Summary: To be an effective Church we must be pliable clay in God's hand.
"God's Work of Art"
I have entitled this sermon, "God's Work of Art," but I am unsure as to whether this is an appropriate title or not.
Let's see where we go from here, and perhaps you can let me know if I gave this sermon a proper name.
Nowadays, pottery-making is an art form.
Very few people today use real pottery for anything except to show off.
We eat our meals, most of us, off of mass-produced plates.
If any of us owns a piece of pottery at all, chances are it's an art object we put on a shelf or whatever.
I remember making a clay bowl in art class as a young kid.
It didn't turn out real well.
It was a bit miss-shapen; it was a sad sort of thing.
I painted it blue and then it was fired in the kiln.
And I ended up giving it to my mom for either Mother's Day or her birthday.
She made a real big deal out of it though.
It stayed in our kitchen for many, many years...
...although it was never used to hold salad or anything else.
Even though it wasn't the most beautiful work of art in the world...
...my mom loved it...
...because her little boy had made it for her.
Back in Jeremiah's day rough clay pottery was what everybody used, and every town had its potter.
The Prophet Jeremiah needed a powerful metaphor to use in reference to Israel and what God was calling Israel to be, and so God told Jeremiah to "Go down to the potter's house, and I'll give you instructions about what to do there."
So, Jeremiah goes to the potter's house, and it's nothing fancy.
It's a small house, really, with the front room used as the shop.
And in the center of the room is the potter sitting at the potter's wheel.
With one foot he pumps a pedal, that causes the turntable to spin.
Except for the relatively recent edition of a motor, the technology of a potter's wheel hasn't changed much from Jeremiah's day.
It's one of the earliest machines ever invented by the human race.
We could imagine that the potter nodded to Jeremiah, but kept on with his work.
He stops the wheel from spinning, and removes the finished pot he has just made.
Then, the potter reaches into a barrel at his side, and pulls out a lump of moist, brown clay.
He forms it into a ball and throws it down on the wheel.
Then he begins the foot pedal again.
The ball of clay starts spinning faster and faster.
Then the potter wets his hands and gently applies pressure to the clay.
And before Jeremiah's eyes, that lump of clay starts to take shape.
First, it gets taller and thinner.
Then, it gets narrow at the base.
Next, the potter places his fist at the top of it, and presses down, as he hollows out the inside.
Jeremiah watches as the potter wets his fingers again, and presses in on the outside of the spinning pot, but the whole mass of clay starts to wobble.
And then it collapses.
So, the potter stops his wheel, and in the center is just a mass of clay.
But, this isn't the end of the clay.
The potter simply moistens his hands again, picks up that clay again, and forms it into a ball again.
Then he slaps that ball back down on the wheel, and gets back to business.