Weekly sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship based on two RCL lectionary readings
Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
by John Watson
Sunday 8th September 2013
Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Luke 14:25-33
As in the passage last week from Jeremiah, we saw a broken Israel, who had lost its sense of identity, forsaken its glory for things that in the end are worthless, so this week we see an image, a metaphor of the potters hand or wheel. The remade vessel, that which was once spoiled (here in the potters hand), is reworked, made afresh. The action seems to come as threat, as the passage continues to unpack the potter’s image, not one of tender care and remaking, but one of the ability to skew, and destroy. If as a nation you do not stop with your evil deeds - do not forget that God has the power to remove you, to take away the blemish and rework that which has gone wrong. Revolution in other words!
At first glance this is an uncomfortable reading. Is God really that capricious? Yet if we continue to reflect on this - we see that these words are not to an individual - but to a nation. Where the leaders are oppressive and evil, this word come as a judgement filled hope for those under oppression. That God can have and will have the final word is encouragement to those who feel powerless to change anything. Justice is a louder cry than evil. The challenge is working out where God is in it. We can be tempted to be the sword of justice ourselves, as history and current tensions tragically testify. But injustice and unrighteousness will reveal itself in time for what it is. Through prayer, through passive resistance, through sacrificial determination of not allowing evil to triumph, through actions that call for accountability, justice will be seen. Peace through violence is not a lasting peace. Of course the metaphor that in is the passage can be overstretched as in all metaphors (and all clay!) but the heart of it speaks into a context filled with violence, corruption and injustice. And the promise is that God will act.
Jesus uses a common method of teaching by over exaggeration to make a point but it still sounds harsh. In the end though we cannot avoid the general gist of what he saying. Nothing can replace or take the place of the demands to follow Jesus. If we are to see God’s kingdom way prevail then we are to have unswerving determination to follow Jesus. This is really a discomfort if all you think about following Jesus is giving one hour a week to go to church. Jesus demands all. The Lukan stress of carrying the cross daily is a constant demand on us to make decisions, choices that count the cost. This ends in v33 with the typical call to give up all (as he does to the rich man in chapter 18, Zacchaeus in chapter 19). For us the greatest enemy in our age is wealth and power and prestige. To be a people that are called the Body of Christ, to be a people used by God to bring his own revolution, to be a people that seeks His will of peaceful kingdom, we need that determination, commitment and focus on living. To those who say faith is a crutch to lean on in life - these verses say something entirely different.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.