Rev. Katherine Todd
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your 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.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
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.
Repentance is a turning. It is a 180. It implies turning away from evil AND turning toward good.
In this scripture, we find God speaking to Jeremiah as he gazes on the work of a potter. Just as the pot went bad in the potter’s hands & the potter then chose to make it into something else, so is our relationship with God. It is a relationship! Like a dance partner, God is responding to our every move. God is not only attuned to all our goings & coming, all our words & thoughts, all our actions & inaction. God is also responding to our choices.
How amazing is this, that the God of the universe is interacting with you and with me,
Dancing with you and with me.
Have you ever given it much thought?
We are not controlling the outcomes. We are not manipulating God. But God is responding to our lives and choices. So when we do good, God builds us up, and when we turn toward evil, God sets out to put a stop to it and keep us down. When we align ourselves with evil, we set ourselves against God.
Our God is a holy God. Thanks be to God, evil is an intolerable violation of God’s goodness and truth. Thanks be to God, we have a God who comes beside us in doing good. Our lives matter. And each life matters. Therefore, evil is not benign or acceptable. Not at all. Evil kills and steals and destroys all that which is good and holy and true. And our God takes action.
So we need to make decisions. Everyday we are faced with the choice to follow or to turn to our own way. Everyday we are faced with temptations and shortcuts. Everyday we are faced with opportunities to love and to serve. We are faced with the opportunity to speak truth or to lie. Everyday we are faced with the choice to build up or to tear down. Everyday we have the chance to bless or to curse those with whom we come in contact.
So what is the trail of our lives?
What is in our wake?
What story do our lives tell?
How many have been impacted? And has it been for good or for evil.
God is responding to each of our choices, our decisions, and indecisions.
Do you want to align your life with God, coming alongside God in doing justice and loving mercy? Do you want to set yourself in opposition to God and all that is good and holy and true?
Some have interpreted the Presbyterian concept of pre-destination to mean that God arbitrarily favors some over others, saving some and damning others. That is not what I understand from the Bible. While our actions have consequences and we can choose to step out of God’s life and salvation, I read that our God wills that all shall be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. I read that Christ came, not to condemn, but to save the lost.
Our God has met us more than halfway. Our God knows that we are made of dust. We are not expected to be perfect. And God knows we will stray. But our God is inviting us, over and over and over again to return to God.
It is never too late to return to God.
And this scripture assures us that if we will but turn from our wicked ways, God may turn aside the consequences we had coming. Because our God loves mercy. And when we turn TOWARD God, we find a God ready and willing and waiting to welcome us back home.
Our lives are not planned out for us in advance.
The dance is not mapped out.
Our words, our choices, our actions matter.
And our God is here.
May we be a people of returning.
May we continually turn away from evil and toward God.
May we allow God to take the lead…
that we might indeed live into that fullness and quality of life Christ died to give us.