Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 18

Track 1: The Potter’s House

Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

We have all been created in the image of God, but are all not to be the same. God has given us various gifts and talents. He has a distinct vision and purpose for each of us. He is a God of variety.

Today, let us look at God as a potter. We have this analogy in today’s reading from Jeremiah:

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.   (Jeremiah 18:1-4)

The psalmist wrote:

Lord, you have searched me out and known me;
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,
but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before
and lay your hand upon me.   (Psalm 139:1-4)

We are given a picture of God shaping us as a potter would has clay. The potter has expectations. God had expectations for Israel. but Israel had gone its own way. Again, reading from Jeremiah:

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.   (Jeremiah 18:5-6)

Some times the potter has to brake the vessel he is working in order to reshape it into what he desires for it. This can be traumatic for those of us who refuse to trust God and work together with him.

Do we want to become the vessel God has in mind of us? Do we want to become the best we can be? Maybe we might want a different life that  would not be pleasing to God.

In today’s Gospel reading we have this radical statement of Jesus:

Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.   (Luke 14:25-33)

Clearly, Jesus is using hyperbola to make his point. What is his point? In order for us to accept the life he has for us we must be will to give up the old life which did not include him. But his new life for us is not without costs. Are we willing to put ourselves in his hands regardless of the costs? Do the rewards of true discipleship outweigh the costs.

Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.   (John 10:10)

Satan has a counterfeit life for us, but it ultimately leads to destruction.

What about hating ones family? Sometimes family can place expectations on us that really do not match our interests and gifts. We remember there was a time when the family of Jesus wanted him to abandon his ministry and come home. To truly become who we are and what God meant us to be, we must follow his leadings more than anyone else, no matter who they are.

The good news is that God wants the very best for us:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.   (Jeremiah 29:11)

How can we assist God as he carries out his plan for us? How do we become the vessel he intends for us? I am reminded of this old hymn:

Have Thine own way LordHave Thine own wayThou art the potter I am the clayMold me and make me after Thy willWhile I am waiting yielded and still

We need to remember the potter’s house.


Track 2: Choose Life

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 1
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

It has been said that our lives are determined by a series of choices that we make. Perhaps this is true, at least in part. There is an underlying choice, however, which influences all of those choices.

The nation of Israel was facing a choice. Israel was, at last, prepared to enter into the promised land. Mose called all the people together before him:

Moses said to all Israel the words which the Lord commanded him, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”   (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

What lay ahead of Israel was either blessings or curses. It all depended on whom they would worship and serve. Would that be the God who rescued them from slavery from Egypt or some false god Satan designed to lead them astray. It was a life or death situation for them. Moses implored them to choose life.

In today’s Gospel reading we have this stark saying of Jesus:

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.   (Luke 14:26-27)

In some ways he seems to echo Moses. What is Jesus saying? Clearly, he is using hyperbola. Jesus is saying that who we love the most will determine our destiny. We are facing a life and death situation, as was Israel. Whom will we serve? Whom or what will we worship? One choice leads to an abundant life. Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.   (John 10:10)

(This has little to do with the so called prosperity gospel. Rather it is about experiencing a taste of God’s kingdom on earth: righteousness, peace, and joy.)

The other choice leads to a mere existence which soon passes away. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.  (Psalm 1:1-4)

We experience many choices in our lives. How we face them will depend on the choice we made concerning Jesus. He will determine our direction and ultimate destination. We remember this well known question from his disciple Thomas:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:5-6)

Jesus has already made the most difficult choice that anyone could make. He chose to die on a cruel cross to wash away all our sins. What is the choice we make for him?


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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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