Summary: There is a spiritual gift in the life of those who die in the Lord.
Jars of Clay
Dying, Christ destroyed our death.
Rising, Christ restored our life.
Christ will come again in glory.
Here and now, dear friends, we are God’s children.
What we shall be has not been revealed,
But we know when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Those who have this hope purify themselves as Christ is pure.
Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and I am the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I died, and behold I am alive forever more, and I hold the keys of hell and death. Because I live, you shall also live."
Let Us Pray
O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, ;that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
In the presence of mine enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We live in an age that likes to make things that last. We have our plastic and non-breakable jars and cups. We buy a battery and are given a guarantee that it will last as long as we own our car. We all would like a guarantee that we could last forever. Wouldn’t that be great?
Maybe we would just love to live 102 years like Mrs. S. did. When someone gets that old there is a sense where you think they are going to five forever just because it seems like they have already. Yet that is not the image that Paul gives us in this passage. If anything, Paul paints a somewhat bleak image of human life. We are like a clay pot or earthen vessel. Pottery that can crack, get chipped and broken if dropped. Paul is telling us that life takes its toll on our physical strength and stamina. We wear out. The body is made of material that will not last forever.
It is like a vessel that is to be used. It is meant to be filled and emptied for some constructive purpose. It is the medium through which some good and needed element is made available. Perhaps this container is used for medicine for the sick, water for the thirsty, or soup for the hungry. As the vessel of life, the human body is used to benefit others, but is itself wasted away. Like the candle that gives forth light, it grows shorter with each passing hour until all its resources are expended.
From what I have learned about Mrs. S., she was one who expended herself in service to others. By today’s standards you might say that she was only a plain housekeeper or housewife, but from the lives she touched there would be disagreement. No, she raised a family of 6 children, loving and caring for them. She was committed to her husband and was a grandmother and more to what to some would seem like countless grand- and great- and even greater- grandchildren. Maybe you ate a meal that she cooked, or received a present she made, or was the person she lifted up in prayer. You each have those special memories of her life as a testimony to how she expended herself for others.
As Paul says, "Outwardly, we are wasting away." It is appointed to all people to die and the inevitable physical deterioration cannot be avoided. I believe that those who saw and visited Mrs. S could see the physical changes in her. The slowness of movement and thought. We knew that it would inevitably happen, but it was still difficult to watch. But if this was the end of the story, then indeed we would have reason for great despair. We are told that there is a great treasure hidden within this clay pot or earthen vessel. Within the hearts of those who have faith in Jesus Christ there is a spiritual treasure.