The prophet Jeremiah used the image of God as potter as a warning and a rebuke to the people for ignoring the ways of God and going their own way. The prophet Isaiah also used the imagery of God as potter, as an important reminder:
But now, O LORD, we are the clay, and you our potter. All of us are the work of your hand.
That seems to me to be a timely reminder for our day. We need a prophet’s voice to ring out across the land, reminding us that the universe has no center so we cannot be it. We did not create ourselves, nor the air we breathe or the food we eat. Despite our almost universal sense of entitlement, our lives are almost entirely an unearned gift from the Universe.
Jeremiah may have been sound asleep, exhausted from trying to turn his nation from its determined course of self-destruction. Then, at early dawn, he awakened with a persistent urge to go down to Frank the potter’s house. Although he hadn’t had his coffee or bagel, he had learned not to ignore these nudges. So there he stood, watching Frank do what potters always do in the morning.
He reached into a wooden bucket and brought up out of the water a handful of wet clay. The potter began to knead the clay. The clay was crushed and beaten until all the bubbles were gone from it.
To the clay this must have felt like torture or punishment for some un-recalled offense, but it actually was a time of preparation so it might become all that the potter had envisioned it might be. Only when the clay is pliable and malleable in the potter’s hands is it ready to be used for the potter’s purpose.
When the clay is ready it is placed in the very center of the potter’s wheel, which begins to turn. As it turns faster and faster, the potter begins to use water and the pressure of their hands to shape the clay.
At first, Jeremiah had no idea what Frank was making from the formless lump of clay, but then an image began to take shape and he could see the possibilities. Suddenly the wheel stopped and Frank crushed the clay down to start all over again.
Frank’s sudden action startled Jeremiah out of his reverie. Then the prophet heard an old familiar voice say, “O people of God, can I not do with you as this potter has done? Like clay in the potter’s hand so are you in my hand.”
Jeremiah knew instantly that the congregation was not going to like that Sunday’s sermon one bit.
By Michael Piazza
The Center for Progressive Renewal