Series: The Tie That Binds
October 7, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
This morning we embark on a new series called The Tie That Binds. This series will speak to us about relationships and how they form us. We will be invited to consider how our relationship with God the Father, God the son, Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit will be form and transform us. As we learn in the coming weeks we will affirm the power of God’s presence in our worshipping community to inspire us and to “go and do likewise” in relationship to the world.
This morning we acknowledge that we have been created by God, gifted by God, given life by God, formed by God’s hand like clay by the potter. We open ourselves to be re-shaped when necessary and we celebrate our common connections as God’s children. Blest be the tie that binds indeed!
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Begin with video: https://youtu.be/qsDrZF2lY4w
Every year on this weekend for the past 55 years, Art in the Park has taken over our town and helped to raise money for the Hospital Foundation. There are hundreds of artists selling all kinds of their wares: photography, jewelry, crafts made of wood, metal and glass. There are live demonstrations, music and food. One of my favorite things about the festival is the pottery.
I am fascinated how a lump of cold, hard clay can be transformed into a beautiful piece of art, one that can be used for eating on, potting plants, holding wine, or oil, or popcorn or pasta. Perhaps when I retire I will learn how to throw a pot or two. Until then I will have to be content with being the clay, and allowing God to be my potter, molding me into his likeness.
Clay. Hold it in your hand. It’s smooth, cool, pliable. In the hands of an inexperienced potter it doesn’t make much. When I was a kid I can remember working with clay in school. Try as I might I could never really make anything that looked like anything. I would get frustrated, press two finger grooves into it and call it an ash tray. My dad was a smoker and he loved my pottery ashtrays, although I never intended to make ash trays. I wanted to make a beautiful piece of art, not encourage my dad to keep smoking.
What if we are the clay and God is the potter. Can you begin to imagine with God’s intentionality and creativity what we can become? God desires to take us, mold us, use us and fill us if only we will give our life to the potter’s hand.
As clay are we ready for the potter? Before a potter will put the clay on the wheel it is important to get all the impurities out, so the clay is smooth and without blemish. The clay must be made pliable by adding water and worked through so that the clay is equally moist and ready, not hard on one side and soft on another.
As Christians seeking to be in communion with God we can help prepare ourselves to be formed by God by reading scripture, being a part of a worshipping community, being open to and surrendered to God through Jesus Christ. We must be willing servants, lumps of clay, eager to be transformed and used for God’s glory.
When a potter begins to create, they place the clay directly in the center of the wheel. If the clay is off to one side it is lopsided and will fall apart. Being centered is vital to the finished product. Being centered in Christ is vital to our successful surrender and formation by God the Potter into our beautiful selves.
Making a pot on a wheel doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time to create just what the potter has in mind. Forming us doesn’t happen quickly either. Sanctification is a slow and steady process. Growing in grace and likeness of Christ is a process of forming and reforming, learning and growing and surrendering. God works diligently with us, pushing and pulling like a pot on the wheel until we are exactly as he wants us.
It is really unbelievable when you think about it. God takes the time to not only create us but to mold, shape and transform us into what he wishes. Before he begins to work on us he knows what the finished product will look like. There are no mistakes, God never gives up and puts two grooves in it and says, well, at least I have an ash tray! NO!
God is intentional about developing us each to his purpose. God knows exactly how much to mold, push and prod. When you imagine the potter with the clay between his hands, we can see that it takes a good amount of pressure to form the piece. In the video there were several times when the potter actually cut a piece off. When I watched it thought, oh no, what did you do that for? It was so beautiful. Then another shape would come into view and it was as beautiful if not more so than the original one. Do you think God has a plan? Do you think God knows what he is doing?
Our Potter-God knows what we need, knows where he is leading us and will stretch us to the shape he desires for us. God also knows our limits. God knows what our boundaries are and if we are paying attention we can hear where God is leading us and cautioning us from going places we shouldn’t or doing too much.
We all have a calling. We are all part of the body of Christ, but it is not up to each of us to do everything. God calls each of us according to the gifts he has given us, and we are all vital and irreplaceable in the Body of Christ. When we think we have to do everything we rob others of the joy of doing their part.
Next, the potter always has his eye on the wheel. If the potter gets distracted and looks away, the whole project could be ruined. God keeps his eyes on his people. We are never alone because God sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and continue to teach us and love us. Filling us up so that we can be a blessing to others. What a beautiful thought that we are never alone. God is always there for us.
One thing I noticed in the pottery at Art in the Park is how beautiful the finishes are. Once a piece of clay is molded into the shape the artist desires, they take time to add the color or the finishes and then the piece gets thrown into the kiln to bake. The average temperature of a kiln is 2000 degrees. That’s hot! Using this potter-clay analogy I imagine God doing his best to make me how he wishes, then throws me into trials to fine tune me and continue to bake me so that I am continuously improving and growing in grace to perfection.
In the same way that Jesus says he prunes away the dead branches, clay is molded, and the excess clay cut off. I imagine that there could be a good amount of pain involved. Like something on your body was being cut off? Through our most painful experiences God has the greatest opportunity to love and sustain us. Through the dark valleys we are especially molded into the disciple that Christ called us to be.
Psalm 139:13-16 says
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
God is our potter, we are his clay. To become the most beautiful pot on the shelf requires us to submit to the potter’s hands, eagerly being molded into the piece God sees in his minds eye. Amen.