First Lesson: Jeremiah 18: 1-11
Responsive Reading: Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18
Second Lesson: Philemon 1: 1-21
Gospel Lesson: Luke 14: 25-33
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“At any moment, you must be willing to give up what you are, for what you will become.”- Eric Thomas.
Let me begin with a story. As told by Carmine Gallo. Some years ago, a young man set out on the journey from London to Los Angeles. The young man seemingly had nothing going for him; no job, no place to live and merely a few hundred dollars to his name. The young man was twenty-two years old and he had not gone to college. His dream was now to make it big in a country that he had never previously visited. The young man believed that the future was a blank slate. The young man after a couple of years starts selling t-shirts at Venice Beach. This young man had no background in sales but was good at reading people and telling stories.
Eventually, the young man gets so good at selling t-shirts that he’s making $1500 a day. The young man invests this money in real estate deals and finally he buys the rights to a British team extreme sports competition. The premise was what would happen if you put sixteen strangers together on an island. Who would lead? Who would follow? Who would get voted off? The man was Mark Burnett. The T.V. Show was Survivor.
Survivor becomes an American phenomena leading to Burnett’s involvement in all sorts of other programming The Apprentice, Shark Tank, and The Voice. When Mark Burnett arrived in America, he only had two things going for him: optimism and confidence that things were going to work out for him. He believed that his previous journey in life was merely crafting him for a difference purpose.
Now you might here Burnett’s story and say “It’s easy to be optimistic when you’re twenty-two with the world full of possibilities.” Let me tell you though about another guy though was also struggling with his life’s purpose.
Jeremiah didn’t want to be a preacher. Jeremiah’s excuse was that he was too young. Jeremiah probably though didn’t want to deal with the hardship of a preacher’s life. Jeremiah didn’t have much in his bank account. God had previously told Jeremiah that he wasn’t going to marry. Jeremiah’s not too well liked around Jerusalem because people didn’t really like his sermons. Jeremiah would spend his nights sleeping on dirt floors, seemingly isolated from everyone in the world.
One night though God sought to change Jeremiah’s life, God taps Jeremiah on the shoulder. God leads Jeremiah to the streets of Jerusalem to a potter’s house.
Why did God take Jeremiah to a potter’s house? God wanted Jeremiah to see a potter working with clay. Clay is a material with limitless possibilities. Clay can always be shaped in a different direction. God wanted to show Jeremiah how involved he would always be shaping Jeremiah’s plans moving forward. Here’s why this is important.
I have a friend who I’ll call Jackie. Jackie had a serious boyfriend some years back. The boyfriend cheated on her. Jackie then began to go through the phrase where “All men are like this”. Jackie after several years decides to give online dating a try. Jackie runs into a few dead ends this way. Jackie had finally had it. Jackie was looking at the world through all that she didn’t have. Jackie believed her trust issues were such that she could never find a relationship with any meaning. Once people abandon hope it’s tough to bounce back.
Life will certainly throw you moments where you feel like Jackie does. Jeremiah would face all sorts of circumstances where he would have wanted to give up on being a preacher. Jeremiah was arrested. Jeremiah saw his writings burned. Jeremiah was forced to wear humiliating clothing in public. Jeremiah saw his home fall victim to a foreign power. Jeremiah had to spend his dying days living far, far away from home. So what is God saying to both Jackie and Jeremiah on this day?
I was reading a book by Andy Stanley a while back where he talked about life being a series of chapters. The chapter that you’re currently living may very well not be the chapter you would write. The current chapter though always can shape the next chapter. The next chapter may even be written after you've left this world behind. The current chapter may provide opportunities for God’s purposes to come to fruition within the next chapter.
What God is seeking to assure Jeremiah in our lesson for today is “I have a plan for you.” So that even as Jerusalem burns. Even as Jeremiah wonders if God has forgotten his people, God is saying “My love shall never cease “. Hope is soon coming to your city of Jerusalem in the form of a child. Hope is coming in the form of a cross. Hope is coming in the form of a resurrection even as the city currently burns. The Potter will not abandon his clay until it reaches its final form in the world that is to come.
What I want you to take from Jeremiah’s story is this that it is possible to be optimistic even in the most difficult circumstances of life.
Let me tell you another story. Let me tell a story about a kid born an albino named John Walsh. Walsh like most albinos had really bad eyesight; Walsh struggled to learn and read because of this. Walsh, more than anything else in the world, loved playing sports growing up. But because of his eye sight, he couldn’t play very well. Sports though gave him the focus and discipline to improve his school work. Walsh enrolls in college. He decides that since he won’t be able to play sports for a living that the world had a different path for him. John Walsh became the rare almost blind Sports Editor. The first magazine that Walsh founded folds in 1982. Walsh bounces around at odd jobs for a couple of years. In 1987, he got hired as a consultant by the Sports Network ESPN. Six months later he gets put in charge of a program called SportsCenter. SportsCenter under Walsh’s direction becomes a national phenomenon. John Walsh could have all sorts of times going through the world could have called out “woe is me”, but regardless of John Walsh’s eyesight. He was able to maintain his sense of purpose.
