The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:
‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’
So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.
The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him…
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
By Rev. Canon Val Kenyon
The prophet Jeremiah was sent to the children of Israel at a difficult time, as they adjusted to their lives in captivity in Babylon.
Having left all that was familiar to them, they were told by God to get comfortable in this new land, because they were going to be in it for a while.
In the verses above, we join Jeremiah as he visits the potter, bent over his wheel, concentrating on his job, likely spattered with clay from head to foot, to see skilled hands pressing and shaping and reshaping the spinning clay to draw forth from it something useful, something of beauty.
It is difficult to imagine that Jeremiah had not seen this same potter, hard at work, many times in his life. On this particular day that Jeremiah would visit, he saw exactly what he knew he would find. No surprises there.
I doubt there was a single Israelite hearing the words of Jeremiah who would not have been keenly aware of the work of the potter. So, it was not to show Jeremiah something new that God sent him to the Potter’s house on the day we read of in this reading, but it was rather that this time, God would use this familiar scene to speak to Jeremiah, to give him a new understanding of their relationship with God. And so, we hear, “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
It continues to astound me how often God brings fresh understanding to us through the use of the familiar, leaving us feeling at some points in our lives, feeling the poking and prodding of the presence of God, the shaping and reshaping (and sometimes even the fire of the kiln) of our perspectives, actions and reaction. And while of course, God the potter does indeed work in our lives as individuals, today Jeremiah’s words are being spoken to an entire community, to God’s people as a whole. For when prophets spoke, the intention of their message was often to affect a community change, to encourage their listeners in their lives together to think about their choices, their actions, their reactions, and to allow God's Spirit to work in their lives as a community, to move them always in the direction of God’s ways and principles.
We all know that living in a community, committing ourselves to a group of people with whom we share a common faith, is both a fulfilling and a challenging experience. In all of this God continues to work in us, shaping and reshaping us for our role in God’s outstretched arm of love to the world. It is helpful to remember that the poking and the prodding are all part of this process.
The month of September is for many of us much more of a New Year’s event than ever January 1 is, as it is in the Fall of each year in so many ways we begin again, coming back together after time away, pauses, rest and reflection. It is a season bursting, full of potential, and full of expectation.
As our Education for Ministry classes begin again, why not consider joining one of our groups, to join with other like-minded people, striving to stay open to the ongoing poking and prodding of God’s Spirit in our lives.
We have set aside an evening early in September, Wednesday, September 7th at 7pm to answer any question you might have. If this date, time, or format do not work for you, please reach out at any time to hear more about EfM within the Diocese of Huron. Either Libi Clifford, the Diocese of Huron EfM Coordinator or myself Val Kenyon, Huron’s EfM Animator at firstname.lastname@example.org would be pleased to hear from you.
Rev. Canon Dr. Val Kenyon is EFM Animator in Huron.