God in the brokenness

A magazine from Temple University isn’t where I’d go for a sermon illustration if I were looking for one, although I’ve heard preachers reference more unusual sources. But there it was, a too-good-not-to-use metaphor for God’s redemptive work in the world.

Broken Instruments are Reborn” the headline read, followed by a short article detailing efforts by the Temple Contemporary art gallery to re-claim more than 1,000 out-of-commission instruments. After languishing for years in the basements and storage closets of Philadelphia City schools, the damaged instruments have been pulled out, cleaned up, and hung on gallery walls.

Recorded sounds from the percussion, wind, and stringed instruments now on display are being used in creating an original work of music. More than six hundred Philadelphia-area musicians will perform the “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra” at the premier in early 2018.

Fixable instruments will be repaired and returned to schools in the fall of 2018. And music classrooms will be equipped with repair kits, insuring that there will be no more out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and out-of-use for easily patched-up instruments in Philadelphia schools.

In short, what began as a protest against cuts to art programming has become much more than anticipated.


It didn’t take much for me to see in instruments reborn a metaphor for God’s restorative work in human lives. The God I love is relentless in hunting down the broken, the hurting, the discarded of the world. God brings hope to our dark places and lovingly pulls us into the light. God lifts us up, dusts us off, and celebrates the beauty of who we are, just as we are.

What the world labels as junk, God declares to be “pearls of great price.” Where lesser ears hear screeching dissonance, God picks out the themes of a grand symphony.

To be so loved is amazing, a blessing almost beyond our comprehension.

Yet God has even bigger things in mind for us. As theologian L. Gregory Jones describes in Christian Social Innovation: Renewing Wesleyan Witness,

“We are to be what Nicholas Wolterstorff calls ‘aching visionaries.’ We are called to see what God is doing in the world, to be bearers of blessing, and thus ache with longing for the redemption for all who suffer and all who bear marks of sin and brokenness” (p. 61).

What if instead of functioning as holding pens for the redeemed, churches were re-purposed as God-factories producing “repair kits” to be installed throughout the surrounding communities? What would happen if the majority of Christ-followers lived the Good News? Or think about the possibilities should God’s people actually do what God requires of us.

To so love would be amazing, a calling almost beyond our comprehension.

And that, too, is part of God’s big, audacious plan for us. In Jones’ words, if/when we’re willing, “the Holy Spirit guides us into spaces where we can accomplish ‘abundantly far more’ than all we can ask or imagine on our own” (Eph. 3:20-21 NRSV).

Similar to the good folks at Temple University who refused to let the damaged and dysfunctional go to waste, our God is big on second (and more) chances. In Christ, broken instruments are reborn.



  1. Burton Hamilton says:

    G9od stuff! Just like the Master of Galalee practiced.

  2. That is the calling for each of us in ministry fundraising, and it represents the heartbeat of donors who assist in our work. Thank you, Rebekah!

    • I agree, Dan. It is an amazing privilege to participate in God’s restorative work in donors’ lives. Making peace with materialism and money’s hold is a big piece of many people’s healing and journey into discipleship.

  3. lorigreesor says:

    Welcome back Rebekah!

  4. Great stuff as always. Glad you are back.

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