04 September 2022
Year C (Proper 18)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Anglican Church of Australia
St. Elizabeth’s Church, Sebastian
St. Agnes Church, Sebring
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
God is the Master Potter: Be formed and transformed by his loving hands…
In the beginning. After six days of creating the heavens and the earth, separating the night from the day, forming earth sea and sky and filling the sky and earth with wonderful creatures, God -formed a human being - A-dam and breathed into his nostrils… the spirit of God. Out of the dust of the earth, the clay, a human vessel received the Holy Spirit and like a radio transmitter inside a radio box and could receive and broadcast God’s love and mercy right Back to God, others, and him or herself. Many years later all of us are vessels to share God’s spirit and love.
In the days of our Old Testament lesson, clay was the primary source for decorative and functional vessels but other containers were made of wood, woven reeds, and metals. Have you ever wondered: What type of vessel am I for God?
A seminary dean once confessed in a sermon he thought of himself as an old wooden bucket for God, complete with leaks and holes. Another seminarian envisioned himself as a garden hose for God often tied up into theological knots.
This week I identified myself as a Camelbak for God, that water-bottle you wear on your back for a long hike, ride, or run with a few dings in the metal from being dropped, covered with colorful stickers and often needing to be refilled. But no matter what type, size or color vessel we are we all share a common identity, we are children of God, chosen and formed as of clay,
hemmed in by God behind and before us, as our Psalmist describes. And we are sanctified by God’s loving hands shaping us for our unique role in God’s Kingdom. Each day we are challenged to turn away from worldly temptation and sin and toward the Master Potter to allow ourselves to be transformed more deeply, widely, and broadly into the image of Jesus Christ on the Potter’s wheel. And We can trust God, the Master Potter, will not take his hands off the pottery wheel!
In our Old Testament lesson this morning we find Jeremiah, prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 627-586 BC, preaching repeatedly for God’s people to turn away from their Sins of idolatry and self-sufficiency or face punishment from God.
Our actual lesson, The Parable of the Potter, occurs just after Jeremiah has warned the people
God will send an unquenchable fire to devour the palaces of Jerusalem if they do not turn, repent, and keep the sabbath holy rather than put making money and work over obeying God’s laws.
And. Many years later on this Labor day weekend we too are reminded about the importance of honoring God on the Sabbath and taking time to rest from our labors. Unfortunately Jeremiah’s faithful word and message falls on the Jewish people’s deaf ears. Not many years later, in 586 BC the Babylonians’ destroy Jerusalem and drag the Jewish people off to exile.
This morning we hear the Lord say to Jeremiah, Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words. And Jeremiah obediently walks down the hill, outside the city of Jerusalem to the outskirts of town, to the Potter’s workshop where the smoky fires of the kilns burn and the potter sits faithfully at his wheel.
What does Jeremiah see? First of all Jeremiah notices the clay, clay finely ground soil with minerals and bits of rock pliable earthy material when wet, brittle and cracked when dried out, the very dust of the earth from which God created A-dam.
Almost immediately Jeremiah would have remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah…
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isa. 64: 8)
And Jeremiah would have known the ordinary day to day event before him was filled with symbolic meaning for the people of Judah back then and for us today. Jeremiah sees himself, and every person and every nation as the clay God fashions into divine vessels. And then Jeremiah notices how the Potter works. The Potter places the lump of clay on a small circular stone connected to a vertical shaft to a larger circular stone at his feet. The large circular stone serves as a flywheel smoothing both stones’ motion and Jeremiah notes the Potter begins by trying to find the clay lump’s center establishing the vessels’ foundation, creating the deepest place for God’s Spirit to enter. And then working the clay from that very epicenter, building up, or out or back in for the heart of God to live. All is well, the wheel turns constantly bringing the clay against the pressure of the Potter’s fingers but suddenly the blossoming vessel spoils in the Potter’s hands, it becomes flawed, unusable, broken.
Perhaps you too can relate to a time in your life when you felt just like that vessel overwhelmed, fragmented, shattered. Sometimes clay falls apart due having extra dirt or stones or sticks in the mix. Just like this clay, we too, as vessels, experience times in which we become covered with the grime of sin we hold onto the haze of gossip or jealousy or pride for what we have done or said. Or we hold onto the film of guilt, worry, or fear or what we have not done or not said which keeps the light of Christ from shining through our hearts.
Other times as God’s vessel we crack from the inside as we allow bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness to dry out the compassion and love from our hearts of clay, our hearts become brittle and dry. While we may not notice a hairline crack in the clay of our hearts…
Bitterness can creep in after someone says or does something harmful to us and then bitterness can fester when we are not willing to face our feelings and acknowledge our own part of a conflict, change our ways and forgive.
Luckily as the Potter knew clay that dries out can be brought back to almost good as new with immersion in water. Just as our hearts can be restored by immersion in the study and worship of God’s holy word and loving fellowship of our parish family
And lastly our clay hearts can become hardened by the pressure of life’s circumstances. Sickness, death of a loved one, a relationship gone astray. And with one big tap or a series of smaller taps our vessels can become chipped, cracked or broken into tiny pieces.
In those times when we feel like we are at our wits’ and rope’s very end due to life’s circumstances and I believe, sometimes even pressure from God. Just like the potter forms the clay we are called To Let go and Let God. As our wise brothers and sisters in recovery know so well, to depend fully and completely upon God and to trust that God will never forsake those who boast of God’s mercy and grace toward them.
For as Jeremiah sees, that just as the vessel of clay spoils in his hands, the Potter does not reject and throw the clay away, the Potter holds onto the wheel and re-works the clay into a new vessel which seems good to him.
God has a purpose and a vision of whom God wants us to be and become. Like the potter, God and other life circumstances shape and mold us into a vessel of clay that eventually has imperfections. All of us have imperfections, anything that mars the design or spoils God’s work so God begins to work on us again crushing the clay into a lump or gluing the pieces back together. God’s purpose is not to defeat us but to restore us To take the broken pieces of our lives and to put them back together to make them even more beautiful than anyone could ever imagine. For God longs not only to create a beautiful vessel but to fill us with God’s love and the Holy Spirit, freeing us to choose whom to follow and how we will share our gifts.
And when like the people of Judah when we have strayed from the righteousness path, tempted by our flawed human nature and become sinful, chipped, or broken, how we respond matters. Our choices matter because God is a god of possibilities, a God was willing to change God’s mind about the fate of the people of Judah and God is willing to change God’s mind about our fate.
God wants to talk with us, to encourage us to allow ourselves to let go and Let God….and to return to God again and again to be formed and remolded into the next version of ourselves as children of God. God desires for us to return home to God naming and claiming our sins, letting go of our resistance, turning back toward God amending our ways of life and being forgiven.
God invites us to trust God to place all our lives under God’s care so that through God’s gifts of mercy and grace we can be refined and renewed to live more and be more Christ like…
And so this week I invite you to think about what pressures are we experiencing to change and evolve into something new? How is the Master Potter reworking our imperfections? Where do we see God’s extraordinary hand at work in the ordinary goodness of our day to day lives?