Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jeremiah 18:1-4 The Work of God's Hands

In this text, Jeremiah the prophet is called by God to go to the house of a potter. There he observes the potter at work - beginning a creation, finding it not to his liking, collapsing the vessel, compressing the clay, and beginning again. And the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah, making the work of the potter a metaphor for the way God works with (in this case) communities and nations.

If we read a little further, we hear Jeremiah sharing both a word of warning and a word of encouragement. If Israel turns from evil, God "will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring upon it"; but then, if Israel does evil, God will again change course, and not bring about the intended good.

Usually, we hear this passage in an individual way - God is the potter, and we are the clay. Surely, that is true. But it is also true that in this case, the text really addresses the community - the nation of Israel. Thus we are invited to think about the sovereign power of God, the issue of free will, and the possibility that God might change course in mid-stream (in response to human action?).

So what do you think?
- Is God's "plan" a fixed and determined course of events?
Then what about our free will?

- How does this text speak to your life individually?
What about our life together as a church?

- What does this say about the covenant, the promise, God has made
to be God, and to claim the people as God's own?

To post your own comment:
- click on "comments" and type in your notes,
- include your name at the bottom
- click the box next to "Comment as:" and select "Anonymous"
- then click on "Post Comment"

You can also reply by email to pastorsusank@gmail.com.


  1. How wonderful to think that God will make me over and over again till I am "What seems best to Him." NIV Oh yes Lord, yes, this is how I want our relationship to be. If I am "marred" take my form and start again. This is my prayer for this story in my life as an individual. And today, I am happy to pray it. other days, its a struggle to ask to to be made new. I must admit some days, I just want to wallow in the mud of myself and be left alone. Thanks be to God, He loves me more than I love myself and is always kneading my clay.

    I think this is true of the church, the community and the nation as well. We hear messages from the pulpit drawing us out of ourselves, asking that we be more than our current marred pot. We see people in need and see our own hands filled to overflowing and can feel the potters hands on our hearts saying, yes, you can share, there will be enough for you too. We have been called. Our clay sits on the spinning wheel from this moment on. We are no longer simply dust, but vessels intended to be filled, to hold that which is placed in us.

    And what is that? What is it that we have been formed to hold? The good news? The hope of Christ? The love and compassion of God? For what purpose were we ever placed on the wheel? Surely our purpose is more than to be formed again and again? Surely someday, our own pot will be dry, and our calling clear, the potter's hands no longer shaping our lives, but using what has been shaped for what "seems best."

    Teaching the church, community and nation what their purpose is, and then sending us out to fulfill that. And when we get off track, grabbing our marred clay again and placing us back on the wheel.

    What does this say about the promise?

    It says to me, that God has made me to be what I need to be to do what I need to do. My vessel is handcrafted, not off an assembly line. His signature written on my heart, taking credit for His work. I am His. This is the promise He made - "I have called you by name, you are mine." There is never a moment when God looks at me and thinks I am invaluable or useless. Nor does He look at the church like that. Another round on the wheel perhaps, but never useless.

    Free will and a soverign God go together. God creates us and defines us, then allows us to be what we are. We can choose to be what we were created for, or we can choose to deny what is eternally true. A pot by any name though is still a pot. This makes me wonder I spend any time believing anything but God's truth about my life. I am a pot no matter what anyone calls me, the church is a pot, no matter what anyone wants to believe.

    This week I am beginning to understand that God, the potter, will not be manipulated. How crazy for the pot to think it can question or make demands on the potter. God will be God and though my questions and demands will be tolerated, God remains unchanged in His course. The end will be exactly as God set it to be. Every knee, every tongue, will know He is Lord.


  2. Well, we have free will but God knows what course we will take already. One verse i think about when talking with people about if we are in control of our decisions or if God has made them for us is James 1:13. Clearly the multitude of wrong and evil decisions we make are not given to us from God. For me individually, I have found relief knowing that if i try to live my life by his instructions, there will still be strugles in life (Job 5:7,psalm 34:19)but God will not let them be to much to handle and will give reward for trying to live and obedient life (proverbs 13:21). The life of the church is the same. Just like with israel, when the majority turned from God there were many still living righteously for God but they suffered along with there community. I belive this is why we are given instruction in 1 corinthians 5:12-13 about not letting the church become corrupt with evil. Enough for tonight for me!
    Mike Patterson ( the younger version )

  3. God does have a plan, a plan for each one of us as we live in our family, our community and in this entire world. We have to remember that each one of us either follows God's plan for our life, or we don't. God designed each one of us SPECIFICALLY to do something to make a difference! How we act and react to one another and to God is what makes the world go around. In chapter 3 of 1st John, we realize that all of us make choices every day. We can choose to follow the ways of God, or to be of this world and belong to the devil. In Philippians 1:6, Paul tells us that God began this good work in us, and he won't stop before it is complete! That means it is an ongoing process. God is a risk-taker, and he proved it by giving each of us a free will to choose. Every quality that God gave us individually when he created us is a risk. Consider if God makes a person strong willed, outgoing and headstrong (like Paul). If they use it against God's will, they might trample God's people into oblivion. But if he makes us gentle and kind and soft, we may never stand up for our beliefs in God. God has to put together the pieces of a church before we are even born...the personalities, the mentalities, the spiritualities of the individuals, then place us and watch and react in an inconspicuous way through others in order to complete His plan. We have to remember that God is omnipotent which means he knows everything and can do anything, but this world is a place where we get to prove what is really in our heart (back to 1st John, chapter 3).

    God wants to claim all of us as his own, but like I said, he is all knowing! God knows we are human. That's why he gives us friends and mentors and leaders to keep us all moving in the right direction. I consider this moment in the life of our church and our country and world, a moment that I (we) have been learning and training for all of our lives. Each one of us is here for a purpose, specially made to make a difference. Our church and country has been blessed by God; that is pretty easy to see. But what does the future hold?

    God is using you this very moment Susan. God is bringing to our attention through this scripture that we have issues which are pressing as Christians, as United Methodists, as Americans. God has made us strong. This scripture simply says that if we start disobeying God and start doing evil, God will not help us. So what? What if our church and our country slips out of God's grasp? I'll just quite coming to church. I'll just live out on the back forty. I won't bother anybody, they don't need to bother me. But does life really work that way? No! We are all intertwined in God's master plan. Our interaction with others is how God changes the world. This scripture says something personally to each one of us. I've been a healthy farmer/family man for quite awhile. What if I don't answer the call or fit the mold God made me for? This scripture says that God will remold me. Do I want any part of that? NO WAY!! I've seen plenty of that happen to others right before my eyes...extreme changes in their lives and brokeness. Does that lead us back to God, if we lose our way? Seems like there's alot of that in the world today. Should I take notice now or just sit back and see what happens to me? I prefer to be an example for God instead of being made an example of, by God. But, of course, the choice lies within each one of us.