing. News about Jesus spread and they brought to him those who were sick and afflicted with various diseases and pain, those suffering from mental illness, those having seizures and the paralyzed. And Jesus healed them. When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came and Jesus began to teach, saying blessed are the porn spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. This is called the Sermon on the Mount. You know, we often read this as Jesus giving us a list of virtues we should try to adopt.
Kind of like the seven habits of a more spiritual life. But do you remember who is in the crowd? Who is in the crowd listening to Jesus teach?
Those who are described as sick and in pain. Those battling demons, those broken and depleted, those hiding deep wounds and trauma, holding on to their grief. Those for whom life was certainly not the way it was supposed to be. Those who understood better than most their need for God. Now, it’s really hard to imagine Jesus giving a pep talk, a motivational talk to a crowd of hurting people, telling them what they should try to do and become.
Jesus was telling a group of people who had come to believe that for them, blessings that passed them by.
Jesus was telling them that they are the light of the world. Now, I assumed to be the light of the world, to let my light shine, I would have to be whole and strong and confident and perfect.
But when I look closely, I realize that nowhere in his Sermon on the Mount does Jesus say, now, here are the standards of perfection you must fulfill in order to be holy, in order to be the light for the world. No, Jesus simply looks out into the crowd of people in pain, people who have been broken open by life, people who bear those spiritual cracks that lit in the light. And he says to them, you are blessed. Yes, you. You are light.
You have that of God within you. The God whose light scatters the darkness.
Jesus didn’t say you should be light. You ought to be light. You could be light if you were better, if you were more perfect, if you tried harder. You might be light someday when you’ve met the conditions of being holy or more spiritual.
Jesus says you are the light of the world. You are enough just as you are. It’s amazing what we think disqualifies us. Our flaws, our brokenness, our imperfections actually turns out to be blessings in disguise.
An elderly woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he which she carried across her neck. Now, one of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot the other pot was perfect. And the other pot always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream back to the house, the pot with the crack arrived only half full of water. For two full years, this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor, cracked, flawed pot was ashamed of its own imperfection. Miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. And after two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, this pot with a crack. And it spoke to the woman one day.
I’m ashamed of myself. I’m not good enough. Because of this crack in my side, water leaks out all the way back to the house.
The woman smiled and she said, did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot side? That’s because I’ve always known and accepted your flaw. So I planted flower seeds on on your side of the bath. And every day while we walk back, you water those seeds. For two years, I’ve been able to pick those beautiful flowers to decorate the table.
Without you being you, just the way you are, there would not be beauty to grace this house. She said, for two years, I’ve brought flowers to people. People have been sick, grieving or just lonely. Without you being just the way you are, they would not have experienced this love and beauty in the midst of their pain.
Friends, trust. Jesus knows what he’s talking about. You. Yes, you. You are light for all the world.
Don’t try to be it. Know that you already are. And then, for the love of God, take that seriously. The world needs the light that is used, and you need it. There’s a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in, and that’s how the light gets out. May it be so.