This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 4th, 2016.
A familiar passage for both preacher and congregant. The temptation is to preach what the average worship attendee has heard in familiar hymns, “You are the potter/I am the clay.” Remember this word from the Lord is not an individualized message rather it is a warning to the entire community. This passage is often used as a private prayer of devotion to God, but the initial word from Jeremiah was to the whole of Israel. Moving the congregant from privatizing the passage engages the congregation to partner together as a community of discernment in challenging seasons. A popular contemporary practice focuses worship on the relationship between the individual Christian and God. However, this passage along with worship on Sunday mornings are communal offerings of praise and petitions to God as a whole body of faith.
The metaphor of clay is not limited to one person or even one nation. The clay is an artistic allegory for God’s will and purpose in the world. The image of a potter and his clay reveals a hidden truth like an abstract piece of art. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that helps us see the truth.” The Potter and his malleable clay are a cause for theological pause. The preacher must be willing to wrestle with the difficulties of this passage, asking hard the questions. Does God change God’s mind? Does God cause evil in the world? These are hard questions for the congregation to wrestle with as well.