God is the ultimate recycler. We can worship him for his endless patience and creativity with this simple activity with plasticine.
You will need
- You could also have a go at encaustic wax art – it’s easier than it looks and even my poor attempts look great! (mostly) Here’s a starter set.
Affiliate links: The flags will take you to supplies from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com. Anything you buy in that session will help to support this ministry and keep it free. So feel free to order that Rolls.
Roll out some plasticine to make a long worm, at least 12”, 30cm long. Coil one end round to make a flat disk on your plate, like a coin. Use the rest of the worm to build up the sides so that you get a pot. You can add more worms to make the pot bigger, or add details if you like.
Now use the pencil to mar your pot. Squash one side in a bit. Poke a hole and bend the rim.
Life happens. Things go wrong. We go wrong. We do rubbish stuff. We spoil God’s handiwork in us. But all is not lost. God is the ultimate recycler. God is the God of another try. God never gives up.
Squash your pot flat and re-roll your worms. Make another pot, not the same as before, but not totally different either.
Have you ever tried encaustic wax art? (No, I hadn’t heard of it either). I have a friend who is amazing at it. She melts some coloured wax on a mini-iron, goes Swish, Swish, Swish on a piece of card, and there is a shimmering rainbow dragon. I am seriously covetous of her talent.
I had a go myself. It’s lot of fun. I go Swish, Swish, Swish and there is … ummn … well … it’s … ummn. And then one of my lovely friends chirps up. “If you turn it upside down and add something at the bottom, it’ll look like a duck.” And it does. A bit. If you squint.
The potter in today’s reading is a bit like this. He starts making a pot, it doesn’t go the way he wanted, so he turns it upside down and adds something at the bottom. Only with this potter, it looks great when he has finished, not like a malevolent mallard with some dodgy prosthetics.
The potter is God and the clay is his plan for Israel. And it’s going to change. They are not keeping to the covenant that they had made with God (Ex 19:1-8) so God will change his mind about the good that he had intended.
Now before anyone gets all Calvinisty and pre-desinationy and fore-knowledgey on me, let us be clear. These are the words of God himself as recorded by Jeremiah. Just because God says he changes his mind does not imply that God got it wrong the first time, nor that the second plan is better than the first, nor that second go means second-best, nor that God makes mistakes, nor that God cannot be relied upon to keep his word. None of those are implied by the phrase “I will change my mind”.
What it does mean is that we cannot languidly assume that because God has been merciful and patient with us, allowing us time to change our ways, it will carry on like this for ever. Jesus told several parables with this same point: tenants, bridesmaids, vine. I could add the parable of the teenage children: There will come a time for a bedroom inspection. You have been given plenty of warning, plenty of time to get at least a visible carpet, so make sure you are ready. I have a trip to the cinema planned for tomorrow, but instead I could change the WiFi password.
So God the potter does not like the way things are turning out and gives good clear warning that things could be changing. The up side of this is that God is an expert, and even when Israel mess up big time, God does not throw away the clay, he reworks the marred pot, as seems good to him. (And that bit is important.)
My daily readings are in Judges right now, and today I read about Samson, that one-man natural disaster. He’s probably the most marred pot the Bible contains, yet was still used by God to fulfil his plans. If God can use Samson, then I guess he can use even me.
We are all marred pots, so let us acknowledge our cracks and chips before God; he knows them anyway.
I find it rather comforting to know that nothing I tell God of my faults and vices can surprise or shock him. He knows, and still likes me. What a wonderful Lord!
I surrender to your skilful hands
I relax into your good plans
I offer you my cracked, broken marred pot
please remake me, as seems good to you.
Jeremiah 18:1-11 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised
The Potter and the Clay
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.
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. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but 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.
And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but 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.
Now, 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.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.