Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Potter and the Spirit

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 -- Week of 4 Lent (Year One)
James Theodore Holly, Bishop of Haiti, and of the Dominican Republic, 1911

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalms 101, 109 (morning)        119:121-144 (evening)
Jeremiah 18:1-11
Romans 8:1-11
John 6:27-40

I've watched a potter spinning clay, carefully shaping a design that I don't yet see.  I've seen when things go awry.  I remember a tall vase-like clay structure that became unbalanced.  It began to wobble on the spinning table, and the top of it became distorted.  Its neck began to bend and the top become disfigured as it flopped ungainly.  Then the potter suddenly smashed the soft clay into a lump and started over, hands gently, persistently molding again until a lovely, balanced vase appeared from the lump and took shape.  The potter didn't seem mad, or upset.  Maybe a touch of frustration.  But with equanimity and patience she continued to touch and coax the clay into the lovely vision she had hoped for.  She was not to be denied.

Jeremiah reflects on a similar experience and uses it as an analogy for Israel and for any nation.  Can God not do what the potter does? asks Jeremiah.  If a people will not conform to the divine image of justice and goodness, "I will pluck up and break down and destroy it," (18:7b) as the potter who takes a spoiled vessel and reworks it into another vessel. (18:4)  The clay remains, but if it becomes misshaped, it is destroyed and recreated into its original intended design.

There may be a relationship here with Paul's conversation about "flesh" and "Spirit."  He contrasts walking in the flesh with walking in the Spirit.  "To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."  In Galatians 5:19-23, Paul describes in more detail what that looks like.  The works of the flesh are unbalanced, distorted and disfigured, and they produce human ugliness.  Paul speaks of the death that comes through the flesh -- "the body is dead because of sin." (Romans 8:10)  Yet, even though the body may be dead because of sin, "the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (10b)  It is the righteousness of Jesus that Paul speaks of.  And so, God gives us new life through Jesus, not unlike the potter who reworks the same clay into its intended form.

God is an infinitely persistent potter.  Over and over Paul insists that God will recreate "all things" in Christ.

Unlike the dead lump of clay, we have a part to play in this.  We can live by the Spirit.  We can set our minds on the things of the Spirit -- "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and temperance." (Galatians 5:22)  As the wheel turns in each moment of our lives, we can be entirely in that moment with our mind set on these things.  That moment is a moment in the Spirit.  And we are being touched gently by God.


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to:

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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