First Presbyterian Church of Joplin sermon September 4, 2016 - The Wheel

As the Wheel Turns

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Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

1O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

3You search out my path and my lying down,

and are acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

O LORD, you know it completely.

5You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it.

13For it was you who formed my inward parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.

15My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

In your book were written

all the days that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.

17How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18I try to count them-they are more than the sand;

I come to the end-I am still with you.


The art of creation… Genesis 1 and 2. Let there be light…  Formed Adam from the dust… created and creative – hands get dirty…

Paints the sky…sculpts the mountains…forms with hands…knits with fingers… I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

See the beauty in the world – see the art in you and me… each other.

God is an artist. What are we? What is our purpose?

Jeremiah 18:1-11

1The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The 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.

5Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6Can 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. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

I want a do-over.

I want to restart from the beginning, hit the reset button, get a clean slate; take the house down to the studs.

It feels like things were easier when we were younger – if you didn’t like a pitch in kickball, you could toss it back. Life doesn’t work like recess, does it? Sometimes, something that started out so well gets broken…shattered…school, work – friends, family, marriages.

How many times, have I wished I would have preached a different sermon, told a different story, emphasized a different truth…no do-overs, no take-backs.  It seems the lesson is to make the most of each day…each moment…each possibility…

Wouldn’t it be nice…but there aren’t a whole lot of fresh starts out there. It can feel paralyzing as routine devolves into rut and our spirits become catatonic… instead of moving with fresh steps, we settle into ourselves and become intractable.

God tells Jeremiah to get up and go…don’t stay where you’re at…don’t wallow in despair or self-doubt…go to the potter’s house…where there is work being done. It’s time to change your point of view and see beyond the narrowing four walls of your limited perspective…

Go…go to where the work is being done… beyond the palace, the courts, even the temple…go to the potter’s house. Experience:

  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Sight

Water, earth, and a wheel that keeps on turning…a lump…unformed, but not without purpose…the clay has no purpose of its own…it is the potter who has a vision…

Go…go to where the work is being done…beyond the spreadsheets, the meetings, the virtual world…go to the potter’s house…where the creative mind, the recreating hands, and the spinning wheel are doing work.

The vessel was spoiled. What began with promise is now worthless. The potter flings the clay…not into the trash…but back onto the wheel. He is going to start over…The potter isn’t finished…in fact, he’s about to make a new beginning.

“Can I not do the same with you Israel? You are clay in my hand…”

The good can go bad…the bad can be made good. Israel (law and land.) Outsiders.

It’s a warning. Turn.

It’s an encouragement. Things can get better…

Image of a potter – hands dirty – but skilled – recalling God’s work with Adam.

Pottery…Knitting… hands on… our world is mostly hands off now. We don’t create, we consume. Everything (even some relationships) is disposable. FPU – we don’t even handle money…electronic funds transfer, mobile banking, pay with our phones. It might be more convenient, but we’re losing some community and commonality in the exchange. It can drive us into further isolation, BUT…

The world keeps turning

The wheel keeps turning

Just as the potter keeps her eyes on the wheel, God has eyes on the world.

God doesn’t work in marble – God works in clay. Other mediums break, tear, or shatter… clay always has possibility until it is finished and ready for the fire.

The potter isn’t finished.

God isn’t done with us.


These vessels feel spoiled. We feel like that sometimes, right? Maybe, we are crushed with these beliefs all the time. It’ll never be good again. We long for a do-over.

As long as the wheel keeps on turning…there is a promise and potential. As long as the potter pumps the peddle…there is opportunity…a Godly vision transforming into reality…


It might look good enough, but the clay doesn’t have the final word. The potter wants something more…better… 

Always moving –


In the beginning God created…

God is still creating…


In a world of mass production, where uniformity is celebrated – we are called to be something different… flaws and all. I believe pottery is worth more than fine china – the imperfections are there to be sure, but each piece is unique…has its own purpose… each groove comes from the creator’s finger…

How much more valuable are you? How much more does God love you and want from your life and our lives together?

Relationships are not a commodity to be sold or consumed…God sees a possibility…something to be formed and used for a purpose.

If you cannot see it, perhaps, it is time to change your perspective…leave your comfort zone and go to where the work is being done. On this Labor Day weekend – go to Wildcat Glades for a hike – see the divine artistry in individual flowers and trees. Volunteer at Watered Gardens, Lafayette House… Visit one of our congregation members at their home – when you see the art in them, you are much closer to finding God’s purpose in life.

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