St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only- begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven: Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings. Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah—for instruction shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us bring charges against him, and let us not heed any of his words.”
Give heed to me, O Lord,Matthew 20:17–28
and listen to what my adversaries say!
Is evil a recompense for good?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Watching my daughters grow up is one of my great joys and an ever-increasing heartache. I only have 175 or so weekends before my oldest flies the coop. Still trying to wrap my brain around that. Yesterday she cut off her hair. She has been wanting to do something drastic for a while. Short is better than blue, thank God.
Some change is easy and fun. Like a haircut. A couple of weeks ago she got her braces off. Two years of complaining are over. It was slow. It was painful. It was expensive. But now she has a beautiful smile. It had its price. Time. Growing pains. Money. But it is worth the costs. Most things worth having are.
Most of us, once we get established, do not embrace change. When we are young, we run to change. That first ride on a school bus. That first day of changing classes. Going off to school. All of it change. All of it fun and exciting. Mostly.
But as we get older, change gets harder and harder. We resist. We are comfortable. We may change if there is something we really want in it. “What’s In It For Me” is a phrase for a reason.
This morning’s Scriptures look at change. Jeremiah at the Potter’s House: 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. And Jesus confronts people who would not mind changing things around, mostly where their seats are. They want to be in the seats of power. And then he says where true power lies, and it is not in seats of power, but rather in humble service. Jesus: “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Change is part of the call of God. Change your ways. Come, and follow me. Take up your cross. Die to self. Change is required. There is a reason when someone becomes a Christian when they can answer for themselves a “Conversion.” We are converted, changed, when we follow Jesus.
Michaelangelo, at 87 years of age, was asked how to live a good life. His answer, “Ancora imparo.” That is Italian for “I am still learning.” I love the double meaning. He is still learning to live the good life which means he is curious, and open to change. Also, he is living the good life because he is still learning. Learning requires humility, openness, and malleability. At 87 one of the staggering geniuses of Western culture was still open to learning and growing. May we be the same.
Potter’s clay. Humble servants. Still learning. Embrace the change. God is not done making you the best you that you can be. Thanks be to God! Amen