You are the Potter, I am the Clay (09/08/13)

You are the Potter, I am the Clay

Jeremiah 18:1-6
18The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The 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. 5Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Have you watched the movie titled Machine Gun Preacher? This movie was released two years ago and I think not many of you watched it. This movie is based on the true story of the life of Sam Childers who turned his life from a heroin addict to a Christian-child-crusader.
Childers, now 51, is a self-described hillbilly who didn’t even finish high school. He started using drugs at age 11 and grew up to be a drug dealer and a completely amoral adult, reveling in sex and violence.
But his life was totally changed when his wife, Lynn, accepted Jesus Christ and helped bring him to Christ as well. After committing his life to Jesus, Childers kicked his drug addiction, built a church, became its preacher and managed a thriving construction business in Pennsylvania.

In 1998, he went to Uganda as a volunteer for a construction project. That one trip, which was supposed to last only a few weeks, drastically changed the course of his life, his family and of hundreds of children in southern Sudan. After witnessing firsthand how the militant rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (known as LRA) burned down villages, cut off people’s lips and forced children to be killing machines, Childers couldn’t return to his previous life in the United States.

Since the time of that trip, he has spent most of the year in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, where his ministry, Angels of East Africa, runs an orphanage that currently supports some 170 children.
The tough biker guy who melts into putty when talking about helpless children in Africa, is nicknamed the “machine gun preacher” for his unusual image as a Christian preacher who carries a machine gun and kills LRA soldiers in the name of protecting children.

He responded to God’s calling to be a disciple of Christ after seeing the reality in that part of Africa. He chose to pick up a machine gun and fight against the LRA soldiers. At one interview, he said that if your son, your daughter or your family were kidnapped by the LRA soldiers. What you gonna do? You should do whatever you need to take your family back safely. A machine gun is what I needed for it.

A few weeks ago, I preached about how hard it is to be a disciple of Christ. We know that following him has never been easy. To believe and accept Jesus’ Lordship involves a costly commitment. In order for us to be faithful followers, we need to live with the new order Jesus brought into our lives, not by might but by forgiveness, not by fear but by courage, not by power but by humility, not by hatred but by love. Do you remember this line? Yes. I hope so. Even though it is hard, we are here to worship God as disciples of Christ. May God bless each one of us.

Now I would like to ask you a question. How do you describe your identity as disciples? Childers, in the above story, chose to be a fighter with a machine gun in the name of Christ. I am not so sure if this is what Jesus wants from us. However, the one sure thing is that there is one thing to keep in our mind in order to be a disciple of Christ, a willing to be shaped by the potter’s hands, a willing to be obedient to the will of God.

In today’s text, we find one proper metaphor to consider the meaning of obedience. The potter and the clay. Let us look at our text first. The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”  Jeremiah goes to the potter’s house and watches him work. The pottery wheel spins, the hands of the potter surround the clay. 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.

Then, God says, “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” The good news is that God’s hands are upon us. Even though we may not always feel God’s presence or see God at work in our lives, we know that we are surrounded by God’s hands. The potter remains at the wheel, transforming our situations, shaping us for service, and envisioning our life, a renewed hope, and a bright future.

I once tried to make a clay pot and I remember that it was kind of a disaster.  The clay spun so rapidly on the wheel that each little wrong move I made created a weird clay pot.  First, I made one side higher than the other, so I molded the clay into a ball and started again. I made the edges too thick, then too thin.  When I finally made a rounded object, my thumb slipped and created a lip I didn’t want.  I finally gave up and said that I made an abstract clay pot.

Through that experience, I learned a few important things. First of all, the clay, though “spoiled,” remains clay. Likewise, God’s people, despite their wrongdoings, mistakes, or sins, remain God’s people. God always longs to remold and transform us even though we are distracted or compromised by something bad. As Christians we affirm God’s power to mend marred situations and to restore our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit can transform our hearts, and sanctify us. The Holy Spirit empowers us to build with God an honorable and just world. God is the potter and we are the clay.

Secondly, the clay is in the potter’s hands, surrounded and protected by them. 
Sometimes the vessel becomes marred. The potter reshapes it again and again with patience and works out the marred places in the vessel. The clay is never thrown away by the potter. No matter how misshaped it is, it is still regarded precious by the potter. Likewise, we are surrounded by the grace of God and protected by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are precious to God. God is the potter. We are the clay.

Thirdly, all vessels are not alike. Each vessel is unique in some way and is designed according to need. Each vessel is important. No vessels are created that are not useful or needed. Likewise, each one of us is created to serve God. We are all unique in some way. We are all needed and important.

Enslaved Africans in America penned the spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Despite their marred situation, they imply and testify in the song to God’s control. God is worthy of worship and holds them in God’s good and capable hands. God is the potter to shape them into a vessel so that they can serve God and live out their discipleships toward the world. When they sang this spiritual song, they confessed that God is the potter and we are the clay.

The way of Christ’s disciple is to faithfully say “You are the potter, I am the clay. I am never thrown away by God and I am always important to God.”

I will wrap up today’s sermon with the verses from Psalm 139 which we need to keep in our mind to be disciples of Christ. 
“Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?”
“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” 
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

Let us pray.
Dear Lord, Master Potter, work us into worthy and useful vessels that are equipped for your good work. Amen.