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The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. (Jer 18:1-4 NKJV)

Jeremiah and the story of the potter with the clay, a story all of us have heard many times a story that is fascinating to me in what it pictures for us. It also reminds me of the Genesis story of God forming man from the clay of the earth. I have a friend who is a pastor but also a potter, he makes beautiful utensils to use in God’s service.
The picture this week is of a potter making a pot, which pot becomes misshapen and the potter beats it back down and starts over. God says to Jeremiah: Jer 18:5-6 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” Of course, this is again God saying, HEY, what is wrong with you, if you don’t get right then you are going to have to pay the consequences.
I tried making pots, failed at it, but also learned that a potter works with a wheel, the clay sits on a stone and the stone sits on a turntable. As the turntable moves the clay comes into contact with the potters hands. It is in the moving that the potter is able to apply proper pressure to the clay. The pressure of the potters hands is what forms the pot, as the potter envisions it.

In the same way, the turns of life, help God to mold and shape us as we move through the circumstances of living our lives. The pressures of God’s hands against our hearts and minds, help to bring us through tough times and mold us into that person we are meant to be. Of course sometimes we rebel, we push back, or we run away from that which is pushing against us. That is when the pot becomes misshapen and needs to be re-molded and re-shaped so that the pot that we are may again move toward God.
This reading continues on to say: Jer:18:7-10 “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.”
Notice that in this version of the scripture the word that is used for God is relent, not repent. In the King James Version and some modern versions such as the 21st Century version. Some even say that God, will change his mind. Now that is not what the Hebrew says. It does not speak of repenting, nor of changing minds, the Hebrew says that God will “heave a sigh” either of regret or of gladness, depending on the circumstances involved. I think the word that comes closest to what happens here is that God will relent from the action rather than that he will repent of it. God doesn’t need to repent, which means turning around and moving in a new direction.
Humans, sinners that we are, do need repentance in our lives, for as we repent of our sinfulness God is able to work in us to remold us and shape us anew, into the image that we first held. For we were made in the image of God, and it is through this shaping and molding, as on a potters wheel with a potters hand guiding the clay by the pressure he uses on that clay shapes and molds it into the object he envisioned for it. The potter as he works with the clay may come upon a bit of stone that is embedded in the clay, or perhaps an air pocket, which will spoil the work, the potter does not throw it away, he rather begins anew with that pile of clay.
He removes that which spoils the pot, so that he can begin anew to fashion that pot in the way he sees it in his mind. So too does God work in His people to work in us to remove those things in our lives that make us less than what God has envisioned for us. When God had finished his creative work and he looked at all he had made: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Gen 1:31 ESV.
Back to man, you and me as well as those who Jeremiah was talking to as God gave him the words. Whatever has happened to repentance? I mean, we like to think that Church is about comfort, about fellowship, good stuff that fills us up on Sunday so we can get through the week ahead. That is not what church is all about, it has to do with worship of God, with coming into the presence of the almighty and seeing ourselves as we really are in relation to Him. I often wonder why God bothers with us, we are after all flawed. We live in a flawed world, and as Isaiah said as he encountered God in the temple, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
In other words, woe is me a sinner, I have seen God and I will surely die for having seen. When we come into the presence of God in worship, we realize just how awesome He is, we also realize that we come before Him only because of His grace. Perhaps church should be the place where the pressure of the potters hands would be the most felt, for as we come before the majesty of the Almighty we must also realize that His perfection can be seen, because of Jesus Christ who came to live among us. The very person of God in the form of a man, came to live as we do, and to give his sinless life as an atonement for our sins. Yours and mine, as well as all the other sinners of the world.
Abraham Lincoln a great man and a great president, yet he knew about repentance, he called for a national day of prayer and fasting. Lincoln knew that the North had been complicit in the crime of slavery. In the years before the War between the States, we call it the Civil War, but there is nothing civil about war. Congress had admitted states only in pairs, one slave, one free to keep the balance between the states. In 1854 the Supreme Court gave us the Dred Scott decision, declaring a runaway slave as property, denying personhood to all those trapped in slavery. A horrid war, pitting brother against brother, killing thousands. In the middle of the carnage, Lincoln issued the 1863 proclamation, which was submitted to Congress, and it used the following language: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.” At Thanksgiving he invited the nation to join in celebrating the “gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
Join me in humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” Let us today remember that the bounties God has bestowed upon us, are given because of His grace and His mercy, not because we are deserving, or because we have done good things.” Jesus, died, to set men free. Many are still in bondage around the globe, many still suffer, and perhaps it is time that we prostrate ourselves before the Lord our God and implore His mercy. We sing, God bless America, perhaps, if America would turn from our own sinfulness, and began to bless God once again, returning Him to His rightful place in society, we would receive that which we desire, the blessing of God upon our land.

