Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Philemon 1-25; Luke 14:25-35

Proper 18 (23) Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Proper 18C / Ordinary 23C / Pentecost 15 Textweek

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Come down to the potter’s house and reflect on God’s Word.’ Jeremiah uses the image of the potter to illustrate the Word and the Work of God, and to invite us to contemplate that same work. As we reflect on the shaping, forming and the reworking of the clay, it is interesting to consider the forces and influences that have shaped us - the forces that have shaped us personally and also those that have shaped the communities of which we are a part. A sobering conclusion to such a reflection is the realisation that we are ‘Just like the clay in the potter's hand’. Only when we can fully apprehend that realisation can we start to attend to the ‘Potter’ and/or ‘potters’ who are shaping us - just like the clay in the potter's hand, we are.

Consider some of the potters that have been and that continue to shape our own lives. Our parents give us our basic shape, a form, some values, and looking beyond the obvious parental influences, we can discover the roots of who we are that were formed in the early dynamics of our family of birth. It’s a worthwhile journey back to see those hands that gave us our initial shape.

Siblings and relatives give form to our place in the pecking order of life, and introduce us to shaping influences that take us beyond that primary shaping. Friends can reshape and rework all that is done by the family potters; the influence of ‘others’ who give interest and love from outside of our bloodline form in us an experience and an appreciation of family that extends beyond into community. School and teachers introduce a new team of potters who we are handed over to for reshaping and reworking. Likewise, our peers, significant others, our lovers, all have a hand in touching who we are and bringing that shape into reality. Circumstances shape us as well. Our country of birth gives shape to our being, forming in the British a stiff upper lip and in the South Africans a clarity to see things as black & white!

The longer we stay with Jeremiah’s analogy the more influences we might discover. The advent of the electric light has reworked us from a people tuned into the rhythm of the rising and setting sun. First radio and then television opened us to a whole new paradigm of relational experiences with fictional characters, each with the formative capacity that each and every real relationship embodies. The list seems endless - advertising, political spin, world events, travel, technology, medical advancements.

And as we reflect on these ‘potters’ so we might see ourselves, Just like the clay in the potter's hand. We have been shaped, and we continue to have the capacity for being reshaped and for being reworked.

We can also consider the larger vessels in the potter’s hands: the Church, the Anglican Church, St Paul’s, Australian, Western Australia. And once again a sobering conclusion as we reflect on the shaping of each of these vessels, for they too are Just like the clay in the potter's hand.

The insights we receive from Jeremiah’s contemplation are quite stunning. The obvious insight is for each of us, all of us, to attend to the potter or potters. Even those caught in one of life’s ruts are still subject to the shaping of wind and weather, of advertising, prejudice and fear. We are being reworked all the time. And those alive to life’s glory might also consider the forces that continue to form and rework in the guise of success, power, status and recognition.

The power of the potter to shape our lives is forever present; however, to be shaped by the Divine we must first put ourselves into Divine hands.

And there we could stop, but there is another important insight we can take from Jeremiah, for as the psalmist tells us, We are wonderfully made, and so we are, for we are made in the image of God. When the Word becomes flesh, we receive the capacity to undertake the work of the potter. This is readily evidenced in our primary family relationships, for just as our parents shaped us, so we too give shape to our children; more importantly we give shape to a world for all children. We are in each and every moment, potters who form the vessels that will hold tomorrow.

Watching the minor parties and the no-longer-independents shaping the next government of Australia is a travesty of the whole political process. However, it serves to illustrate how easily the role and the work of the potter is employed for purely self-interest. Jeremiah’s insight is so much more wonderful. We can give of ourselves, give of our fullness and our wholeness into the shaping of all that we touch in love. This is the Divine activity of creation, the very activity of God.

We hold many futures in our hand, and tomorrow cries out for our loving touch. We have the capacity to shape, and form and rework tomorrow. Delightful quote from Maria Robinson:

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.’

Father’s Day is also a time to reflect on the work of the potter - our heavenly father - and to see our part in the one divine story. Another delightful quote:“Children are living messages we send to a time and place we will never see.”

We are, in each moment, potters reshaping and reworking tomorrow. We hold many futures in our hand; tomorrow cries out for our loving touch. We have the capacity to shape, to form, to rework tomorrow. The only vessel we do not shape is ourselves, for we are

Just like the clay in the potter's hand.


Peter Humphris