When I was in college, I often went to the campus ceramics center to relax from my studies by crafting earthenware dishes, vases, and other vessels. I would take a lump of clay and throw it down several times on a hard surface to remove any air bubbles that could explode when the pottery was fired in the kiln. Throwing the clay also softened it and made it easier to shape on the wheel. If I discovered a hard lump or a hidden air pocket while manipulating the clay, I would smash the project down and begin again.
After hand-molding the spinning wet clay into its intended form, I would relax my grip and set my work aside to be dried, decorated, and finally baked in the fiery furnace, where a transformation takes place. The clay, once nothing more than wet mud, experiences an internal structural change that gives it a hardened crystalline permanence that can never be reversed.
With a fresh vision, Jeremiah watched the potter fashion an ordinary, everyday vessel. As the potter shaped the clay, Jeremiah realized that he was looking at himself, humanity, and Israel. The turning wheel was essential for the potter to squeeze and nudge the clay into the desired product—much like how circumstances will give a particular fit or form to life. But when an imperfection was revealed, the potter remolded the clay into a new vessel. Once just slimy mud, the clay in the potter’s hand became the beginning of something elegant and permanent. And then Jeremiah saw that God is the Great Potter, with the power and skill to make the clay whatever he wants it to be, glazed with grace and beauty.
How willing are you to allow God to shape your life to fit into God’s perfect design?
Jeremiah brings another warning of impending judgment. If the people will not turn to the Lord, God will break the nation and reshape it, just as a potter breaks down and reshapes clay on a wheel. The psalmist praises God for God’s intimate knowledge of each one of us. Even from the moment of conception, God knows us and has a plan for our lives. Philemon is often overlooked, but it packs a punch. A text that some used in the past to justify slavery teaches a very different message. Paul warns Philemon not to enslave Onesimus again but to receive him back as a brother. Secular power structures have no place in God’s kingdom. In Luke, Jesus uses striking examples to teach us that the life of faith cannot be lived well with half-hearted commitment.
Read Jeremiah 18:1-11. As clay, how can you better respond to the Potter’s guiding hand?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. God knows you better than you know yourself, yet God has given you the ability to make your own decisions. How do you respond to God?
Read Philemon 1-21. How do you honor the full humanity of those who serve you through their work?
Read Luke 14:25-33. What does it mean for you to take up the cross in your life?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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