We are also called to stand for right, to stand in the gap, protect the innocent, the widow and orphan, those who are weak and unable to defend themselves. I see what is happening in the Middle East, I see the destruction of places and of people. I see babies murdered, women sold into slavery, men their throats slashed, and I see we do nothing. We do not act to stop the violence against those who cannot act for themselves, instead our nation gives lip service to fighting the enemy. We have become a nation of cowardly people, unable or unwilling to stand for what we know is right and instead we look to others to take care of what is wrong in the world. The truth is, there is no one else to stand for the oppressed, we were a great nation, blessed by God, I believe that if we continue on the path we are on today, that blessing will be removed from our nation. I call upon those who claim to be Christ followers, and yet do not the things of God. Stand up, be counted, follow that which is good and right and holy, act to right the wrongs that are being perpetrated every day, against women, children and old men, the weak of the world. Right the wrongs that are being perpetrated by our own weak and ineffectual government, which refuses to act against the hate in the world, and instead enslaves its own people. Wake up America, we are rapidly becoming a godless people, a people who depend on government instead of our own God-given abilities and rights as a free and sovereign people. Repent of the evil in our own land, and allow God to remake and remold us into the image we once held, the image of God.
He did not just die for you and me, he died for all men and women everywhere and everywhen, we are his people, and he is the potter, working at his wheel to make us over again, to remake us into His image once more, so that we may be as He is. When we come into his presence, it should be with an humble heart, and a repentant spirit, for He is God and that brethren really is the truth of the matter. It is he who has made us, not we ourselves, and he continues to work at us, remolding and reshaping us into that image that caused Him to say “It is very Good.”

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In today’s reading from John 1:1-18 NKJV  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2)  He was in the beginning with God.  (3)  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  (4)  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  (5)  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  (6)  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  (7)  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.  (8)  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  (9)  That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.  (10)  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  (11)  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  (12)  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  (13)  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  (14)  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  (15)  John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”  (16)  And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.  (17)  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  (18)  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

We hear “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” In Genesis 1:3 we read: “Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” God said and the creation was. That is how the Bible shows us God, it is the way in which God reveals Himself to us, and it is the way in which we see that God keeps His word.

So many of us, want some kind of proof of God’s being, of God caring, yet that evidence is all around us and we don’t see it. There are schools of thought that want us to believe that God created the world and everything in it and then left it to its own devices, but scripture tells us that God acted throughout history. When God first created the world, He also created a man and a woman, in His own image they were created. We read this in the first chapter of Genesis, where God says: “Let us make man in our image…..male and female created He them.” He then goes on to put them in the garden to till it and to care for it. However there is more to it than that, God also was the one who came and walked with them in the garden in the cool of the evening. God did not create man and woman to be robots but to be God’s own companions. Why would God create a companion and then go off to someplace else and abandon His companion?

