Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner was Monmouth College’s 2018 Baccalaureate Preacher. Shannon was called to be the pastor of Chicago’s iconic Fourth Presbyterian Church in March of 2014. Ever since hearing this news, I have been cheering for Shannon and celebrating her success. Very few women serve as senior pastors of churches over 5,000 members. With amazing grace and extraordinary talent, Shannon has broken what we women clergy refer to as the “stained-glass ceiling” in church leadership.”
While she was on campus, I interviewed Shannon on our college’s radio station. I asked her about her religious and spiritual upbringing, how it feels to be a breaker of ‘stained-glass ceilings’, and what advice she had for our new graduates. The interview, like Shannon herself, was full of grace.
In her Baccalaureate sermon, Shannon reflected on Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” “We are all just a bunch of cracked pots,” Shannon told our graduates, “cheap jars, fragile and porous.”
“Clay jars in Paul’s day” Shannon went on to explain, “were the most imperfect vessel one could choose. Whatever one was carrying would just spill all over the place because those vessels were literally cracked pots. They were absolutely inefficient and a bad choice for carrying anything valuable. Any yet it is precisely into our cracked pot selves that God has purposely chosen to place the treasure of God’s grace and the promise of of God’s healing and wholeness for the world.”
Shannon appreciates this description of us as clay jars because “it acknowledges the truth that none of us has it all together. Nor should we ever expect to. This verse gives me some breathing space. The Good News is that we do indeed contain a treasure, but it is rooted in something much larger than ourselves. The world’s healing and justice does not just rest on our shoulders. God’s got you and God will work through our cracks and imperfections to shed extraordinary light on the world.”
Listen to my interview with Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner by following this link to WPFS–Proud Fighting Scots Radio.
Follow this link to watch a video of Monmouth College’s 2018 Baccalaureate Service and to hear Rev. Kershner’s sermon which begins at about the 40 minute mark.