“Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” Jeremiah 18:6b (NRSV)
Back a few years, I was the spiritual director on a spiritual renewal week-end, and one of my colleagues gave a talk on being imperfect. She brought in a whole bunch of pottery – mostly small pitchers, bowls, and cups, and she talked about how they all have a purpose and function. Then she picked up one pitcher that clearly had been broken and glued back together.
As she held it up in front of us, she said that it was her favorite, so when it broke, she didn’t have the heart to throw it away, so she glued it back together, and now it holds her pens and pencils on her desk in her office. Instead of seeing it as worthless, she recognized its brokenness and found a new use for it.
In the Jeremiah 18:1-11 passage, we read about how God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house to watch as the potter molded and shaped the clay into something useful. The potter took a lump – actually, a blob – and started to shape it into something that had purpose, but the shaping didn’t go well, so the potter started over again by making the clay a blob and re-working it.
Israel had been called to be God’s people, and time after time they had turned away from God, ignoring the prophet’s call to repent and return to God. Jeremiah’s message to the people of Israel was that they would be re-worked, re-molded by God so that they would once again be God’s faithful people. They did have a choice, and often they ignored God’s call through the prophets. Yet, God didn’t give up on them, didn’t abandon them, saw them as broken human beings who just needed to be shaped and guided back to the vision that God had for them.
So it is with us. God sees our broken, sinful, hurting lives and finds ways to make something new out of what we might see as hopeless. In the midst of pain, loss, hurt, anger, conflict, broken lives and broken relationships, God comes to say, “I will rework you, I will restore you. You may look a little different, and your purpose or direction in life may change, but I will bring good out of bad and beauty out of the cracks.
Are we ready to allow God to do that? Are we willing to trust that God will guide us? Will we listen and choose God over our own stubborn wills, thinking that we can handle this life, these hurts, these challenges on our own? This passage is a reminder to us as a church that we have a calling: one to offer Christ to the world, even though we are broken and glued back together vessels. We are still God’s vessels, and God will work through us no matter how we look. May it be so!