Message for the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Based on: Jeremiah 18: 1-11 “God is the potter; we are the clay.”
Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18 “God has searched me and known me”
Opening Prayer: Holy, gracious, and amazing God, may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we share as we reflect on your word for us this day, may all of it be acceptable in your sight. Amen.
This morning we come upon Jeremiah, God, and God’s wayward and idolatrous people in something of a proverbial tug of war about the need for badly needed change to make way for faithful and faith-filled living.
Following on from admonishments for not keeping the Sabbath in the previous chapter, here we find God and Jeremiah on the same side of the tug of war pulling for change over and against a wayward and idolatrous people determined to have it their own way at any cost.
And what is the struggle ultimately about?
For me, its about God’s omniscient power to do with us what God will.
Just as we saw the potter shape and re-shape something useful and functional from the lump of clay in the opening verses of the reading, so God longs for us to be more focused on God’s purpose for our lives and our churches than on our own needs.
Some biblical scholars would say that there’s more hope in the reading than what I see, but, then, I am curious: What hope do you see?
What tiniest hint might there be that if folks can relent a little, so too, God might relent?
What shining glimmer might there be in the reading that the God we meet here is not so much a vengeful God but more one pushed to the point of giving an ultimatum much the same way as we might be inclined to do as parents of a recalcitrant child or teenager?
From there, what do you think the reading might offer us as grist for the mill of our own lives here and now in the year 2016?
Where in our life as a church might we be frustrating God’s purpose?
And what might we do differently?
Thinking again of the entirety of the reading which of the metaphors of the potter and the clay or of tug of war captures your imagination?
And where might you place yourself in the story?
For example, would you find yourself more in alignment with God and Jeremiah or with the wayward and idolatrous people?
Where might there be a word of hope in the reading?
I wonder if there’s not more hope or good news to be found in our responsive hymn this morning that is based on Psalm 139.
Here we have sung homage to a God who knows us and loves us from before we were formed and knit together in our mothers’ wombs.
Here we have sung of our awareness that wherever we might find ourselves or however hard we might try to flee from God’s abiding Spirit, God is always with us.
Knowing that God’s word for us will continually niggle at the edges of our consciousness, let us conclude this time of shared reflection with a prayer:
God, your word for us this day come to us through the reading from the prophet, Jeremiah, feels by turns, harsh and demanding, legalistic and intimidating, and because of that, oftentimes challenging to absorb and digest.
Open our ears and our hearts that we might sense and respond to the lament undergirding Jeremiah’s prophecies of a judging God.
Be with us in our on-going reflection and our longing to trust in your abiding promise to love us more than we might ever ask or imagine or feel that we deserve, especially in our inclination to heed our own wills rather than honour yours.
Help us find ways to listen to that still small voice residing within that would call us to respond to a world in need with humility and grace when tempted to do otherwise.
In the name of Jesus, pioneer, refiner, and perfector of our faith, we pray, may it be so, amen.