The image of the potter and the clay appears several times in scripture. This week's occasion, in Jeremiah 18, keeps to the pattern of viewing God as the potter and God's unfolding creation as a lump of clay, spinning on a wheel, being in a constant state of work-in-progress.
In Jeremiah 18, there are interesting nuances that reflect the dynamic of the covenant relatiopnship. It isn't a static legal document but a fluid and changing relationship. In the covenant, the Potter is shaping the clay with an aim to produce the best result, to produce blessings.
However, the clay can become hard, dry, and resistant. If the clay is unresponsive, there comes a time when the potter simply gives up and discards that lump, turning the focus of attention on another. Recovering value in that old lump becomes difficult.
It is surprising the kinds of changes that can occur, and we would hope to be working from a positive orientation that cooperates with what the Potter is trying to accomplish.
In Paul's letter to his old friend Philemon, he shares about his relationship with a mutual acquaintance, Philemon's runaway slave, Onesimus. (Presumably Onesimus was caught and imprisoned with Paul.) Paul reminds Philemon of the changes that have come into Philemon's own life as Paul brought him to faith in Jesus and the good news promise of new life. His fugitive slave Onesimus has also been brought to faith in Jesus, joining the covenant of new life promise with Philemon (and Paul).
Paul's letter to Philemon, a slave holder and leader of a church community, urges Philemon to recognize the new thing God has done by grace for Onesimus, the same thing gracuously done for Philemon, and to receive their mutual brother in Christ, Onesimus, as a new being. Freed? We would hope.
Check out the full sermon for insights into the Potter (God) and the clay (you), and the work that is ongoing in our lives, in the video panel below, and note the downloads below that.