Jeremiah 18:1-11       Luke 14:25-33


          On this Sabbath…this day of rest…you…and I …and God…are working.  As John Wesley would put it…you and I…are “working toward perfection.”  And what is God doing?  God is working to get us there.

The main reason that God took Jeremiah to the potter’s shed was to warn him about judgment.  But…at the same time…the picture of the potter and the clay should give us comfort.  If God is the Potter…then he can make something out of the most unpromising blobs of clay.

In 1983…Eugene Peterson…a retired pastor,  college professor and author…wrote a book entitled “Run With the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best.”  In this book he wrote about each of us.   “No one has ever been able to make a clay pot that is just a clay pot.  Pottery is always changing its shape as potters find new proportions, different ways to shape the pots in pleasing combinations of curves.  There is no pottery that besides being useful does not also show evidence of beauty.”  That’s how God sees his creating work.  That’s how God asks us to see his creating work in ourselves and others.

It takes a patient artist to make a pot that is beautiful as well as useful.  It takes the kind of potter Jeremiah watched…one who refuses to give up on his work.  When there was a flaw in the clay, he did not throw it away; he worked it into something else.  The British preacher and evangelist…F. B. Meyer…calls that pot “a memorial of the potter’s patience and long-suffering, of his careful use of material, and of his power of repairing loss and making something out of failure and disappointment.”

Though they were crushed for a time…as Jeremiah prophesied…God remade his people…Israel…into a beautiful kingdom.

The same can be said of every Christian.  We come into this world like so many clay pots.  Our lives are pitted…with blemishes and impurities.  We are neither useful nor beautiful.  As clay goes…we are not all that easy to work with.  We need to be created all over again…which is what the Holy Spirit does in the life of a sinner who trusts in Christ.  The Spirit works to make him or her into something useful and beautiful.  If you know Christ…you are a memorial to God’s patience and long-suffering…his careful use of material…and his power to make something…even make something out of failure.

In words that are often misinterpreted…Jesus told us how to work with the potter.  Those words…”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters…yes even his own life…he cannot be my disciple.”  Certainly…when you look at and understand the New Testament…Jesus was not demanding an unqualified absolute hatred.  How could he command to honor your father and mother and demand we hate them?  How could he command husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…then advise them to hate their spouses?    We can focus on our family too much.  We can dote on our loved ones too much…but we cannot love them too much.

What Jesus was saying was that our love for him must be so great and so pervasive that our natural love of self and family pales in comparison.  We are to subordinate everything…even our own being…to our love and commitment to Christ.  He is to be our first loyalty.  All other relationships must take second place.

So…with a harsh phrase…Jesus yanks everyone from their dream world.  It’s like he was asking…”Do you see yourself as a disciple?  Do you think you are going to follow me?  Do you really want the potter to re-shape you?”  If you do…he’s saying…”then you must love me so much that your love for your family seems like hatred in comparison.  Otherwise…don’t pretend.

This is tough for some.  Some fall short.  For many of us…our family is at the center of our world.  That is proper.  But some of us love our wives, husbands and children more than we love God.  We miss the mark when we put their development athletically…intellectually…culturally…artistically… socially ahead of their spiritual well-being.  We fall short when we spend more time in the car in one day shuttling them to activities than we do in a month in prayer for them and with them.  For some…their lives reveal…using the phrasing that Jesus used…that we hate God and love our family disproportionately.  We are not Jesus’ disciples.  We are not letting the potter shape the clay.

The paradox is that the proper way to love others is to “hate” them…as Jesus used the word in teaching his disciples… because our greater love for God will enable us to love them with an even greater love, also.  True disciples are the best lovers of God…and of family…and of friends.  Disciples must always be ready to “hate”…to give second place to everything and everyone else.  The relational cost of discipleship may seem harsh at first.  But in the right perspective and priority this focuses our lives and makes them richer and fuller.

On this Sabbath…this day of rest…this is our work…as it is every day.

On this Sabbath…this day of rest…be reassured in knowing that the potter is at his work.

Let us come to the Lord’s Table re-committing ourselves to discipleship as Jesus would have us do…placing Jesus first in every way.  Let the potter re-shape us.

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