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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, September 10, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 18:1–11

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. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can 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. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.

Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings. (NRSV)

I remember a worship service in which a potter sat at a wheel on the chancel and spun a pot during the sermon on this text from Jeremiah. There was a video camera mounted above the wheel that was projecting on screens the potter’s every move. I don’t remember a word of that sermon.

That God shapes us like a potter fashions a vase is beautiful and comforting, but it’s not quite the point God is telling Jeremiah to impress upon the people. Rather, God wants people to hear that they can be reworked in God’s hands if God so chooses. Other peoples can be too. 

God is almost boastful here about the divine prerogative to mind-changing. I note that because there was a time in my faith when a belief in the unchanging character of God felt incredibly important. I was younger then, and nothing in my life felt settled, though I badly wanted it to be. If my purpose and my relationships weren’t, then God could be. God was. 

Maybe let’s move from a pottery metaphor to a musical one. What I hear God ordering the prophet to report here is that the divine purpose is not an original recording that we only need to memorize and keep with us. There’s a remix, and one of the things affecting the evolution of the track is us, what we’re doing and how we’re changing. We’re part of the music. “Turn,” “amend,” and “change” are invitations as much as warnings. It’s less like God is the musician and we are the audience, and it’s more like we’re the instruments and God is the producer. 

Ever-changing God, your desire for us is constant and your mercy is never-ending. Amend our ways when they are out of tune with your purpose for us and your world, that all would know your goodness. Amen. 

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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