Watching a potter, who is good at what they do is an awesome sight. The wheel spins and a blob of shapeless goo is placed smack dab in the center of the spinning wheel and through touch, trimming, and pressure placed in just the right places you get this work of art.
My first attempt at this type of pottery was up at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center located in an old mining site way up in the Northern Cascade Mountains of Washington. I was maybe 10 years old, and couldn’t walk an chew gum at the same time, a skill I have not yet mastered… any way we were shown how to “kick” and make the wheel spin, how to place the clay just so, and some of the other skills needed to throw a pot. For the life of me I couldn’t keep the wheel spinning evenly, and my unsteady, unpracticed and uncoordinated hands were unable to make anything out of the clay. I did not have a good time with this, but as it is with many things, just because I couldn’t do it, didn’t lessen my appreciation of those who did and what they could do!
How often do we try to shape our lives, and our skills fall short of actually making what we were aiming for? In our reading from Jeremiah, God compares Israel to a lump of clay that is in his hand. This is a hopeful word! God is the shaper, and maker, we are not left to do this on our own. But we are inert clay either.
For God to make of us something useful, something beautiful we need to be shapeable, and formable. Even in a master potters hand, dry, crumbling clay is not good for much, the clay needs to be soft enough so that something might be done with it. Remembering the promises we have in our baptism we have just the right amount of water to make us pliable, so that God might make of us what we need to be and that through us others might be blessed.