This week’s Word and Spirit Guide is another “vintage” offering from 2016 – the first year of The Word and Spirit.
1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The 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. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6Can 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. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but 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. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but 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.
11Now, 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.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Reflection: You are in the hands of the potter. The potter is shaping you: smoothing out the rough spots, applying pressure to deepen and hollow out the hard places, giving form to the potter’s desires for you. Look at the image above. Perhaps the potter is just beginning the project. Perhaps the potter is in the process of reshaping something previously formed that has gotten misshapen or that has fallen in on itself. Sometimes the clay is hard to mold and sometimes the clay yields easily to the design of the master. Always, though, the hands of the potter are at work, patiently active right in the middle of the muck and mess, stained with the soft, wet clay. The potter is invested in the work. The potter sculpts with love. Be the clay today. Be touched by the potter’s hands. Be recreated.
Prayer Focus: We often are reminded to repent of our personal sins, but there are times when we need to repent of our societal or corporate sins as well. In our Scripture passage, God is speaking to the people of Judah as a community, warning them to repent collectively. What are the sins of our community? What are the sins of our nation? How might we confess these, express sorrow for them, and turn away from them and toward God? Ask these questions through prayer this week, allowing God to reveal our societal sins to you as you pray. Confess them openly. Confess your own and your community’s complicity toward these sins. Confess even your active participation in these communal sins. Mourn them and invite others to mourn them with you. As you continue in prayer, praise God as an act of faith in his redemption. Then pray for the courage and strength to abandon these sins and to hold yourself and others accountable to prevent such sinful expressions in the future. Be a light for the community and an example of God’s goodness and freedom. Let us conquer our collective sinfulness through God’s grace – together.
Meditation Focus: Leo Tolstoy wrote, “in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” It is easy to look out upon our world and see everything that we deem to be in need of drastic change. But how about looking within to discern the same need for change? Read Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5:22-23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” How well does your life bear such Spirit-fruit? Imagine that you are with Jesus in a great garden. There in the middle of the garden is a Spirit-tree. Jesus goes and plucks each one of the fruits, one by one, and brings them to you to taste. What do they taste like? How sweet are they? Are the tastes familiar or foreign to you? Now taste what fruit is growing from the tree of your life. Do these fruits compare with the fruits Jesus gave you to eat? What personal fruit might you need to throw out so that the fragrant taste of the Spirit-fruit might come out in your attitudes and actions? How might you incorporate each one of the Spirit-fruits in the recipe of your life? Look now, Jesus is coming with an overflowing bushel of Spirit-fruit with which to fill you and feed you.
Journaling Focus: Are you the same as you have always been? I hope not! Change and growth are good realities within our lives. It is not that we are so terrible from the beginning that we need to be completely changed into something that is not terrible. No, God created us and called us good. However, we are all heirs of the human inheritance of unrighteousness. We have all been culpable participants in sin. We have all sufferered from infirmities. We have all been oppressed by injustice. We need grace! We need to be reworked by God (verse 5). How has God reworked you throughout the years? How is God reworking you now? Take some time to write about these experiences and explore how God might be active in initiating a new work of grace within your life today. After all, we all need grace and we all need change/renewal day by day. As you write, ponder and be inspired by these fine words penned by Victor Hugo concerning the character Bishop Bienvenu from the book Les Miserables:
“His universal tenderness was less an instinct of nature than the result of a strong conviction filtered into his heart, slowly dropping in upon him, thought by thought; for a character, as well as a rock, may be worn into by drops of water. Such marks are ineffaceable; such formations are indestructible.”
Breath Prayer: Father, shape us through grace.
(In Meditation Focus the quote is from Leo Tolstoy’s “Three Methods Of Reform” from page 29 of Aylmer Maude’s translation of Tolstoy’s works entitled Pamphlets : Translated from the Russian (1900). Accessed at and referenced by https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Leo_Tolstoy)
(In Journaling Focus the quote is from Hugo, Victor, Les Miserables. New York: Carleton, 1862, p. 37. Accessed at https://books.google.com)