Summary: You Are A Divine Masterpiece 1) Formed in love; 2) Reformed by grace
What’s the most impressive sculpture you’ve seen? The city of St. Albert owns a number of expensive sculptures that are on display behind city hall. They’re nice but I am partial to the pottery of Japan. Three hours north of Tokyo is a pottery town called Mashiko which as a boy I visited often with my family. The streets of Mashiko are lined with potters’ studios filled with aesthetically pleasing bowls, plates, and cups. Yet none of these pieces of artwork can compare with God’s masterpiece. I’m not referring to the Grand Canyon or to the Canadian Rockies. I’m talking about the human race. Today we’re going to learn that you are a divine masterpiece: formed in love, and reformed by grace.
When Sarah and I visited Mashiko a few years ago we were hoping to pick up some unique dinner plates to bring home with us. We couldn’t afford to buy very much however. The starting price for a large plate was $120! It didn’t seem like pottery should cost that much because, after all, it’s nothing more than clay, not gold or silver. What you are paying for of course is the love, care, and the creativity that went into making that piece.
We humans are lot like pottery. If we were to break our body down to its basic elements like oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, we’d only get $5 for it on the open market. (http://soundmedicine.iu.edu/archive/2003/quiz/humanWorth.html) But if we were to sell off our various organs like the heart and liver, we could easily make over $40 million dollars! So what makes our bodies so valuable if we’re made from dirt? The fact that an almighty creator formed us in love makes us valuable. Just think of the care God exercised in making Adam from the dust of the ground. Did God wear a work apron as he bent over Adam in an open field in the Garden of Eden carefully sculpting his nose? Did he use a tool to help shape the fine detail of Adam’s eyelashes? And how exactly did God craft the heart and the muscles inside Adam’s body?
Adam must have been some masterpiece when God was finished with him, but so are you! In Psalm 139:13 King David wrote: “you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” We too have been formed in love and are a divine masterpiece. Sadly, we don’t always see ourselves that way. Instead of thanking God for the body he gave us, we wish we had a smaller nose, broader shoulders, and more hair. But God made each of us the way he wanted us to be and he did so in love. And so we will sing with David: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a).
Because God created each one of us to be a divine masterpiece, we’ll want to help care for each other. You don’t do that by laughing about the way the new kid looks. Teasing another because of their body figure is not a harmless pastime. Posting unflattering pictures of others and commenting on one’s supposed physical shortcomings is not just rude and hurtful it’s sinful because you’re also making fun of God’s handiwork.
But if we’ve all been so wonderfully made, why do joints ache when the weather changes? Why do heads throb for hours on end? Why do tummies bubble over leaving us dehydrated and curled up on the couch like a forgotten autumn leaf? Why should we sing our Maker’s praises when we wouldn’t do the same for an automotive company whose cars start breaking down after only a few years of use? While God formed us in love we have been deformed by sin. That’s why we suffer disease and will face death one day.
But what’s even worse than the physical discomfort is the spiritual deformation sin has caused. In our text God illustrated for the prophet Jeremiah what sin had done to the Israelites. While Jeremiah was watching a potter at work he witnessed how the clay in the potter’s hands started to fall apart (Jeremiah 18:4a). That was just like the Israelites. God had taken them in his hands to be a special vessel to carry his Word and the promise of a Messiah. But the Israelites didn’t want any part of it. They had their own ideas for worship. It was more convenient for them to worship the gods of their heathen neighbors than to faithfully trek to Jerusalem to worship the one true God.
We’re a lot like those Israelites. God formed us to value what he values: his Word, fellow Christians, and the lost who don’t know Jesus. But we often value more what sinful society prizes: money, time to ourselves, and the power to boss others around. And so instead of loving our neighbors we curse them for not shoveling their patch of sidewalk. We walk around the schoolmate who has dropped her papers and books snickering instead of stooping to help pick them up. So what should God do with us defective pieces of clay? He should scrap us and reach for better clay. But that’s not what the potter Jeremiah was watching did. Instead that potter worked his defective piece of clay into something else that was useful (Jeremiah 18:4b). This is also God’s response to our sin: he reforms us by grace.