Later, when they sinned and God banished them from the garden, He was still around. When Cain killed his brother, God was there to judge the actions, and to mitigate the punishment. When man became so depraved that God grew weary of him and his activity, He also acted to save a remnant through Noah and his family. Is that a God who has forgotten about His creation? Again we find God calling Abram to come out of Ur and go to a land he was not familiar with, then walking with Abraham and talking with him in a personal way. We find that God came and ate a meal with Abraham and even that Abraham had a conversation where he was able to speak to God as you and I would to one another. Remember the conversation? “God would you destroy the city if there were 50 righteous people, or 40 or 10?” God spoke to Abraham as to a friend, as to a companion, as to one He loved. God came and wrestled with Jacob and called him Israel, that is one of those great stories in the Old Testament, God comes down to wrestle with His people, to talk with them and to help them to understand.

The Bible is full of these wonderful stories, stories that help us to understand God and that help us to see how the people of God have changed their own understanding of God through the centuries, reading today in Jeremiah 31:7-14 we find a wonderful example of God’s working with His people. In verses 10-14 we read:

Jeremiah 31:10 through Jeremiah 31:14 (NLT)

10″Listen to this message from the LORD, you nations of the world; proclaim it in distant coastlands: The LORD, who scattered his people, will gather them together and watch over them as a shepherd does his flock. 11 For the LORD has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them. 12 They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the many gifts the LORD has given them—the good crops of wheat, wine, and oil, and the healthy flocks and herds. Their life will be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows will be gone. 13 The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing. 14 I will supply the priests with an abundance of offerings. I will satisfy my people with my bounty. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

God did just that, He brought His people back from their captivity to again inhabit the land. Yet God’s people just as quickly forget that they are God’s people and sink, over and over again into apostasy. Not only the Jews of ancient times but you and I today. We forget that God is sovereign, that God is present, we don’t really want God to be present, except when it comes time to collect on the promises. Yes we want the goodies but we don’t want the responsibility of being a people set apart for a good work. We like to accept the gift of God, the life of His Son as our redeemer, but, since Jesus has already done the work we want to just rest on that, and go on and do as we please with no repercussions. It didn’t work for the people of Israel, it will not work for you and I.

The truth is that we look back at what God has done in the past for His people, Israel, and we think we are better than they are, that because Jesus died on the cross, all persons will be saved, all will be OK. We expect God to have infinite mercy without Justice, but that has never been so, and will not be so today either. God requires of those who would follow Him to do Justice as well as Mercy. For He is a Just God as well as a merciful one.

Just as God looked for the people of Israel to be changed into new persons, just as He looked for them to be holy, and to do justice to one another and to those who lived in the land, so to does He expect us to be holy and righteous. We read in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus that God has adopted us into His family in Christ, that we have a purpose and that purpose is to praise God and to be His people. All of the gospel centers around our being God’s people, set apart for good works, and for holy living.

God tells us that we are His, because of the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ, and that we are to be a holy people, set apart, not to be a people of the society around us, but rather we are to influence that society so that it will be changed as well. We who have received the Spirit of God and have been transformed into the image of Christ, are also the recipients of eternal life in the presence of God, through that same Jesus Christ. We have received the gifts of the Spirit as we are told by Paul, and those gifts help us to live in a way that sets us apart and helps us to bring the gospel to those around us.

In remembering that past, and in looking forward to that future where we will be in the presence of our savior always, we will today renew our covenant with God and with one another, simply because we need to remind ourselves and each other who it is we are. We have taken on a name, we have taken on a task, and we have said that we will be the people of God. After we renew that covenant we will also partake of the communion meal, and have a time of fellowship together with one another, a time for us to renew ourselves and to remind each other that we are family, we have been adopted into the family of God and as such are brothers and sisters together in this journey toward the promised land.

Let us come together today, as we renew our covenant with one another and with God, and as we participate in the Eucharist understanding that we are moving toward a bright and beautiful future, because God has acted, is acting and will continue to act in the lives of His people. We are striving for perfection, perfection in love that we might perfectly reflect the love of Christ in our lives and for those around us. Let your light shine beloved that the world around you may come to know that Jesus Christ is alive and well right here where you are.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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Pastor and Wife

John & Yvonne Quigley, John is a retired Pastor in the UMC. This blog is about the journey I am on with Christ.