Life is like a box of tesserae

This post was stimulated by Cate Edmonds’ sermon at the 10am service in Exeter Cathedral this morning. She spoke of the different covenants – Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, new – and used the rainbow and a riff on mosaics as images of the people of God.


There is a bi-i-ig difference between jigsaws and mosaics.

Jigsaws have only one correct way of being pieced together. They start as a large image, then are cut and separated into small pieces, and the goal is to reassemble these to return to the original large image. The solver has no freedom to choose how to fit the pieces together to make what image. The image is given to the solver, and there is only one. Two people doing the same jigsaw will end up with the same image, assuming that is that no pieces are missing!

Mosaics are created from tiny tiles, tesserae, which are made quite independently and brought together by the artist. None are exactly the same. They may start roughly square, but the artist will often cut them to create more fluid patterns. They can be pieced together in many different ways to create many different images, with no one set end-point, and no fixed way of getting it ‘right’. They are used in many ways too, from ceiling and wall decoration, to flooring and pothole repairs.

Corporately, we could see each of us as individual tesserae that God is forming into a beautiful mosaic of the people of God, an image of the body of Christ. We can fit together in many different ways, at different angles and pitches to catch the light. It is possible to create beauty out of quite monochrome sets of tiles. But how much more is possible if there is a mix of shapes, finishes and colours.

Or we could use the mosaic metaphor at a personal level.

Each of us are individually and gradually piecing together our lives, not knowing what the pattern will turn out to be. Some parts of the mosaic will be bright and joyful, others serene, others perhaps quite dark. Sometimes we might make a bit of a mess; sometimes we think we are getting it wrong. But because there is no right way or wrong way we need not be so anxious about getting it right. We can be confident that God the Patterner can see how things are shaping up. God both has a God’s eye view of the growing image, and God gets stuck in with us as we choose each tessera and where they will go and glue them in. Eventually, when we die and the mosaic is complete, we too will have a God’s eye view. I suspect we will discover that our image is in the image of God.