Dr. Rich Guerra presents the following scenario.
Imagine living in medieval times and you’re traveling through the countryside. There’s all sorts of dust, noise, and activity. You come across a man with a sledgehammer and he’s smashing rocks.
“What’s going on here?” you ask.
The man responds, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m breaking rocks.”
You continue on your way and find another man who’s got a sledgehammer and he’s breaking up rocks.
“What’s going on here?” you ask.
The man responds, “I’m making a living.”
You walk further down the road and you see a man doing the same thing. He’s got a sledgehammer and is smashing rocks.
“What’s going on here?” you ask.
“I’m building a cathedral.”
What this story illustrates is how the Potter sees the world. The Potter does not merely see lumps of clay at any given moment. The Potter never loses sight of what this lump of clay might become.
Let me close with the following story of why this is so important for God's purposes within our world. Joe Falkner dreaded going to Middle School. Joe had heard horror stories of ninth-graders bullying seventh graders leaving them without any pants. Joe seemingly had nothing going for him. Joe was short, fat, and shy. Joe didn’t have a dad living at home. Joe was poor and it had crushed his self-esteem. As he began Middle School, Joe encountered a teacher named Miss Evridge. Miss Evridge was seemingly the tallest woman that Joe had ever seen. Miss Evridge seemed cold with her hair worn in a bun and glaring eyes for anyone who ever crossed her path. If you were a second late for class, then Miss Evridge would mark you as tardy. All the kids thought Miss Evridge was mean and unfair.
Joe Falkner began to see something in Miss Evridge over time. She was fun! She could get the students both laughing and learning at the same time. Miss Evridge was also a Christian. When Joe Falkner found out, he let her know that he was too and their bond deepened. Miss Evridge eventually encourages Joe to enter a speech contest. Joe was way too timid and shy for public speaking. Miss Evridge promised that she would work with him. Joe Falkner won the public speaking context.
Miss Evridge and Joe were one day talking about what Joe was going to do in life. Joe wanted to be a “scientist”. Miss Evridge suggested that he could be a preacher. Joe stomped his feet at that suggestion. Joe Falkner was like Jeremiah he never wanted to be a preacher, but God had other plans. Joe Falkner became not just a preacher, but a preaching professor. Miss Evridge helped take a short, fat, shy lump of clay to mold it for God’s purposes.
The point is this. It’s real easy to get defeated in life. It’s real easy to look everywhere around you and see no sense of purpose. Jeremiah would have understood this reality. So Jeremiah sees a vision on this day. The vision has Jeremiah see a potter working on some clay; the clay begins to lose its intended shape or form. The Potter had two choices at this moment. The Potter could curse at his imperfection, or the potter can keep working on it until the clay ultimately serves the Potter’s purposes.
As I’ve talked about before, I do not stand here on this day apart from the influence of my Great-Grandpa Arvid who shaped my life well into his nineties. Mark Burnett doesn’t become one of the biggest influences in television apart from his optimism. John Walsh doesn’t change American sports if he doesn’t keep faith even as life veers off course. Joe Falkner doesn’t become a preacher apart from the influence of Miss Evridge. The Potter is looking to lump clay in your own life. The Potter is looking to work with your strengths to change the lives of those around you. God is saying on this day “Follow me to the Potter’s House.”
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”-Jeremiah 29:11.
 Gallo, Carmine. The Storyteller’s Secret. Saint Martin’s Press. New York. 2016. P.18-22.
 Gallo, Carmine. The Storyteller’s Secret. P.20
 Gallo, Carmine. The Storyteller’s Secret. P.23
 The Sunday lesson is Jeremiah 18:1-11.
 Jeremiah 1:4-10.
 Jeremiah 16:2.
 Hyde, Dr. Randy. L. “Jeremiah: The Season of Discontent.” Lectionary.org. 2004. Web. Aug.31.2016.
 Hyde, Dr. Randy. L. “Jeremiah: The Season of Discontent.”
 Jeremiah 18:1-11.
 Portier-Young, Anathea. “ Commentary on Jeremiah 18:1-11”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 4. Sept.2016. Web. Aug.31.2016.
 Stanley talks about this in the book Ask It.
 Lamentations 3:22-24.
 Wagner, Dr. Keith. “A Play-Doh Like Faith.” Lectionary.org. 2001. Web. Aug.30.2016.
 Walsh, John. “His Own Unique Self.” Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal. 11-17. May. 2015. Web. Aug.30.2016.
 Walsh, John. “His Own Unique Self.”
 Gallo, Carmine. The Storyteller’s Secret. P.153.
 Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hanson, Patty Aubrey, and Nancy Mitchell. Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL. Health Communications Inc. , 1997, Book. P.189- 193.
 Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hanson, Patty Aubrey, and Nancy Mitchell. Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. P.190-191.
 Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hanson, Patty Aubrey, and Nancy Mitchell. Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. P.191-192.