St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Reshaped for a Reason”
Collect: Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Here are portions of the today’s readings...
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel...
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit...
John 6: 27-40
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.
God shaping us and remolding us, in Jeremiah. No condemnation if we are in Christ, according to Paul. Believe, this is the work of God, that Jesus is the Bread of Life, according to Jesus himself. We have these competing images in today’s readings. Differing metaphors for the intangible spiritual life.
This, then, is what we are looking at today. Doing things differently. God is calling Israel to be undone and redone. A strong, clear image everyone hearing could envision. They knew when one throws a pot imbalances happen. The Potter takes the unbalanced vessel, and shapes it again making it stable, usable, better.
Paul looks at the human condition differently. The Spirit is in you, or it isn’t. There is no middle ground here, no wiggle room. If you are in Christ, you are focused on the Spirit. If you are of the Flesh, you are not. This metaphor is different, because it focuses on what is in the pot, not the pot. A big difference here is that by the time Paul has come along, Jewish thought, especially a kid raised in Tarsus, had been influenced by Greek thought, where the body and spirit were seen as separate. One good. One bad. To Jeremiah, a distinction like that would probably have been drivel.
And then we come to Jesus.
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’Be careful not to read, This is the ONLY work of God. That is easily slipped in here. For those listeners on that day, the first step was for them to believe. As these words are still hanging in the air, they go on: So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
Jesus, if he's anything like us, would need to breathe deep and count to ten. “Do you guys think that was from Moses, that Bread from Heaven? IT CAME FROM GOD!”
Then they ask for that bread, still missing the point. Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life.” And hence we get the words. The whole bailiwick. The Potter shapes the Vessel, so that it can be filled with the One Who Was To Come. Blaise Pascal: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
In my Beetle, I have to be very careful what I plan to put in the trunk. There is only so much that can go in, as the opening is small, and not easily crammable. It would be hard to fit most things in, but it is set and not easily redone. We are not like that. God takes us, reshapes us with WHO WE ALREADY ARE and MAKES US READY TO HOLD CHRIST. We are the Vessels. He is the Precious Commodity. Don’t balk at being reshaped. It might not be easy, and it may hurt at times, a nip, a tuck, a pinch. But in the Master’s hands we are being shaped for what is to come. We are being prepared for the Unimaginable. Amen.