Summary: This is a sermon focusing on how God works with us to make us into what he needs us to be.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, house of Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.”
Freedom to be Broken
When I was in College, I took a pottery class. During this class, I became intimately familiar with clay. I became familiar with all of its little intricacies… I learned how stubborn it could be… and I learned just how much work it really took… to make a pot. The absolute most difficult thing about this entire class was working on the pottery wheel.
How many of you have ever worked on a pottery wheel. It is not easy. The very first time I sat down, I took a lump of clay and put it down on the wheel… I stepped on the foot pedal… and the clay flew off sideways and hit the guy next to me. Fortunately… he laughed!
I learned very quickly in that class that making a pot was hard. I learned that there is a lot involved in the process of making a pot. There is a lot you have to think about as a potter, a lot that you have to do make sure your pot succeeds. The process of working clay into pottery is truly a lot more detailed and complicated than many of us know.
It is a long process of working, shaping, baking, painting, and re-baking the clay. But even more amazing… that is only half of it. Before the clay can ever be worked by our hands… the clay itself needs to be prepared.
The clay that comes out of the earth is very raw and filled with imperfections. If you were to take clay right out of the ground, form it and fire it… most of it would either crumble or explode because the imperfections inside of it. In its natural state… clay is not ready to be made into anything.
The clay must be filtered, softened, and left for a long while to resettle and become the smooth and pliable clay that you and I would recognize. Then it is placed on a table and beaten with a wooden mallet. The Potter does this to remove any air bubbles that might be trapped in the clay. If he doesn’t, the air bubble will form a pocket that will produce a weak spot and cause the vessel to be fragile and unusable, or in extreme cases… explode when it is being fired in the kiln.
Clay in its original state is worthless to work with. In its natural state… clay is not ready to be made into anything. Now… in our Old Testament Scripture today… the analogy is spelled out for us quite clearly. All throughout the bible this same illustration smacks us in the face… brothers and sisters… we are the clay, and God is the potter.
Like the clay, we are worthless in our natural condition – in our natural state… we are not ready to be made into anything… however God is able to see the vessels that we can become, therefore, he begins the very long process that will bring us to a place of usefulness. He begins the way any potter begins with clay… by digging us out and washing us clean.
Just like any potter… if during the spinning process… the pot becomes mis-shaped, the Potter does not throw the clay away and start fresh with a new piece. How could he? He has already invested too much time in salvaging the clay from the soil and preparing it for use. He is a very patient Potter, always seeing the finished work of art before it is actually completed. He is willing to wait on the clay… always working with it and not against it to bring it to the place the potter wants it to be.
That is the main lesson of our scripture text today. God took Jeremiah, the young leader to see the potter’s shop. He witnessed the failing of the clay, the misshapenness and imperfections, and he saw the potter instinctively reach down and reshape that flawed clay. The clay would rebel time after time and go its own way… but the potter did not give up on it… he kept working with it, kept building it up, and kept picking it up every time it fell.