Pentecost 2 2018, Ruma, Evansville Il. 2 Cor. 4:4-7
4:7, But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
On April 15, 623 BC, a surprising treasure was found in the temple at Jerusalem. During a renovation of the temple someone found, the bottom of a box, one of the earliest scrolls of what was likely the Book of Deuteronomy. They found a book of the Bible. Without that word of Scripture false worship practices became mixed in with idol worship and practices. This scroll of scripture became a valuable guide in the renewal and renovation of the temple, it’s worship and the lives of the people.
In our epistle lesson St. Paul writes of a treasure which also is important to our worship and lives. “Now we have this treasure in clay jars to show that its extraordinary power comes from God and not from us.” What is, “this treasure in clay jars?” It’s not only valuable but it demonstrates God’s power. These clay jars are those who believe in Jesus Christ, they are you and me. What is this treasure that is to be found in each one of us? Johann Franck identifies it in a hymn he wrote It’s Jesus priceless treasure. So, let’s examine how this treasure of God came to be placed in each of us.
First, why does Paul call us clay jars? Well because that’s what we are. We are copies of the first work done in clay. In Genesis, God knelt beside a stream, took a ball of red clay and shaped a man of it. We know him as Adam, the man of red clay. Then God breathed the breath of life into his clay pottery work and it became a living being. After a while he took a chunk out of the man of clay and constructed a partner, a woman to stand beside him. But this duo, this husband and wife partnership from his maker were tricked by the wily serpent to go off on their own, never mind God. Reminds me of the ginger bread man who escaped from the oven and ran off from his maker as fast as he can. Of course, he ended up as a snack for the wily red fox. Adam and Eve forgot they were made of clay. They forgot their maker. In Isaiah God asks, “Does the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?” or criticize his work, “Your work has no handles?” What they should have said, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” But they didn’t allow God to complete forming them as he wished. What happened when they tried run away from God? Did you ever blame someone one else for something going on and hold yourself as pure as the driven snow? Well, this is where that started. Adam blamed God for the gift of his wife. Eve blamed the serpent. Now the man and the woman were broken pottery. Broken apart.
So, Now the whole creation is broken. The care of creation is hindered by weeds and thorns. The man labors in the field and the woman labors to give birth. St. Paul says, “The whole creation groans together in the pains of childbirth as we ourselves groan as we wait for the redemption of these jars of clay” Job, who knew a thing or two about groaning pleads with God, “Remember that you have made me like clay.” He groans, “My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me…my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart.” Human kind is fragile, breakable. But God did not throw us in the dump for broken pottery. God was rather determined to repair, to put our shattered pieces back together again and make us new again. Here is how God put his greatest treasure in us jars of clay.
God became a clay jar in Jesus. Yes, He who was in the beginning with God and was God became one of us. He who through whom all things were made, who participated in the forming of the first clay man; who is light and life itself became a second Adam. He became like us fragile, breakable, liable to death. He became God with us. He became, St. Paul admits, the foolishness of God and the weakness of God. But to us who believe he is the power and wisdom of God. He is the source of our life, so that if we are temped to boast that we did it ourselves, we are being delusional. He did it and if we want to boast, boast about how God brought you and me, poor miserable sinners out of death into eternal life through Jesus whom God brought out of death into life via the resurrection.
You see those who thought he was foolish, dangerous, and weak treated him like just another piece of pottery, no more valuable than their cooking pot in their kitchen, when its broken toss it out. So, after breaking him on the cross, or so they thought, they would have tossed Jesus into the pottery dump outside Jerusalem where Judas ended up. However, early in his ministry Jesus gave us a hint, a sign that something great was going on. He with his family and disciples were invited to a wedding in a village called Cana. As you know the wine ran low. As you know there were six clay jars sitting nearby, each holding 20 or 30 gallons. When the jars were filled with water the master of the wedding reception discovered that Jesus had turned it into the finest wine. That was between 120 and 180 gallons of wine. That would make for a lot of celebrating.
God has filled us ordinary clay jars with something so valuable and abundant that its worth celebrating with overflowing thanksgiving from now and forever. He has filled us with the good news of the glory of Jesus Christ who is in the image of God. So that when we are looking at Jesus, we are looking at God. Where do we find that priceless treasure of image of God as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ. God has put it in us. Now we may not look like it. When I look in the mirror I see this older guy, who was once young, who is now missing a lot of hair, and carries scars from multiple heart surgeries. I won’t ask what you look like.
Nevertheless, that treasure is changing us. The psalmist says, we are going from strength to strength. And Proverbs tell us, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” Oh, there are times when the Son, that is Jesus, doesn’t seem to be shining very brightly in our lives showing us the path. There are times when we don’t shine brightly showing the way for others to find this treasure. But it’s happening. This temporal time in which we live is headed toward the eternal. There will come that day when we will all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye and we shall be raised from that now quiet village that resides in our cemeteries. This jar of clay will be changed, and the mortal will put on the immortal. We will join in thanksgiving for the victory which God has given us through Jesus Christ. Yes, for Jesus Christ our priceless treasure gives eternal pleasure.