Summary: Sermon on the potter and the clay for Pentecost 14C
On an overhead slide, draw four symbols: a star, a plus sign, a circle and a square.
Ask the audience to pick one of the symbols and then share which sign they picked with the person sitting closest to them.
Then interpret the signs; “Research shows that if you picked the square, you are a workaholic. If you picked the circle, you are highly stressed. If you picked the plus sign, it means you love work but are stressed while you are there. If you picked the star you are having delusions of grandeur.”
How many of you want God’s best for your life? (Don’t raise hands, but think about these questions)
How many of you are willing to be molded by God to become exactly what He wants you to be?
How many of you would rather mold yourself and become exactly what you want to be?
Perhaps most of us want to become everything God wants us to be; the problem is that we fall short of God’s perfect plan for our lives. Too often, we take matters into our own hands and mess up God’s plan for us. We end up settling for God’s permissive will rather than His perfect will.
Such was the case in Jeremiah’s day. TWM to Jeremiah 18.
1. Commentators differ on the basic meaning of this narrative.
A. Some see it as a message of hope: the potter will not accept spoiled vessels but will remake them to his satisfaction; thus God will not accept defeat, but will accomplish good with his people (Cornhill) .
B. Others see it as a message of doom, based on v.11 (Geisebrecht). In any event, we must emphasize two things:
2. First, the clay is not altogether passive.
A. Any potter will affirm that because of the centrifugal force developed on the wheel, the clay presses hard against hands of the potter. The process of shaping pottery is therefore a extraordinary analogy for the work of god with his people.
B. Though he is sovereign, people have a will of their own which they exert against him.
3. Second, God can change his mind if the decision of his people warrants it.
A. His intentions, good or bad, may change pending the will of his people.
B. If his people disregard him, he may allow their destruction (vv.7, 11); however, if they return to him, he may change his mind (v.8). The reverse may also be true; those who enjoy success in their lives may suffer greatly when they disregard God.
4. In any event, God reminds his people that they are clay in his hands; a powerful image for Jeremiah – and us, too!
II. SOME PROBLEMS WITH CLAY
1. Internal Forces: (doing it my way)
A. As the centrifugal force pushes the clay outward against the potter’s hands, our desires, ambitions, and priorities (from within us) press against God’s control.
B. Sometimes force is great, sometimes subtle – but in every case, it works against God.
C. What forces do you exert against God’s shaping of your life? Are you in the career he chose for you? Do you share the intimacy with him that he intends you to share?
D. As the speed of the potter’s wheel increases, so does the centrifugal force (outward pressure). Conversely, the heavier the lump of clay, the greater the pressure.
i. Application: The greater our desire for self-fulfillment, the greater pressure is exerted against God’s will (hands). The pace of our life has the same effect (i.e. absence of quiet time, etc.)
2. Contamination: (what could it hurt?)
A. Comes from external sources, and ruins the vessel God wants to make of us. Satan contaminates us through:
i. The people we spend time with
ii. The “input” we receive (via books, TV, radio, etc.)
iii. The thoughts we entertain
B. The person you become in the next five years will be determined by the  books you read, and the  people you meet. Think about it – we control both of them!
C. Jesus taught that sin begins in a person’s thoughts. Therefore, Satan begins his attack in our minds – our thoughts, fantasies, daydreams, etc. It’s what you find your self thinking about when your minds starts to drift.
D. Guard your thoughts, choose your friends wisely, be selective in the input you allow into your mind – it is the greatest defense against contamination.
3. Dryness: (I don’t need/have time for)
A. Anyone who has worked with clay knows that it must remain moist to be pliable (that’s why you put the lid back on the play dough). If the clay becomes dry, it is useless – you can’t mold it, form it, or do anything else with it.
B. Spiritual dryness has the same effect on God’s people. Here’s how we become “dry”: