This is a unique week for us. We are surrounded by artwork throughout our buildings with the Cumming First UMC Festival of Arts and for us at 951, we are surrounded by artistry in our space. Our choices of decoration are important. Surely beauty is in the eye of the beholder but tacky is on display for everyone to see! The practice of Feng Shui, focuses on how design impacts our emotions and health.
In the church, artistry has deeper meaning. When icons and stain glass work were developed, it was to help tell the story of the Bible for those who couldn't read. These works became more significant through the centuries so that symbols became their own art form. The Orthodox traditions place a high priority on beauty.
Let me introduce you to our special guest today, Kevin Whitley. Kevin's work is on display throughout our church and his artistry has touched many of us. Kevin is also a teacher and so he has passed his knowledge and skills to others. And Kevin's skills overlap with a unique passage from the Bible where artistry and the heart of God collide – in the potter's house in Jeremiah18:1-6.
It was over 2,000 years ago, before Jesus' coming, that Jeremiah was called to be a prophet at very early age. In Jeremiah's time the nation of Judah had made a lot of bad choices and political alliances that led to its conquered and people being exiled. As a prophet, he held to God's word and truth. Unfortunately, it meant that the king and rulers weren't excited to have Jeremiah around since he pointed out their mistakes.
Then God gave Jeremiah a message: go the potter's house, an artist, there I'll give you the message for my people.
Look at the clay that you were given during the Children's moment. I suspect some of you couldn't help yourself and started molding it already. What have you made? Is it a cup? A bowl? An airplane or a snake? Do you like it...or is something lacking in it?
Ken turns to Kevin and says, “Kevin, when a work of pottery isn't quite right do you throw it out and get a new lump of clay?”
Kevin responds, (and at the same time restarting his work), “No, you start over!”
Nothing is wasted in the work of the potter. The main work may need to be redone. Scrap can be tossed to the side only to be reused latter to make another piece. Nothing need be wasted. The potter's work and God's work are very similar.
This image was so significant, Paul, in his letter to the Roman church used the same idea when he wrote: Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, "Why did you make me like this?" (21) A potter has the right to do whatever he wants with his clay. He can make something for a special occasion or something for everyday use from the same lump of clay. Rom 9:20-21 GW
There is heart behind the art and not just what you see made by hand here today. The heart of God is evident in each of us, in our uniqueness. God has made us to be vessels not for food or drink or car keys but for carrying the Good News of Jesus Christ's Kingdom.
Sure, things do go haywire. We go astray, we choose not to go after God's way. Circumstances overwhelm us and we lose sight of God's work in us. Sometimes we place value on things of this world like business success or social status and so make the molding God is doing go wonky. The word the Bible uses for this is sin.
But the image God uses is the potter: nothing is wasted. A new start is always possible. The feeling may not be good if you are the clay mind you! But God isn't interested in tossing us out. Jesus didn't do that to lepers or tax collectors or prostitutes. He also didn't do it to the Jews.
This message of the potter and the clay is all about Grace.
One pastor wrote: It tells us that we have another chance:
that when we fail
that when we have lost the beauty we once had
that when we have gone off on a path that is not helpful
That God can rework us
That God can salvage us and make us beautiful
and that it is God's DIVINE DESIGN to do so!
Every piece of artwork was formed to add beauty to this world. We dare not miss this! You have a place in God's Divine Design – you have been created and are recreated to reflect this message of grace and beauty. Take time and make the arts festival part of your week. Make art a part of your life and remind you God is working in and through you to BE a vessel for him...even if you're a little wonky and God is still forming you.
Ken is the Associate Pastor at Cumming First United Methodist and lead preacher for the NEW 9:51 Worship service meeting each Sunday morning. Follow Ken on Facebook or on Twitter: @jedipastorken
Learn more about the variety of worship experiences, the many ministries and the incredible people of Cumming First United Methodist Church, Cumming, GA. A Traditional Church for Contemporary People!