Things That Can Break

A reflection on Jeremiah 18: 1-11 from worship at Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church on Sunday September 8, 2013

Jer18_1-6potterswheel.jpg.960x

i Potters Wheel from St. Mary’s Press

I know that many of us come today to worship with heavy hearts.

Hearts full of worry, or fear.

Uncertainty.

The leaders of our country are drumming up the call to go to war once again.  In a place few of us know much about. We have see horrific images on the news.  And even though we do not know the people of Syria, we grieve for them.

When we begin to imagine or even get emotionally in touch with just a little bit of the trauma and fear they are living with our hearts are taken to the breaking point.  I’ve been brought to tears many times over the last few weeks.  I must confess that oftentimes I turn off the TV or look at some other news story on the Internet.  The pain overwhelms me.  And then I feel guilty for doing that, because to turn it off is a luxury that the people of Syria do not have.

I feel guilty for that.

But I am overwhelmed by the pain.

So I am listening.

I am listening to the voices of people who have been to Syria.

I am listening to the voices that are coming from our global mission partners in the region.

Let me share one of them with you today:

From the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon–

Dear Friends in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

We are deeply grateful for your prophetic stand against all kinds of  violence in Syria and your condemnation of the use of chemical attacks no matter who was the use.  We here at the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon suffer with all who have been affected by the tragedy in Syria for almost three years now.  We strongly condemn the use of chemical attacks and all kinds of violence that have caused immense suffering, death of thousands, displacement of millions and destruction of civilization.  We urge the international partners to refrain from the use of power against Syria as any strike from the USA or any other power, will only multiply the suffering and the human destruction….We appeal for help to stop violence and help to bring about peace and social justice—violence only breathes violence, and justice enhances life.  Help the Syrians have life, life in its abundance.  This is what we want to convey to the US Congress.  Blessed are the peacemakers. 

From the Washington Post

From the Washington Post

I do not personally know as much as I should about Syria.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Syria these last few months, trying to get caught up on the situation. But what I have learned over the last 10+ years of being involved in overseas mission work in Colombia and some in Cuba is that the voices of our partners must be given priority—and the best thing to do when you are in someone else’s country is to listen, not speak.

As I shared last weekend, I wanted to spend some time in September walking through the readings that will come to us from Jeremiah and talk about this prophet.  Jeremiah is oftentimes known as the “weeping prophet” because he suffered so greatly throughout his life for the prophetic message he knew he must bring to others, and the truth he must share with them.   Today’s message from Jeremiah is a description of a time when God called him to end the house of a potter and while there to hear God’s Word.  Jeremiah then describes a potter at his wheel, the clay has become misshapen—the pot he was making does not turn out the way it was intended.  And so the potter starts again.  As Jeremiah watches this artistic process, God begins to speak: “So it is the same with you and with your people Jeremiah.  You are clay in my hand.  I can rework you in any way I want.   If you go in the wrong direction, I will like the potter—ball you up all over again into a ball of clay and form you into something new.”

It is a strong message for both Jeremiah and the people he was called to lead.  The message is that God is invested in them, God is working on them, and that God is not afraid to bring them down low so they can start all over again.

I have been reflecting and praying this week about the image of the potter and the clay in Jeremiah up against our world events that are a huge part of our lives and our conversations today—but also up against our everyday lives and everyday personal challenges and joys we each face:

  • Where in our lives are glad that we are the clay in God’s hands?  Where in our lives or the life of the world do we want God to ball us up and start all over again with us?
  • Where in our lives are we afraid to be clay in God’s hands?  What in life do we think we have all figured out, perhaps something that is finally coming together that we have worked hard on.  That we do not want to see God rework?
  • Where in our lives do we long to be the clay in God’s hands?  Where do we know that we are vulnerable—where we are out of answers and we long and wish and pray for God to get involved and do something new?
  • Where do we make the mistake in believing that we are God and the clay of our lives or the life of our world is somehow in our hands?  And that we can rework and reform the clay in any way we see fit?
  • If we imagine God to be the great potter of our lives and the life of our world, what would be the prayers we would offer to God?  What would be the commitments we would make today?

I come to worship today without the answers—but very comforted by the idea that in the midst of terrible suffering and pain like that in Syria and even in our own lives that somehow God is still working out a way.  And that as God does that work, God needs us—God needs our partnership and our acts of faithfulness just as God needed that leadership from Jeremiah so many years ago.

As you arrived in worship today—you were handed a small bag with some clay in it.  For the next few minutes let us just sit in the silence with our many prayers, worries, joys, fears and celebrations that we have brought with us to this space today.

Sometimes our words and our thoughts get in the way of us hearing God speak to us, or experiencing the peace God wants for each of us.

Maybe this was happening to Jeremiah and this is why God took him to the potters house.  To help him rethink his idea of who was is and to rethink the idea of who he is in relation to God.

I believe that we need that same thing today—especially in a time such as this.  We need a different avenue to help us pray.  So, as we listen to some quiet music for the next few minutes take the clay out.  Warm it up in to a ball in your hands.  And then form it, in whatever way comes to you.  Don’t be afraid to ball it up and start over again.  Don’t judge what you make.  Just sit in silence with the clay and as you rub it between your hands close your eyes.

As you calm down your thinking brain let God’s Spirit speak to you….let us offer our prayers to the God who has called each of us….and let us see what God’s Spirit creates with the clay and our hands…

The scripture reading and clay all attendees at worship got to work with their hands with prayer.

The scripture reading and clay all attendees at worship got to work with their hands with prayer.

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