The word came to the Prophet Jeremiah from God: Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words. So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
I was struck this week by the beauty of an image of God working us and reworking us like clay on the potter’s wheel, of molding us with divine hands and re-shaping us even when we have become very misshapen.
I’m no expert in pottery making, but I have watched those who are experts re-spin that clay on the wheel many times before they finally create a beautiful work of art. I’ve always liked to think that’s because the clay has a mind of its own, so to speak. The clay plays a role in the shape it becomes, and therefore, no two clay pots are exactly alike.
We are all in a theological process of becoming who we are. We are not beings, we are becomings, and God is constantly shaping and reshaping, but is also willing to allow us to have some say in what we become. God’s power to shape us is never coercive, but lovingly persuasive.
The prophet Jeremiah wants us to believe with all our hearts that God is willing to do this for each and every one of us. That creation didn’t begin and end in the first few chapters of Genesis, but is ongoing and eternal.
I have met far too many people in my years in ministry who have done something they believe has spoiled their lives forever. They are often certain that it is the end for them, that they simply cannot be forgiven, that the lump of clay that they have become should be discarded. I think this world of microwavable / disposable everything has led us to think that this must be the way that God deals with us. But Jeremiah says, “NO,” God is willing re-spin you into a new vessel, simply for the asking.
The story is told of a little boy who was watching his mother put on her cold cream one evening, and he asked her why she did that. She said, “I put this on to look beautiful.” A little while later she was taking off the cold cream, and the little boy said, “What’s the matter, did you give up?” Have you ever felt that God must have given up on making you beautiful? Have you ever felt like a spoiled lump of clay that ought to be discarded? I have a few times, especially when I let myself and others down, when I was less than loving, when I was broken and needed fixing. But looking back, I’m glad I didn’t give up on myself because God sure didn’t. God has had to muscle me on the potter’s wheel more than a few times, but it gets a little better each time, and I suspect that the process of God shaping me will go on for an eternity!
I have come to believe that God doesn’t just patch me up, but re-creates me in Christ. I have come to believe that every morning holds a new creative surprise. Grace means the potter’s wheel will never stop spinning and those loving hands will never stop shaping!
God will not stop until every misshapen vessel is reworked into something beautiful. It’s so hard for so many to believe. It’s our job as Christians to convince them.
Jesus, in our Gospel for this week says some pretty startling things about hating mothers and fathers and family. If I thought for a moment that Jesus really meant for me to take those verses as wooden, literal truth, I would buy a copy of “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Atheism.” Jesus is using hyperbole and exaggerated metaphor to make the point that unyielding discipleship is the best way return to the potter’s wheel. Following Jesus’ unrelenting forgiveness, grace, love and embrace is the way to stay close to God in the process of becoming.
In the second Chapter of Genesis we find God fashioning humanity out of mud, and today in the 18th chapter of Jeremiah we hear God telling us through the prophet that this is a way of life with God. This is perhaps why God chose to reveal God’s own self in a man from Nazareth who was born in a stable cave and walks the dusty desert roads to do God’s work.
I am reminded of a story Archbishop Desmond Tutu often told about how in many of our churches there are pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. It would always be a sheep with pure, clean wool, not a tuft of wool out of place. The Archbishop would shake his head and say, “Think about it. The sheep that gets lost is not going to be a well- behaved sheep that stays with the flock. The lost sheep will be the misbehaving sheep who goes off, gets lost for a long time, falls in a ravine, stuck in barbed wire and covered in mud and dirt. When the shepherd finally finds the sheep, it is probably very dirty, muddy and terribly smelly – not very lovable at all. What does the shepherd do? He picks up the sheep, puts it on his shoulders, DIRT AND MUD AND ALL, and goes home full of rejoicing. Not like the clean sheep of the pictures in churches.”
This is the depth of love and compassion that God has for us, no matter how lost or how bad, or how broken or how misshapen we are.
I think Bill Gaither touched on these thoughts in these lyrics:
“Something beautiful, something good.
All my confusion, God understood.
All I had to offer God was brokenness and strife, But God made something beautiful out of my life.”
Can we dare to believe in a God who allows no wasted life? Can we dare to believe in a God who will forgive and reinvent anyone and everyone just for the asking. Can we dare to believe that we are not just the product of pre-determined DNA where mistakes and mutations just happen? Can we dare instead to see that we are a masterpiece yet to be completed no matter our age, no matter our past? That’s why the church places so much emphasis on the Easter Experience, because in our heart of hearts we want to believe that in our deadest moments, we can be molded and shaped and have new life breathed into us again.
To be a Christian requires that we believe this is possible; requires that we believe in divine do-overs. So no more excuses now, climb up on that potters wheel and let God work you into a new creation.
Let us pray:
Gracious God we are water and dust mixed together, pliable clay in your hands, spun on a wheel, wet and formed by you, the Creator who kneads us gently. In your sight, we are all useful, all usable, all valuable, all of us. In your hands we are made whole and holy, and so we wait in expectation of what we will become and this we pray in Jesus’ name.
If you wish to get alerts by email when posts like this one are published each week you can do so by sending an email to email@example.com. Just indicate that you would like to subscribe and then send it off. You will be added to the Alert List. One of the benefits of subscribing in this way is that as soon as the post is published, you will get an email alert letting you know it’s been posted along with a link to go directly to the posting page at Sunday GospelTalk. You can also correspond with me directly at this same Email address. I will address your concerns within 24 hours.