Sunday, September 4, 2016
[The prophet Jeremiah] went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. - Jeremiah 18:3-4
One of my favorite songs is Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,” from 1992:
The birds they sang at the break of day.
“Start again,” I heard them say
“Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.”
Ah the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove,
She will be caught again:
bought, and sold, and bought again--
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything--
That's how the light gets in.
We asked for signs; the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed, the marriage spent.
Yeah, the widowhood of every government –
signs for all to see.
I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
and they're going to hear from me.
Ring the bells that still can ring ...
You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum.
You can strike up the march:
there is no drum.
Every heart, every heart to love will come,
but like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring….
[ www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCS_MwkWzes ]
The world we live in is so full of brokenness.
Jeremiah received the famous vision of the potter in the midst of his anguish over his nation’s brokenness: Judah in the sixth century before Christ was an awful mess. The northern tribes of the Israelites had long since been dispersed into exile in foreign lands by the Assyrian Empire; now the southern kingdom called Judah was sinking in corruption and idolatry, about to be destroyed by the Babylonian Empire, its leading citizens shamefully led away into captivity at Babylon. And the prophet Jeremiah had the sad task of informing his countrymen that God was ready to smush Judah the way a potter smushes a pot that is not turning out right. Jeremiah certainly felt very broken about all of this.
It must have been a very small consolation for Jeremiah to note that God would also, in time, smush the Babylonian Empire, too.
Thank God, there are a few prophecies in Jeremiah’s book in which he also sees God’s salvation for His people. (chapters 29 – 31, for example, and 32:37-44, 33:10 – 26)
Each of us has broken places in our own lives, not only in our situations or circumstances, but within our personalities, our spirits, and our bodies.
Jesus challenges us to let go of our selves. His language is shocking, upsetting:
Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me
cannot be my disciple. Luke 14: 27
[N]one of you can become my disciple
if you do not give up all your possessions. Luke 14: 33
If you think it’s weird to compare losing one’s life on the cross with losing one’s possessions, watch the late George Carlin’s meditations on “Stuff.”
[You can look it up on YouTube]
Each of tends to confuse our “stuff” with our self.
Thank God, there is Good News for each of us as well. But this Good News does not come cheap.
The Good News cost Jesus Christ his earthly life, and pursuing his Good News will cost us our worldly lives as well. Jesus calls us to focus more and more on what is eternal; less and less on worldly “stuff.” For us followers of Jesus, this is the daily task of “counting the cost” of discipleship, because imagining that God’s Grace comes cheap was always an illusion sent by the devil… like the notion that we could “take it with us when we go.”