The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “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. Then the word of the Lord came to me: 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.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love pottery. I own several communion chalices that are made of pottery. They’re all boxed up at the moment because I haven’t unpacked all the boxes since I moved out of my office.
Several summers ago, my son and I visited Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, on one of our vacations. Much to his dismay, I spent a tremendous amount of time in their pottery shop, while he tried to stave off the boredom.
I have long been fascinated by the image of the potter in Scripture. The image of God as the potter was ingrained into me early in life when I first heard the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”
Have thine own way lord!
Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me
after thy will,
while I am waiting,
yielded and still.
It takes the hands of a skilled potter to mold a formless lump of clay into a work of art. That shapeless mass is at the mercy of the artisan’s inspiration. Anyone lacking the experience, or the training, could ruin a potential masterpiece.
The potter working with the clay reminds us that God is at work in us. We are that clay in the potter’s hands.
And yet, we are never a finished product. God continues to shape us and mold us throughout our time here on earth. According to Anathea E. Portier-Young, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Duke University Divinity School, “God labors tirelessly at the wheel on our behalf. God assesses our character, perceives our strengths and our weaknesses, builds on our strengths, and, when flaws are found in us, works diligently to remedy them.”
But at the same time, we are humans, not lumps of clay. And there is a rebellious nature in us that doesn’t want to be formed according to God’s will. That’s what happened to Israel and led them to captivity and exile.
In similar fashion, our arrogance, our self-centeredness, often deceives us into thinking that God has nothing to do with what happens to us here on earth. The consequences of such reasoning are evident in our society today. The examples are too numerous to mention in this brief reflection. If you’ve been following this blog throughout the Lenten season, you have a pretty good idea already.
Yet, there is hope. I have a book in my study entitled, All You Really Need to Know about Prayer You Can Learn from the Poor, by an author named Louise Perrotta. I often use it to lead devotions, but I also pick it up from time to time to remind myself that I need to trust God more. This book contains a series of short interviews and biographies of religious workers and their interaction with the poor of the Caribbean. What you learn by reading these vignettes is that those with the least trust God the most.
Those who are poor teach us to trust God because all that we have is from God. If we’ve learned nothing from this past year, hopefully we’ve reached the conclusion that no matter how bad things get the possibility for good remains. We never know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.
“Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand,” God says.
Therein lies the key.
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