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(Off-lectionary sermon)

“Go down to the potter’s house and there I will give you my message” (Jeremiah 18:2)

“Oh LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand”
(Isaiah 64:8)

Way In

Today’s worship service has been a long time coming

Like Sarah said before,

it’s been on the Worship Committee’s agenda for a while

this is the right time

time of year when our programs kick off

our Jewish friends celebrated Rosh Hashanah 2 weeks ago

New Year (5771)

and we can think of this as the beginning of a new year

For today, I want to invite you to think of yourself being formed – shaped

and we turn in the scriptures to the Hebrew prophets as our guide

as you watch the potter at her wheel (Sally Watson, The Potter’s House at Hotel Gallery in Tipp City):

pay attention to her hands

as they shape and mold the clay

think of God’s hands

shaping, molding you

and consider yourself – you are the clay

being shaped, molded

into a vessel, a useful thing

made by God

for a purpose

Tell the Story

the texts today come from a description of our failure to follow God

Isaiah

we have all become unclean

we all fade like a leaf

our iniquities take us away

there is no one who calls on your name

or attempts to take hold of you

Yet you are our Father

we are the clay, you are our potter

we are all the work of your hand

do not be angry with us

do not remember our iniquity forever

Jeremiah

God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house

there the prophet saw the potter at work at the wheel

the vessel the potter was making was spoiled

something went wrong

yet the potter’s hand re-worked it into another vessel

and it was good

and God told the prophet;

can I not do with you just as the potter has done?

just like the clay in the potter’s hand

so you are in my hand

if a nation falls away to wicked ways

but turns from those ways

then I can shape it

as the potter re-shapes the clay that has lost its form

So What?

this image is rich with deep meanings for us

God is the creator – we are God’s creation

God made Adam from the dust and dirt of the created earth

and breathed life into the human

“from dust we were created…” (Ash Wednesday)

God makes us by shaping us

as a potter’s hand – not a blacksmith’s forge

we are shaped and molded

by the loving and strong hands of our Creator

not burned and beaten into shape

heated in the fire of the forge

beaten into shape by a hammer against an anvil

We are made for a purpose

“To glorify God and enjoy God forever” (Westminster Catechsim)

so it is useful to think of ourselves as a vessel

made to be filled with God’s word

which is the witness of scripture and the living example we know in the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ

we are filled until our cup runs over

spilling out the grace of God

the love and forgiveness that has been given so freely to us

so that we may freely give it to others

and in this, we glorify God

end enjoy God – worship God – forever

worship is:

thanksgiving for God’s grace

receiving God’s word

and being sent out

so we are vessels for God’s grace

and we are not Tupperware

to be firmly sealed shut

but like a vase, or a chalice

without a top

made to carry God’s love and grace

and freely pour it out upon others

even as God freely gives it to us

God can use you

misshapen, broken

God made you by hand, God can re-form you by hand

not bang you into shape

can be arranged if that’s what it takes

receive God’s hands that shape and mold you

into something God can use

Do not lose this image

Worship team has gone to great effort to make this memorable

outside – in a different place for worship

strong visual images –

the potter’s wheel

see her technique

watch what she is making

your own lump of clay

what you are making with your hands

something you will take away

your own creation

Conclude

You are made by God for a purpose

glorify and worship God

Your response to God is shaped

do you receive God as your potter – shaping you

can you feel it – scary

do you accept God’s forgiveness for your brokenness

How can you share what you carry/hold

rememeber you’re not a Tupperware seal

how is God calling you to use your skills, gifts

You were made for God

for relationship with your Creator and to build God’s kingdom on earth

you are the recipient of God’s grace; in forgiveness and love

you are the vessel filled with these gifts

and God calls you to give it away – to share them

loving others as God loves you in Jesus Christ

forgiving others as God forgives you

invite you to experience giving this gift away

this precious gift from God; love and grace

you have been making something in worship today

crafted with your own hands

some reminder of today’s worship

and an expression of your relationship with God

you are proud of it – it may even be becoming precious to you

Now I want you to give a piece of it back

are you willing to give away something precious?

it may leave you feeling incomplete, damaged, broken

but that’s the thing

we are incomplete, damaged, broken

The good news is – God loves you anyway

… just the way you are and too much to stay that way

God knows these places in your life

where youu’re broken, incomplete, damaged

and God loves you anyway

God is still calling you

God still has use for you

I mean , aside from Jesus

God’s followers have always been human beings

flawed, broken, damaged

Moses: stutterer

Saul: persecutor

Peter: denier

And God can surely use us

Sally the Potter is making a reminder of this

break off a piece of your lump of clay – from what you are making

bring it to the table

she will show you how to put them into something beautiful.

