• Rebecca Brierley

Hope for the Journey

Updated: Mar 10, 2019

A guest blog contributed by Journey of Hope participant, Ruwani Gunawardene.

It was a hot summers day in 2018 and a student friend of mine joined me on a guided tour of the British Museum arranged by my church. After witnessing the most ancient and magnificent artefacts and marvelling at the magnitude of the building that houses them, we were just heading to the ice cream van in the courtyard when we realised we needed to inspect one more thing.

A quick Google search as to the location of the item saved our tired feet as we waded our way through the crowds to see the Portland Vase (AD 1-25). The story of this 9-inch tall 7 inch diameter treasure has been recounted as an allegory when we recruit new students to study theology. Here’s a short account.

The Portland Vase in the British Museum

One afternoon in February 1845, a drunken student vandalised a glass cabinet which held an ancient Roman vase by throwing a nearby sculpture at it which shattered this masterpiece into hundreds of pieces. The museum curators managed to restore it but still 37 tiny fragments remained. Another attempt was made in the mid 20th century to glue together the remaining pieces but it was not until the late 1980’s that a special team of experts, under the scrutiny of a team of BBC cameramen and other press coverage, restored the vase to its original state. No visible signs of the original damage remained. How amazing! Studying God’s word in community and the fullness we hope to achieve is paralleled to the story of the restoration of the Portland Vase.

We could now have our ice cream!

Roll on a few months and I am now part of the cohort of guinea-pilgrims on Journey of Hope.

Reading the blog of a fellow guinea-pilgrim with the image of the Japanese Kintsugi method of restoration of broken pottery with its cracks still visible caught my attention. Although I had seen Japanese Kintsugi items before, the conflict situation I am emersed in at present stopped me in my tracks, reading Jess’ blog about beauty in brokenness. The restored item looks more beautiful with the cracks visible than the original.

I can only say that God drew me to that particular blog for a purpose as we battle with yet another community crisis I am faced with. Quite rightly we expect our leaders to be beyond reproach, attaining biblical standards of leadership found in many of Paul’s epistles. I happen to be studying 1 Timothy with my housegroup this season. When a leader falls, a whole community suffers. I may not be the only one observing that we have had more than our fair share of trials to endure. We stagger from one loss to another, of course doing the Christian thing of praying and worshipping and whispering what we know in the name of prayer. Today’s friend is tomorrow’s foe – who do we trust? Some want to soldier on valiantly with the mission to which we are called, whilst others want to stop and grieve for the loss of another family member.

Being at the early stage of the Journey of Hope pilgrimage has given me a glimmer of hope that we can find ways of dealing with each other’s fallenness differently as a Christian community. We can cover our cracks with a masterful lacquer like that used by the experts on the Portland Vase and be displayed in a glass cabinet to be viewed in awe by millions - or we could be restored lovingly with the cracks still visible like in the Japanese Kintsugi pottery bowl which makes the restored item more valuable as it displays openly the crooked lines covered in precious dust of gold. It displays its previously damaged state openly and beautifully and makes you aware of its fragility. The resurrected body of Jesus bore scars so that doubting Thomas could build his faith.

A bowl repaired used the Kintsugi method

The Portland Vase, yes, it is precious. It is an ancient masterpiece that gives us a glimpse of history of Roman times. It draws attention to itself and leaves the beholder in awe if they know the story behind it. But, it renders little hope for the journey.

You can follow Ruwani on her Journey of Hope via Twitter - @sangall0

Views expressed by participants are not necessarily the views of Reconcilers Together.

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