Rev. Leslianne Adkins Braunstein
Hope Presbyterian Church, Mitchelleville, MD
September 20, 2015
Isaiah 64:1-9 (NRSV)
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
The people of Israel always had an interesting relationship with God. From the time they left Egypt in the Exodus there was this kind of love/hate thing going on. The bible is a catalogue of Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s persistent calling and forgiveness. When Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive the law – the Ten Commandments, the Israelites lost patience and they lost faith. They built a golden calf thinking they could reduce God to something they could control and call upon when convenient. That didn’t go over very well with Moses or with God. Yet, God, in Divine mercy, forgave them.
Then there was the Korah’s rebellion when he gathered 250 Israelites and rose up against the authority of Moses and Aaron. There also was constant grumbling in the wilderness. First the Israelites complained there wasn’t enough meat to eat; then God sent quail until it was coming out of their ears – and they complained about that. Then there was the ultimate rebellion when they rose up and demanded a King rather than be subject to God’s rule and authority. There were the many times when, rather than relying on God’s providence, they made alliances with foreign nations thinking that would guarantee their safety.
Oh yeah. The people of Israel always had an interesting relationship with God. From the time they left Egypt in the Exodus there was this kind of love/hate thing going on. Time and time again the people of Israel like sheep had gone astray; time and time again, they went their own way. And, time and time again God called them back to faithfulness. All those years, all those rebellions and God continued over and over again trying to shape and mold this stiff-necked and rebellious people into a God-fearing, obedient and faithful community.
Now, lest we get to wagging our fingers at the ancient Israelites – because we do like to think we are ever so much better than they were – I want you to stop for a second and think about your own life. Think about how many times God has forgiven you. Think of how many times God would have forgiven you if you even had the presence of mind to ask for forgiveness. Half the time we sin and we don’t even know it. Indeed, all we like sheep have gone astray – each one of us has turned, at one time or another, to our own way. And yet, time and time again our God calls us back saying, “Look, I am willing to work with you. I can make you into the best person you can be – to get you back on the right track.
“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.”
I don’t know about you, but the truth about me is I am a cracked pot. From the very beginning God formed my inward parts; God knit me together in my mother’s womb and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But, I am not always the person God created me to be. I know God has forgiven me. I also know I’ve given God a lot of work to do in that regard. I know I do not have to dwell on those transgressions, but everything we do has a consequence and everything we do – for good or for ill – leaves a mark on our souls. Those are the cracks – the cracks in the vessel the Potter has made. The vessel the Potter has made to be perfect and whole but is now cracked and scarred. Yet, God continues to say, “Look, I am willing to work with you. I can make you the person you want to be – the person I want you to be.” And like everything God created, God pronounces us good. Not perfect. But good.
God is not just working on me. God is working on each and every one of us – molding and shaping us so that we might all be God’s people. God, our Potter, wants to press, mold, and shape us into people who do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, Isaiah says, “Do not remember our sins forever.”
God looks down from heaven, and God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. And so God reaches down from heaven, and shapes us – all we have to do is yield to the Potter’s hand.
I don’t know how many of you remember that old hymn, “Have thine own way.” “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me, after thy will. While I am waiting, yielded and still.”
God wants to do a new thing in your life and in my life and in the life of this community. God’s greatest desire is to take us in those divine hands and mold and shape our life together in wonderful ways; and, when we fall down, God always is ready to work with us, mending those cracks, making us the best people we can be – to get us back on the right track.
I’ve heard it said “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.”
So it is with us – in the Divine Potter’s hands.
And may it always be so.