When we break a special plate or vase, we may attempt to repair it and do our best to conceal the damage.
In Kintsugi – the Japanese art of golden joinery – breakage and repair becomes part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. An artist can make a bowl or a vase more precious through their patient work, using gold powder in the glue, to give it a beautiful finish.
I think this illustrates something about reconciliation.
At the beginning of the world, humanity and creation “broke”…. a murder in the first family, fractures between God, mankind, and creation – weeds and prickles, shame and pain.
But God didn’t just ‘throw’ humanity away nor does he hide the damage. He began restoring – “reconciling all things to himself” – piece-by-piece – healing and repairing, knowing the stunning future potential.
Ever since, we have seen glimpses of the slow, patient work. Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah inspire us with breathtaking images of what is to come. Mighty rivers, streams in the desert, flowers and green mountains where the wilderness once lay. God engages our imagination with colourful metaphors to describe the finished masterpiece. Later in Revelation we see more detail of this reconciliation in heaven – springs, rivers, healing trees, a gathering of all cultures, God Himself wiping away our tears, singing, gold and gemstones, a wedding, God dwelling.
All these images have been deeply inspiring to me as I have worked in the Sycamore Tree Project.
So where does PF sit in this massive repair job? We know that broken families and communities create broken people who break other people. But our vision is to be a “community of reconciliation”.
I think God is using Prison Fellowship to show people what is possible. The amazing transcendent power that results from earthly reconciliation. It is prophetic.
God doesn’t just use ordinary glue to restore this precious pottery, he uses Kingdom gold- costly, precious, stunning, valuable.
Our programs demonstrate how reconciliation works: restoration and healing through our chaplains, prisoner Art Shows, visitation, ministry to prisoners’ families – even our trans-denominational unity.
More explicitly, we see it in the Sycamore Tree Project where natural enemies become friends. Crime survivors, prisoners and the community explore and reveal the reality of healing and reconciliation that Jesus demonstrated throughout his earthly ministry.
They all defy human reason – they prophetically proclaim the eternal potential of forgiveness, repentance, community, and reconciliation. A glimpse of the masterpiece.
Martin Howard was one presenter at our recent PFQ Conference.
Other highlights included a vibrant praise session and wonderful reports of the Holy Spirit working through our chaplains and Angel Tree ministry.
One session included a panel of speakers who have all participated in PFA-QLD’s Sycamore Tree Project. This gave the audience the chance to hear stories of real people – offenders and victims – broken by crime and now redeemed by forgiveness. For an offender, it gave the opportunity to see the damage that his crimes were doing and then experience forgiveness and repentance, which changed his life. For crime victims, it gave a voice and an opportunity to be healed of their wounds – to become crime survivors.
The final word came from our cook for the day, who shared part of his story, including many years in prison. He gave a heart-felt thanks to the many chaplains who had invested time in him while he was inside. His thanks were not only to the “dozen or so” chaplains who had spoken to him in prison, but also to others in the PFA family who have helped him in the transition to a normal life on the outside. His words of thanks were a great encouragement to all who seek to help those caught up in crime and wonder if they’ve made a difference.