He formed us
The change God has worked in you is remarkable. God has formed you to be his unique child. He reformed you then and he continues to work a reformation within you through his Word and Sacraments to continue molding you to serve and honor God in your life.
The reformation is ongoing in our hearts and lives. We need to examine our lives according to God’s Word so that we see our complete helplessness to earn our salvation.
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
“Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’
It is easy to forget that we are like putty in the hands of the Almighty. He formed us as we are to serve and honor him in our lives. History tells the sad story of people forgetting why we are here. Jeremiah lamented the fact that people had lost the practice of true religion in his day. People cared more about warm fuzzy feelings than about the truths of God’s Word. The putty forgot the potter who had made him!
The Church in Luther’s day was huge. In fact, much of Europe was identified as the Holy Roman Empire. It seemed like almost everyone in Europe belonged to the Roman Church by birth. The church kept its thumb on the people by terrifying them into behaving as was beneficial for the institution. Nearly no one read nor understood what the Bible taught. That was deemed unimportant. What was important was what the church said was important. In spite of all the glitz and glamour of majestic architecture, the Spirit’s fire had gone out in the belly of most of the people. The church was spiritually bankrupt. Again, the putty forgot the potter who had made him!
Today there are millions of professing Christians in this land. It is still the largest religious grouping in America. On Sunday mornings around here, churches are filled with worshipers. I don’t know what people are hearing in other churches. My concern is what people are hearing here. Do you know that you are God’s creation and that God has made you what you are to honor and serve God in your life? Do you care about the truth or are you only interested in an outward display of piety? Is church, like life, really only about what makes you feel good and not at all about what God wants or expects of you?
If you know you are putty in God’s hands, you will listen to what he says. You will let him shape you into his new creation. And you will rejoice that God has made you his child through Jesus Christ your Savior. Reformation Sunday is a good time to remember ….
We are putty in the hands of the potter
we are marred
we will be changed
Remember that God had formed Israel to be his treasured possession. He had made that nation of all the nations of the world to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” They became marred when they chose to become like all the other nations of the world instead of living life with the Word of God as their guide.
Jeremiah had a long ministry – a hard ministry. For about 50 years God used him to warn Israel to repent lest they be crushed by the Lord because of their sins. There is no other book in the Bible in which you hear the phrase “this is what the Lord says” more than in Jeremiah. God reminds us again and again that Jeremiah was speaking God’s words to the people. But when he spoke the truth to the people, the people got angry at Jeremiah. He was persecuted, imprisoned, mocked, left in a muddy dungeon because the people didn’t want to hear God’s Word. When Israel finally went into captivity to Babylon, he could have left too. Instead he stayed behind with the poorest of the residents left in the ash heap of Jerusalem.
When they fled the city and headed toward Egypt, Jeremiah went with them because he wanted them to repent and believe the Word of God. He most likely died in Egypt at the hands of the people he loved so much.
From time to time God used object lessons to teach Jeremiah and the people an important spiritual truth. Our text is one of those times. “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So, I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” Picture a man pedaling a device that causes his muddy object to spin around in front of him. He takes his finger and makes an indentation in the middle of the object while it is spinning and keeps making the mark bigger until he has made a pitcher, pot, or kettle. If he doesn’t like the way his product is looking, he destroys it and starts all over until he is satisfied with what he has made.
“Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. Does that not make you squirm in your seat? We are marred! We bear in our bodies the sin of Adam compounded with all the disobedience that roam around in our dirty little minds and spill over into our words and actions. So great is our sin that the Bible says, “there is no one who does good, not even one.” God has given to us his standard by which we are to live and has left no room for error. He says simply, “Be holy.” God’s holy demands terrorize us. Read verses 5-10. God has ample reasons to crush us and start over again with other people.
But instead God has changed us! The prophet Isaiah says in his last chapter (64:8), “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hands.” St. Paul told the Ephesian (2:10) Christians, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul marveled that God would entrust to weak, fragile, people like us the message of forgiveness, life and salvation. He told the Corinthian (2 Co 4:7) Christians, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” St. Paul told the Roman (5:6-8) Christians, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God could have crushed us, but instead he changed us!
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So, turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.” It is time for a reformation in my heart and your heart. Why? A disaster looms in the future without a reformation. Humble yourself and see that you need God to change you from the inside out again! Without such a change of heart, we may think that we deserve a place in heaven when such a future is a gift from God and not a reward for whitewashed life. Is there a greater tragedy than for a person to come to church his whole life thinking that he can earn heaven when eternal life is still a gift of God’s grace?
The Lord urges “each one of you” to turn from your evil ways and reform your ways and your actions. We are all guilty of having a self-righteous heart. Israel thought that Jerusalem would never fall. After all, the temple of the LORD was there! But it did because they would not turn from their evil ways. God has a plan of disaster and a plan of salvation. You can earn the disaster by rejecting God’s grace and mercy in Christ. The plan of salvation is a gift to you through faith. Salvation has been signed, sealed and delivered to each of you through the blood of Christ shed on the cross to wash your sins away. The Holy Spirit has changed you from a marred piece of pottery to a shining, glimmering, handiwork of God.