Free-style comments about the process of making something precious to you and giving it away. Taking a piece of your pottery creation and giving it away as a symbol of that. Our pieces are all put around the communion plate Sally made. These will be glazed and fired onto the plate as a reminder of this day and our self-offering acclamation that “we are the clay and God is the potter.”

So may it be with us. Amen

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1 Cor. 12, 27-31, 13:12-13

There was a lot of free-styling in today’s sermon. I was off notes quite a bit, so I don’t know if the outline makes much sense.

Way In

“There’s no ‘I’ in team”

I don’t get that

I understand what they’re getting at

the team isn’t about individual accomplishment

rather it’s what the team does together

and there’s no room for an individual’s ego to get in the way

… so there’s no “I” in team

but there’s “m-e”

is that different than “I”?

so there isn’t “I,” but there’s “me”

does that support the argument?

whether it does or not … we still get the point

as far as the team goes, it’s about what we accomplish together

and I would add …

without “I” or “Me”, there is no team

the team is made up of individuals

but it’s the ones who have decided that their efforts are better — together

Tell the Story – from the apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the church in Corinth

chap. 12 descries the Body of Christ – the church

he says to the people, “You are the body of Christ”

and individually members of it

God has appointed

apostles, prophets, teachers

deeds of power, works of healing

assistance, leadership, various kinds of tongues

But he asks, “is everybody all of these?”

are all prophets? all teachers? all miracle workers?

Just strive for the greater gifts – and I will show you a more excellent way

the very next verse begins Chapt. 13 – “the love chapter”

goes back through the previous list

tongues. prophecy, understanding, faith, charity

… all of this, without love, is nothing

faith, hope, and love abide – but the greatest is love

“So,” Paul continues in chapt. 14, “since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up of the church.”

“church” here = the gathered community: evkklhsi,a,

So What?

Building up the church is to follow Jesus’ Great Commission

“go into the world to proclaim the gospel”

we do that in the ekklesia – the gathered community

reformed tradition – the Great Ends of the Church – this is why the church exists

the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind

the shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God

the maintenance of divine worship

the preservation of the truth

the promotion of social righteousness

and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

We do this by building up the congregation for the proclamation of the gospel – exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven

the gospel – the good news euangellion (Greek transliteration)

evangelist is one who proclaims the good news

exhibiting the kingdom of heaven is expressed as the noun, “evangelism”

So to do this scary work, we need others with us

we need the gathered body

(I invited congregants to wear their favorite team jersey, bring pennants, signs, etc.  We had some fun with this letting everybody sport their team, there was some good-natured trash talking that was useful for illustrations later in the service.  At the point of the prelude Come Christians Join To Sing where the melody sounds like what the Ohio State band plays while fans spell out O-H-I-O, choir members held up signs with the letters H-I-O, but then shifted around then added C and R t spell out C-H-O-I-R.  Very clever)

we need the people who bring their talents and gifts

the church needs

colts, beavers, Bengals, browns, yellow jackets,

and we need other teams

reds, flyers

– what?? not football

we need

players and coaches

batters, pitchers, runners, quarterbacks, blockers, kickers, goalies, forwards, guards

cheerleaders, team managers, water boys (and girls), bat boys (and girls), bus drivers, referees, umpires,

do we need:

fans/spectators?

well, we need support

it’s good to hear the crowd cheer you on

but what if there were no fans in the stadium?

would the Ohio State and Michigan teams still play football to an empty stadium?

why?

passion, that’s what they’re there to do

and they would keep on playing

and the fans would not be able to stay away. why?

passion

they want to see the passion, and feel it

and the fans that make a difference go home

and get their own jerseys

whatever color

and play ball in their front yard

they want the passion, the thrill

so the church needs fans – not so much spectators

but fans – supporters – the ones who want to be a part

maybe there are some without the physical abilities to run on the team

but there are other ways to support

prayer

but there’s no place in building up the church for the ones who just come to watch

and for that we need strategy

we need education, we need leaders, not just one but many

we need help

we need each other

In closing…

so move from the place of your team

your bench, your dugout, your team bus

and come together as a team

because you are what survives

and begin passing the peace of Christ

even with other teams

even with the ones you may be talking trash to later today

or were talking trash about yesterday

because this is the “more excellent way” the Bible talks about

and you need each other to do it

not for the good of the individuals

not even for the teams as we understand it from our banners and shirts and pennants

but to build up the church – the Body of Christ

and proclaim the good news to the world

so may it be with us. Amen

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