In the fall of 2014 I traveled over to Bailey, NC to meet with my friend Dan Finch. I was on a mission. You see, in December I was going to participate in a wedding – my own – and the first thing Cathy and I wanted to do as husband and wife was serve our wedding guests communion. Dan is a potter extra-ordinaire, and he invited me to sit down beside him and watch him “throw” several pots. He potted and talked – I watched and listened. He shaped and re-shaped several clay vessels, told me I would be able to choose my favorite after they had all been fired in the kiln. (The set I chose is pictured below.) The whole thing was a bit surreal, maybe because of my familiarity with the biblical witness.
We know the story of Jeremiah. For thirteen years King Josiah and the prophet Jeremiah were the Batman and Robin of Judah. As Eugene Peterson describes this partnership:
“…the young king and youthful prophet were allies in leading a major reformation in Judah, restoring the ravished, decimated, corrupted people of God as a true worshipping community. Josiah tore down the sex and religion shrines – smashed the furnaces used for child sacrifice. Jeremiah preached sermons of repentance and forgiveness – wept rivers of tears lamenting the depth of degradation – exposed the lies that passed for religion in the popular preaching of his day – challenged the superficial messages from the priests that said everything was going to be alright. “
In Chapter 18 Jeremiah gets the nudge from God and leaves Jerusalem for a new glimpse of the Creator. The glimpse God gives is not given in the Temple – The Temple had been transformed into a cross between Wal-Mart and The Best Little (Well You Know) In Texas. God leads Jeremiah away from the Temple and outside of the city to show the prophet Who God is and what God can do. A profound lesson for the prophet – not taught in a “holy temple”, but in the workshop of a potter. The Gehenna Valley is where almost all the potters set up shop in those days. The air would have been thick with the smoke of their many kilns. They were sophisticated and skilled craftsmen, who baked their earthenware creations; vessels made upon stone wheels on which they “threw” their pots. Watching one such potter at work, Jeremiah hears God’s commentary on what was unfolding before his eyes.
there he was working at his wheel. 4 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. Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this
potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you
in my hand, O house of Israel? Jeremiah 18
This is a message over 2500 years old and we still struggle to hear it. We struggle because we expect God to operate on our terms, rather than the other way around. Yet, God took Ezekiel to a far away desolate valley to help him hear the rattling of dry bones. And God invited Ezekiel out of the Temple to the arid Aribah to show him a life-giving stream – flowing out from the temple. The stream made the desert blossom.
This should remind us that God is the STAR of the show… God alone has the power to transform… And we all know there’s a lot of transforming that needs to be done. Most of it needs to begin with the person whose reflection we see in the mirror. The prophets remind us that God is the only One who can rework these cracked pots into vessels which can carry a measure of God’s grace. Only GOD can offer this hope:
“Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand,…”
Still In ONE Peace,
Jon (the Methodist)
If you would like to view past editions of How Sweet the Sound, follow this link: https://sounddistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/