May 25, 2019

The Theology of the Pot
Isaiah 45:9

Believe it or not, I spend considerable thought in crafting the titles of my sermons. I try to craft titles that make you curious. Hopefully, you’ll see the title and ask, “What’s Wilder up to today?”

A few weeks ago, Cliff Jestice saw the list of my upcoming sermons and one of my titles caught his attention. He said, “Pastor, I’m looking forward to hearing your sermon about marijuana.”

Quickly, I reflected on my upcoming sermons and couldn’t remember ever planning to address marijuana in any of them. Finally, I asked. “Cliff, which sermon are you talking about?”

“You know, Pastor, the one entitled, “The Theology of Pot.”

Well, Cliff almost got it right. Today, I am preaching on The Theology of The Pot, and to put your minds at ease, I assure you it has nothing to do with any form of cannabis.

Instead, I want to talk about pots that fall into the category of pottery. And why do I want to talk about pots? Because the biblical writers often use the metaphor of pottery to teach spiritual truth.

That’s the case in today’s text. Listen to these words about pottery found in Isaiah 45:9. Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'The potter has no hands'?

As Isaiah wrote this passage, he was probably watching a local potter as the craftsman fashioned one of the everyday pots used in his society. He watched as the potter put a lump of clay on a turning wheel and used his hands to fashion a unique piece of pottery, a piece of pottery that would serve the potter’s purpose. At one time the potter would fashion a large pot that would be used to carry water. At other times the potter would fashion smaller dishes that would be used for eating or for serving food.

As Isaiah watched the potter he started thinking about God, and realized that God has fashioned us in the same way. Like the potter, God has molded each of us into a unique creation, a creation custom-made to fulfill God’s divine purpose.

That’s why we’re all different. God the potter has fashioned some of us to be singing pots and others to be preaching pots. Some of us are pots that deliver compassionate care to the hurting, and others are pots that do carpentry work at the church. Some are pots that hold teaching and others are pots that hold beautiful flower arrangements. Each of us is a uniquely fashioned pot, created by God the potter to serve his purpose.

As Isaiah talks about God and pots, he addresses the people who complain that they are not satisfied with the potter’s work. They don’t like what God has done with them and would rather just determine their own purpose and destiny in life. Listen, again, to the complaint voiced by Isaiah. Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'The potter has no hands'?

Yes, sometimes we forget we are created by God for God’s purpose and not for some purpose of our own choosing. Instead, we begin thinking that we are the products of our own creation and that we should determine the purpose of our own lives.

Perhaps, if I tell you about what happened last week you’ll better understand the point I’m trying to get across.

Last week I decided to prepare dinner for Pat and me. I decided we’d have spaghetti, salad, and bread.
I began by taking a large pot and filling it with water. Then I put it on the stove top, let it rise to a boil, and then put in spaghetti noodles. After my pot of spaghetti noodles began a slow boil, I turned my back on the boiling pot and went over to the cabinet so I could start making the salad.

Then, suddenly, I heard this high pitched whistle coming from the area of my stovetop. When I turned around to investigate, I saw that the spaghetti pot had suddenly changed shapes. No longer was it a large open pot. Now it was a tea pot with steam whistling out of its spout. Additionally, I noticed that the spaghetti noodles had been dumped out on the floor.

Quickly, I walked over to the stove to see what had happened and the pot began speaking to me.

“Hey Wilder,” the pot began. “You know I’ve been cooking your spaghetti for years, and to be quite honest, I’m tired of being nothing more than your spaghetti pot. I’m really tired of just sitting here boiling, waiting for your precious pasta to get tender. And when my job is done, do you know how slimy it feels to just sit hear waiting for you to clean the starch off of me?

“Well, I’m not going to put up with it any longer. For years, I’ve been keeping my eye on that pretty little tea pot over in the corner, because I really like what she does. Not only is she given the chance to hold exotic and unusual teas, but when she finishes her job, she gets to whistle out a beautiful song. So today, I’m saying goodbye to sticky spaghetti and hello to whistles and songs!”

Okay, you’ve heard my story. Now it’s time for the multiple choice test. (A) The story I just told is a true story. (B) Wilder had too much wine when he was cooking and believed he could hear pots talking, or (C) With a story like that, there’s got to be some kind of hidden truth. If you picked C, you are correct. There is some hidden truth in this farfetched tale.

Of course the story is not true. First of all, spaghetti pots don’t talk, and secondly, spaghetti pots don’t have any choice in their shape or usage. Spaghetti pots are made by potters and they really can’t choose to be whatever they want.

Now, that’s pretty easy to understand when we think about spaghetti pots, but sometimes we have a difficult time applying that “pot theology” to our lives. Too often, we live our lives as though we are self-made and can choose to be whatever we want.

In fact, that concept seems pretty common in our American society. How often have you heard someone referred to as a self-made man or woman? How often have we been told that if we work hard enough we can be whatever we want to be?

Now, at first, that concept seems noble. Unfortunately, that concept is foreign to the biblical understanding of our relationship with God. Our life’s task is not to work hard to be what we want to be. Our life’s task is to determine what God has created us to be and to determine how he wants to use us. We are not the potter. We are just the pots.

I’m afraid many of us are like the pot in my story. We look at ourselves and our lives and decide something else would be more fulfilling. We look at those who sing and say, “I wish I could sing like that kind of pot.” We look at those who are physically attractive and say, “I wish I looked like that beautiful pot.” We look at brass pots and say, “I wish I was as well-to-do as that kind of pot.” We look at those who have prestigious positions and say, “I wish I could sit on the top shelf like that kind of pot.” And as we look at others, we become more and more miserable because we aren’t like the pots we admire.

But may I remind you, God created you to be something special. He created you to fulfill an instrumental role in his divine plan, a role that cannot be filled by anyone else.

Think back again to my spaghetti pot story. In my story, the spaghetti pot was unhappy because he wasn’t as beautiful or as talented as the tea pot, but can you image what kind of problem a cook would have if every pot in the cabinet was a tea pot. If every pot was a tea pot, what would the cook use to make spaghetti or what would the chef use serve green beans? Granted, the spaghetti pot and the green bean pot may not be as glamorous as the tea pot, but they are no less important. Pots are created differently, not because one pot is better than the other. Pots are created differently because each has an important role to fill.

So stop looking at the tea pot and wishing you could whistle. Instead, learn to be happy with the role God has given you, because when all is said and done, God’s role for you is the one that will bring you the most fulfilment in life.

I love the story told by the rabbis. It seems that Simon the shoemaker had become very old and knew he soon would die. One day he came to his rabbi and said, “Rabbi, I am an old man and I know that soon I will die. When I consider my death, I do not think I am ready to stand before the judgement of God.

“What concerns you, my son?” asked the rabbi.

“When I read The Scriptures, I read about the faith of Abraham and I know I have not had that kind of faith. I read about the power of Moses and realize I have not had that kind of power. I read about the courage of Elijah and realize I have not had that kind of courage. When I read of these great men, then look at my life, I fear I will not be able to stand before God.”

“Simon, my friend,” began the rabbi. “When you stand before God, he will not ask you if you had the faith of Abraham, nor will he ask you if you had the power of Moses, nor will he ask you if you had the courage of Elijah. Instead, he will simply ask you, “Did you use the skills of Simon the Shoemaker to bring glory to your God? On that, my friend, you will be judged.

Yes, God the potter has created us for his own purpose, and it is in that purpose we find the greatest fulfillment in life.

Obviously, given my propensity for ending sermons in song, I dare not miss the chance to sing this one.

Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way.
Thou are the potter. I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, after thy will.
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

And that, my friends, is the theology of the pot.