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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
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A Potter's Hand

A Potter’s Hand
                                                                 
                                                                 Jeremiah 18:1-11
 
 
One of the many blessings of coming to this community is the adventure into painting ceramics. It was with great nervousness that I sat down to begin first piece. I had chosen a large bowl. The bowl itself was perfect and smooth and stared back at me as if challenging me to make a mark. I had found some outlines of pandas and the bamboos they like to eat. Those I traced onto the bowl where I wanted them. That was alright. The next hurdle was actually putting paint to the outlines, Nervously my hand touched the loaded brush to the plate. The first mark had been made. No going back now. As more paint was applied and the outlines began to shape up, I relaxed to the task a little. In my mind I saw the potential. In my mind I visualized the finished project. I got bolder with the paint strokes as the design began to shape up. Disaster happened when I made a mistake and accidentally put a stroke where it didn’t belong. My masterpiece was ruined! While wondering why I ever thought I could do ceramic painting, my mentor stepped in and noticed my frustration. She quickly saw what I had done and reassured me that could be fixed. With a couple scraps of an instrument she had at hand the mistake was gone. With a little more confidence I proceeded to finish the bowl. After being fired, it came out just the way I wanted. I began to love that activity as I did other pieces. Each time a piece didn’t seem to come out perfect I sanded or scraped to change it to what I had wanted. I loved each piece as I saw it advance toward completion.
 
I think God felt the same way as he worked on creation, getting it just right so all would work together, so it would sustain itself for God’s purposes. And then God did an amazing thing. He created something in his own image. He dared to put something in creation that would reflect his goodness, his creativity, and his love. I wonder how he felt when he stepped back and looked at Adam. What was he thinking?  And what concerns did he have when he incorporated free will into his new creation? What was on his mind when he took that day of rest and reflected on what he had done? Well, it was good enough to set things in motion. But when Monday morning came and he got back to work and the free will began to work, God realized there would be much work to do. As each new human was created, and as these humans lived within the framework of what God had created, they sometimes failed at their purpose of living within the guidelines God had set for them. They did their own thing! So God decided he would have to select the best that he had created and try again to get them back on track. He tried different ways of keeping these humans on track, teaching them ways to live in his image. Noah, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah all were created for the purpose of voicing the turn around that needed to happen to give humans the guidelines that would help them live in sync with God and God’s creation. But we humans are kind of stubborn after all is said and done. But God didn’t give up. God kept working with his creation to get it right, sanding, scraping, remolding, and shaping until He would have a light to show the way for humans to live within creation, not only for creation’s benefit, but for their own benefit.   So God decided to come reveal Himself in human form to show the way. Jesus entered the picture. That‘s basically a summation of our God/human history.
 
But God wasn’t and isn’t finished yet. God continues to create, to mold, sand, scrape. God creates us for purpose and then keeps on perfecting us so that we can play our part in the transformation of the world, toward that which was intended. Reflected in our sacred scripture are words that reflect who we are. “From before you were born, I knew you!” Each of us is a piece of art, lovingly created, still in the shaping toward what we were born for. And when we are beginning to do what we were created for, God sits back and smiles, and continues His project. 
 
At times we are more malleable, responding to God’s direction. At other times we are resistant, seeking our own design. But I think God is far more stubborn about getting us to the right place. God does not give up on us so easily. 
 
One of the hardest things for a parent to do is to raise a child and have them meet their expectations and dreams for them. Children seem to go through a rebellious time when our dreams for them become obstacles to them. They don’t want to live by our expectations and desires for them. At times we see them turn away from where we think they ought to be. Our son was a successful lawyer, working for Milwaukee county and then after a few years of that going into private practice, building his clientele with some success. Just when he was getting his practice to a level of desirability he decided he didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore. He quit his practice, referred his clients to other lawyers and took on a job at a golf course maintaining the grounds. At first it seemed like he was throwing his life away. I feared the worse for him. But as time went on, he seemed happier and said that he loved his work. He loved getting up at the wee, early hours of the day and being out on the golf course as the morning sun began to dry the dew soaked grass. He loved seeing the deer march across the course and the occasional fox, geese, and birds finding their morning sustenance. I believe his own sense of creation began to blossom. He had begun to find his purpose, his place in creation. He still has a ways to go I am sure, but he has taught me to value and appreciate more than ever the beauty of creation and its seemingly endless source of wonder. Who knows where God will lead him next! God is not finished with Him.
 
And God is not finished with each of us. We are here today to give our own voices, our own opinions, our own insights. But we will change as God continues to add a paint stroke here and a scrape there. New possibilities are always on the horizon at any age and in any circumstances. What we once thought and voiced can change. As God works with us, we have choices. We can resist change within us, trying to keep things from changing. Or we can open ourselves to new possibilities, let loose our fears and let those possibilities happen. We can try to silence the voice of God in our decisions about what to do next. Or we can open our hearts to God’s leading in our lives. 
 
We were created to live our lives according to God’s purposes. That doesn’t mean we become puppets. It means we listen to the voice that is going to lead us to all that really matters, to living out our purposes for being lovingly created, called by name, and sent forth on a path to be light for others who seem to have lost their way. We cannot see the whole as God sees it. But we can know that we have a place in it all, a part to play. We can know that God is not finished with us on this earth until we reach that final destination, that place set apart for us in His kingdom.
 
If things seem out of sync, out of sorts, out of peace, we can always know that God has more in store for us just around the corner. Hope is what we live by as we acknowledge the influence God has on our lives, as we let God guide us to the paths we were meant to live by. Jesus knew that even in death there was possibility and he relied on God to make that possibility happen.
Have we closed our lives in defeat and despair and resignation. Or are we ready to open ourselves to new possibilities, to the ultimate hope of living out God’s purposes for us.  Do we take God seriously enough to keep exploring our faith, praying and listening to God’s leading for us?         

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