Rev. Chris Snow
North Hill Christian Church
July 18, 2021
Jeremiah 18:1-10, Genesis 1:9-13
As we are making our way through the narrative of creation out of the 1st chapter of Genesis we hear these words, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on each that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.”
Normally as I come to this creation narrative I focus on the spoken words of God and how everything is so orderly and precise. But as I hold this text along side our text out of Jeremiah I can’t help but imagine God standing at a workbench with a mass of clay standing there. As the holy thrusts their hands into the clay pulling up the dry land and forming the earth. Creating the plants with intention. Paying close attention to the most minute of details, keeping in mind how these structures and plant systems will make way for the animals and human beings. Creating plants that will bear fruit and seeds.
A part of me wonders what this part of the creation text would look like, if instead of hearing God simply speaking things into existence, we imagined God forming each piece by hand? When plants didn’t live up to the requirement of bearing fruit, would they simply be reworked, or put aside?
It is this very imagery that we hear in Jeremiah. We get this imagery of God sitting at the pottery wheel working this mass of clay, that is the House of Israel. Constantly working it and reworking it to be what the divine has in mind for them.
Of all the different materials that I have worked with over the years, wood, threads, yarn, reeds, and clay; I have found that clay is the most forgiving. If something fails, you can fairly easily rework the same material, fixing or remaking what fell down. You can keep adding material back if desired. With wood once you make a cut it is cut and requires much bracing and hardware to come close to restoring. Clay allows you to bring material back by simply using water.
A mass of clay that has been worked over and over again on the pottery wheel sometimes needs to be put off to the side as it has become so wet that it does not want to hold its shape. So, wet that it has become a slurry rather than moldable clay. A piece of clay that doesn’t want to move the way you want it, sometimes needs to be set aside until it is ready to be worked again. Not out of site or out mind, but still be watched till it is ready.
Now unlike a mass of clay, humanity has free will. The free will to choose how we live our lives. Free will to choose what kinds of fruit come out of our actions and behaviors.
As I hear the words of Jeremiah I hear this tension between God and the people. God at the potter who has formed us and shaped us, hoping that we will be shaped the way that God hopes. Planning for how the people may bear good fruit, as we contribute to the whole of creation. But the people of Israel just like all humanity, sometimes has other ideas. Wants to move in a different direction. Wanting to do something different. Wanting to do that which provides quick and easy gratification, rather than looking at the long term plan that God would have for us.
Throughout the years I have found comfort in the imagery of God as the potter. This imagery of our Creator God forming us with great intention. Holding in mind what kinds of fruits we may bring forth for the world. Having a plan in mind for each one of us as we are formed. The great amount of intention that God puts into all our being. But if we leave it there, then it is easy to blame all the ills of the world on God. All the things that go wrong in our lives we could blame on God. All the brokenness can be blamed on God.
But as we have free will, we impact not only how we turn out but also the systems that we are a part of. Like all the plants of the earth are impacted by one another and of the animals of creation, we impact those systems as well. We bear responsibility for how we respond to God’s guidance and movements in our world. We bear responsibility for if we bear good fruits or not.
So, as we continue to work with our idea of God as creator, let us not forget the imagery of God as the potter. The one who has formed each one of us with intention. The one who is continually working the clay until it is just right. The one who needs to set the clay to the side from time to time to rest until it is moldable again. But in the midst of understanding God as creator let us remember our own responsibility in how we bear fruit and allow ourselves to be shaped by the divine.