Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1-18
Since we moved to this area, Chris and I have explored many fun places to go. There are parks, the river, the bike trail, and good restaurants, too. For me, one of the most interesting places in this area is Haeger Pottery Factory. All of you may know about that place much better than me, and you understand my excitement about that place. There are countless pottery items in different shapes and for different uses. Last Thursday when I prepared today’s sermon I went to that place again to imagine and experience Jeremiah’s message in today’s Bible reading.
Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah sometime about 600 B.C. Around that time Judah had a bad king, Jehoiakim, and had fallen under foreign domination. Within a few years they were exiled to Babylon. Knowing this difficult time was ahead, God called Jeremiah as a prophet for His people. One day God told him to go down to the potter’s house and wait for His word there. Jeremiah saw the potter working at the wheel. When the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred, he broke it and made a new pot.
These days the potter’s wheel has an electric motor with variable speeds. In Jeremiah’s day the potter’s wheel was made of stone and run by foot power. A small stone on the top was connected to a lower and larger stone that the potter turned with his feet. The potter literally had to throw his whole body into making a pot. Leaning over the wheel, kicking with his feet, and forming the clay with his hands the potter used his whole body and mind.
This scene reminds me of the creation story in Genesis. God created humans from clay and put his whole effort into them—his love, image, and even his breath. God is the potter and we are His pottery. The potter can make anything he wants to and he can also break it if the pottery does not look good in his eyes. God reminded Israel through Jeremiah that they were in God’s hands like clay in the hands of the potter. God chose Israel as His nation, but God could punish them when they went astray and didn’t obey God.
As the potter is the creator and the pottery is his creation, God is the creator and has sovereign power over His creation. Using the same image in the book of Romans, Saint Paul asks us, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Can the pottery say to his creator ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” As the potter makes the pottery in many different styles and uses according to his plan, God forms us in different shapes, colors, genders, characters, and spiritual gifts according to His plan. But God’s creation process that concerns us is not yet done. Until we become usable pottery for Him, God keeps working on us to mold and remold us.
We may have a difficult time to accept God’s sovereign power over us because God’s image as potter seems to be more stern and arbitrary rather than loving and caring. But we need to think about why the potter keeps working on the clay, molding and remolding it. The potter cannot give up making his pottery. In the same sense God cannot give up His children, even though they are broken or marred. It is God’s love for us rather than punishment.
After Jeremiah received God’s word at the potter’s house, there began to be a new hope in his message. God had shown him that destruction was not the final word. Even though it was marred, the clay could be salvaged. The wheel kept on turning, and the potter kept shaping and reshaping the clay over and over again. Israel was still in God’s hands. Jeremiah began to look for and to build for a future of hope.
This parable of the potter still speaks to us today. To make us righteous people of God, God sacrificed His only Son on the cross. It is God’s method that He recreates us in His hands. Each of us is clay in the potter’s hands, just as surely as Israel was. God designs the vessel in his mind. It does not even know what is to be made of it. A vase? A pitcher? A candleholder? Only the potter knows! Once we have learned to accept the fact that God is the potter and we willingly yield ourselves to Him, as the clay gives itself to the potter, what happens to us?
We begin to realize the goals of our lives. We learn who we are and what purpose we are made for. A vase is made to hold water and flowers. That way it gives joy to it’s owner. A pitcher is made to serve liquid to guests. A candleholder is made to hold candles that light its surroundings. As the pottery God makes us for a certain purpose. The church is God’s house, having many different kinds pottery. All are God’s creatures and all of them serve God’s purpose. Some are Sunday School teachers. They serve God through teaching God’s word. Some are singing in the choir. They praise God using their talents. Some people pray for others and witness to God’s healing power. Some people take care of the church building to keep it as God’s house of prayer and worship. All are stewards of God’s kingdom. No one works for themselves. Everyone works for the real owner, God. We are only stewards.
Good stewards work for the owner joyfully. Several days ago I talked with Aleta Piper, one of our Sunday School superintendents, about today’s Sunday School kick off program. I asked her to speak to the congregation about the rotation model of Sunday School and to let them know how fun and exciting it is for their children. She looked at me and said, “Don’t you see the excitement on my face right now? I love it. I keep learning by teaching children. I hope the children love Sunday School. I surely love it and have fun.”
I realize we have many faithful stewards for God’s church. For our Sunday School many people have worked hard. We cannot thank them enough with any words but we know that they joyfully serve God with the faith that God will reward them in His time.
As a church we set up September as the month of nurturing our stewardship. When we accept that Jesus died for us to remold our sinfulness, we died with Him to ourselves. We don’t claim any more the ownership of our lives. We became God’s useful pottery. We use all our gifts, talents, effort, time, and resources for the reason God created us.
Some time this week go to Haeger Pottery to look around at the various potteries and meditate on today’s Bible story and the relationship between God and you as the potter and the pottery. And rekindle your mission as God’s pottery. Amen.