Theme – The Potter
Jeremiah at the Potter’s House
18 The Lord said to me, 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, where I will give you my message.” 3 So I went there and saw the potter working at his wheel. 4 Whenever a piece of pottery turned out imperfect, he would take the clay and make it into something else.
5 Then the Lord said to me, 6 “Don’t I have the right to do with you people of Israel what the potter did with the clay? You are in my hands just like clay in the potter’s hands. 7 If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, 8 but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. 9 On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, 10 but then that nation disobeys me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would. 11 Now then, tell the people of Judah and of Jerusalem that I am making plans against them and getting ready to punish them. Tell them to stop living sinful lives—to change their ways and the things they are doing.
The Cost of Being a Disciple
25 Once when large crowds of people were going along with Jesus, he turned and said to them, 26 “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. 27 Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples. 28 If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and figure out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. 29 If you don’t, you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will make fun of you. 30 ‘You began to build but can’t finish the job!’ they will say. 31 If a king goes out with ten thousand men to fight another king who comes against him with twenty thousand men, he will sit down first and decide if he is strong enough to face that other king. 32 If he isn’t, he will send messengers to meet the other king to ask for terms of peace while he is still a long way off. 33 In the same way,” concluded Jesus, “none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.
I have noticed the powerful effect of salt in Colombo. It erodes metal. It provides powerful flavours to food and it protects food.
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight
Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen
This sermon is a bit like a detective tv programme, all will be revealed but only at the very end, so I invite you to stay with the plot.
The story begins with an old prophet called Jeremiah. Prophets have a hard time in every era. The have to listen carefully for God’s word to them, which comes in literally 100’s of ways. Then they have to take the message to the people. It is easy if the message is good news, however…
Often they are called to reveal to the king, leaders and people a challenging message and the people do not want to listen or act on the word from God. Often the King if he didn’t like the prophecy he would call prophet or group of prophets to present a gentler message. If you read the whole of Jeremiah you will see the old prophet facing that very situation himself, but not today. Today it sounds as though he has an easy task.
The Jews never use the actual name of God, which is considered too holy to utter, but they have no end of descriptions of God to help people understand God message to them at a particular time.
Jeremiah is called by God to go to the Potter’s house. The role of the Potter has not change since his day and here he is to get a message. Potters shape God given clay in to useful plates cups and cooking pots. It is sounding like a gentle, helpful encounter between God the prophet and the people. Indeed it begins with him seeing when the cup does not turn out properly, the prophet can reshape it into some other useful item, so far so good.
“2Then the Lord said to me, 6 “Don’t I have the right to do with you people of Israel what the potter did with the clay? You are in my hands just like clay in the potter’s hands.” If you are addressing the maker of heaven and earth, then how can you disagree.
The simple logic takes a dramatic twist, 7 “If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, 8 but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. 9 HOWEVER, On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, 10 but then that nation disobeys me and does evil…
Tell the people I am making plans against them and getting ready to punish them. Tell them to stop living sinful lives—to change their ways and the things they are doing.” Jeremiah has a mighty task to challenge not one person but a whole nation.
Any volunteers to have quiet word with Mr Trump and the US people concerning climate change.
or Mr Putin concerning meddling in other nations affairs. Mr Xi Jimping about democracy in Hong Kong or Mr Netanyahu about justice for all in Israel/Palestine. Mr Boris Johnson about the sovereign right of the UK parliament. It is not easy to be a prophet.
However we are gathered today as Christians so none of that affects us in sunny Sri Lanka…
Mmm, what did our Lord Jesus say in our New Testament reading.
“Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. 27 Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples.”
In many translations it uses the word hate Unless we hate at verse 26 our Father’s and Mother’s.
The best scholar’s say that to hate is a Semitic expression meaning to turn away from, to detach from. There is none of the aggressive emotion people use when they say, “ I hate you”. In fact both the Old T and New T are full of calls to love care and nourish our families.(1 Tim 5.8).
So let us get this clear before we solve this plot. What is demanded on disciples, then and now is within the network of loyalties in which we all live – the claim of Christ’s comes first. It has consequences for the individual and community of faith. This is the call of discipleship, this is the beginning of carrying our own cross.
Let’s move to the conclusion. Luke, the writer is clever and uses words and ideas well. He puts at the end of this difficult teaching from Jesus a short saying about worthless salt, which in my mind ties these two passages concerning the Potter and the cross together.
34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. 35 It is no good for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown away.”
The Christian community at its has been a salty one – attempting to erode evil by introducing education and healthy care worldwide. While adding flavour to society by encouraging high culture
In arts and music finally seeking to preserve the best of the planet, people’s and cultures, though not always succeeding. I am gong to give you one Image to take home and contemplate with this week.
It is a cross I fashioned out of common household salt.
I am happy to chat to people about what that image may say to you today as a Christian in trying times.
Thanks Be to God. Amen.