Shaped by Loving Hands – Br. David Vryhof

 Jeremiah 18:1-6

Jeremiah is sent by God to the potter’s house, where he learns an important lesson.  The image of the potter fashioning a vessel on his potter’s wheel would have been very familiar to Jeremiah’s audience.  It is familiar territory for us, too, since the shaping vessels of clay by hand on a potter’s wheel is still done in much the same way today.

What does Jeremiah notice as he observes the potter at work?

He notices first the clay.  As he watched the potter shape and mold the clay, Jeremiah knew that he was looking at a picture of himself, and of every person, and of every nation.  We are the clay, fashioned into useful vessels by God, the potter.  Jeremiah isn’t the only prophet to draw on this image: Isaiah and Zechariah also use it, as does Paul in his letter to the Romans.  Jeremiah watched as the clay was fashioned into a vessel.  Then, some imperfection in the clay spoiled it in the potter’s hand and the potter crushed it and began the process again.

Jeremiah saw the wheel turning constantly, bringing the clay against the potter’s hand.  The wheel stands for the turning circumstances of our lives, under the control of the potter, whose foot guides the wheel.  It is the circumstances of our lives which bring us again and again under the potter’s hand, under the pressure of his fingers, so that we are shaped into a vessel that pleases him.

Then, too, Jeremiah saw the potter.  He knew that God was the Great Potter, with absolute right over the clay to make it what he wanted it to be.  St Paul argues this with keen and clear logic in Romans 9: “Who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?” he asks, “Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?” (Romans 9:20-21)

God’s right extends not only to us as individuals, but to communities and even nations.  God has in mind what he wants us to be and to become, and like the potter, God exerts pressure through the circumstances of our lives, to shape and mold us into the vessels he has envisioned.  If there is any imperfection in the clay, anything that mars the design or spoils the work, the potter simply crushes the clay down to a lump and begins again to make the vessel what he has in mind.  When the clay responds as the potter wishes, he will ease the pressure to allow the clay to remain in the form it has taken.

In our community discussions this week, we have an opportunity to discern how God is shaping us now, individually and corporately.  Where are we experiencing the pressure to change, to become something new and different.  How are our imperfections being reworked by the Master Potter?  Where do we recognize God’s hand at work?

God holds Jeremiah’s future, and the future of Jeremiah’s Israel.  God also holds our future and will accomplish his purposes in and through us, when we yield ourselves to God’s loving hands and allow ourselves to be shaped by his vision of what we can be.

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  1. Merryl on July 12, 2021 at 17:02

    Tonight South Africa burns. People are hurting. Property stolen. Vandals running riot. Anarchy is being fueled by outside forces that are not of God. Thank you for your message – yes when we submit to God, we might be bent but will not be broken. Praise God for being the Potter. He has us in the palm of his hand. Bless you and thank you.

  2. Mark Kramer on July 12, 2021 at 11:32

    Your words regarding the nations ring so true to me. I pray that if the Potter is evaluating the unfinished pot, He will find that He can continue to mold us and not that it’s time to crush us and start again.

  3. Marilyn Bergen on July 12, 2021 at 08:57

    I am not the only one to benefit from the changes the community has wrought through media and other creative methods to get the Word out there. I prefer to see the blessing which allows us to participate while afar and now even as many can safely rejoin communities, it is still an accessible vehicle which allows folks to engage. Thank you for raising the tough questions which has created a wonderful platform which encourages others to ask the tough questions as well.

  4. Kitty Whitman on July 12, 2021 at 06:15

    Amen to your words and Ditto to Anne Campbell’s comments. Thank you for your gentle voice and wise interpretations of Scripture. Sounds, visuals and thoughts to ponder!

  5. Anne Campbell on September 9, 2020 at 09:21

    You are each bringing blessings and inspiration to this troubled world. Your sermons are full of wisdom and inspiration. I so admire your commitment and your devotion to taking God’s word seriously . What blessings your life choices have made for so many.
    I am daily inspired and encouraged by your faith and your abilities to share it though your own stories.

    • Jeanne Brown on July 14, 2021 at 09:52

      Thank you Brother David. Your thoughts here are very insightful, and they prompt me to more often respond to God as He evidently is choosing, rather than the form that I choose to take. Whenever I let Him take charge, I can see that His way was the best choice I could possibly have made.

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