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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

March, 2005

A couple of months ago, after a fellowship dinner at church, I noticed that the bottom seemed to be coming off the coffee urn. Some of us were ready to throw the poor thing away–after all, it had served well for many years but it was obviously broken–when I discovered that there was nothing wrong with it except for a single missing screw. A couple of Sundays later, I brought in a can of assorted screws–the kind everyone has–and replaced the missing one. It wasn’t a perfect match for the old one but it worked and the coffee urn was “as good as new” once again.

One day, the prophet Jeremiah was walking past a potter’s house when he saw the potter working with clay (Jer. 18:1-6). The clay vessel became marred in the potter’s hands. Anyone other than a potter would have probably thought it was ruined. But the potter simply reshaped the clay into a new vessel. Jeremiah realized that God could do the same with the people of Israel. The image of broken pottery appears elsewhere in the Bible as well: The Psalmist writes of a time of severe trial, “I have become like broken pottery.” (Psa. 31:12b NIV). And yet, just a couple of verses later, he writes, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Psa. 31:14 NIV). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isa. 64:8b NIV). Each of us is like clay in God’s hands, and God can remake us no matter how “broken” we are.

When Jesus was on Earth, he went around “fixing” people who were “broken.” He had very likely learned the carpenter’s trade at the side of his Earthly father, Joseph, but his talents went far beyond carpentry. He fixed people who were blind, lame, stricken with diseases like leprosy, possessed by demons, or simply broken in heart and spirit. He went about with his can of spiritual screws and fixed people who needed fixing. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Matt. 4:23 NIV).

In his song, “Handy Man,” James Taylor sings, “I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can.” Jesus also fixed broken hearts, broken spirits, and broken lives. Our worst brokenness is sin, and Jesus can fix it. In addition to the physical ailments he healed, Jesus also forgave sins (Matt. 9:1-8). The first step is to recognize and acknowledge our brokenness. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:17 NIV). Jesus will fix us if we will only ask. He won’t make us–or our lives–perfect. But he will make them better than they were. We can say with the Psalmist, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psa. 147:3 NIV).

And what’s more, Jesus calls us to be “handy men (and women)” too. He told the first disciples, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matt. 10:8a NIV). We have been given the same authority and the same charge. He wants us to take our “cans of screws” to everyone who needs fixing. We are called to minister to their physical needs, their relationships, and their spirits. You have a can of screws. It’s called the message of the gospel. You have a set of tools. They’re called the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to make it all possible. You know someone who is broken in body or in spirit, someone who is troubled and hurting, someone who needs God. Pick up your tools; get your screws. There’s a world in need of repair. Go forth and fix whatever and whoever needs fixing. In Jesus’ name.


“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isa. 61:1-3 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2005 by David Phelps