Jeremiah 18:1-11/ Psalm 139:1:1-6, 13-18/ Luke 14:25-33
We Are God’s Clay
Empty Your Mind
Buddhism has been in Korea for over 1000 years. Considering that Christianity has only been in Korea for 200 years, you can easily guess the impact of Buddhism in the Korean culture. That is how even non-Buddhists learn something about Buddhism. What I have learned about the Korean Buddhism, which is a bit different from, for example, the Tibetan Buddhism, is summarized in the key word of its doctrine, “nothingness.” Korean Buddhism teaches that we have to empty our minds.
A famous Buddhist monk who lived 1000 years ago was once travelling, when it became dark and he had to find a shelter for the night. He found a dark cave. When he became extremely thirsty, in the dark, he found a bowl of water and drank it, thinking that it was the sweetest water he had tasted. In the morning, he discovered that this “sweet water” was, in fact, a skull with rotten water in it. This experience gave him the revelation that everything is in our head. Buddhism teaches that the source of the human suffering is obsession. For example, we want more than we can get, so, we suffer. We should train to be like flexible water.
Potter and Clay
The clay and potter analogy that we read in Jeremiah also teaches us to be flexible, not like water, but like clay. A potter can shape clay into different things. If something fails, they start again and try something else. This is an appropriate analogy for our Christian idea that we should let ourselves be shaped according to God’s will, for God’s purposes.
One interesting observation from this text is how one can determine one’s own destiny. Whether one believes to be chosen by God for greatness or not, one’s destiny will depend on one’s choice. If one chooses to follow God’s path, God will bless one.
God Knows Us Inside and Out
We should put ourselves in God’s hands to shape us because God is our Creator, and as our Creator, God knows us well. Today’s Psalm professes this fact with intimate and poetic language: “You have searched me and known me. You discern my path and the places I rest; you are familiar with all my ways. Where can I escape from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I lie down in the grave, you are even there. It was you who formed my inward parts; you fashioned me in my mother’s womb.” There are a lot of biblical passages that teach us about our intimate relationship with God, but even among them, this psalm is one of the most beautiful ones.
The Cost of Discipleship
If we let God, we can be formed into an image that is compatible with God’s values, an image that resembles Jesus. Jesus teaches us what this image should look like. We should follow Jesus, yes, but how do we follow him? Today’s gospel text teaches what it entails to be a disciple, the cost of discipleship.
First, we have to prioritize God’s work, even over our family. Of course, we shouldn’t take his teaching so literally as to start hating our family or our own life. Second, we should pick up our own crosses, which may seem very vague and unrelatable.
For Jesus’ contemporaries, the cross was the cruelest of all execution methods. The prospect was too scary, which was exactly the point of this Roman strategy (to scare people into submission).
Being a disciple, living as God’s faithful people, requires sacrifice and even our safety depending on the situations. As a king would not wage war without first determining if there is a good chance of winning, we should not get into the life of discipleship without understanding what it entails. The conclusion is that we should give our all and not compromise our kingdom values.
In verses 34 and 35 that we DIDN’T read today, it says, “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure piles; they throw it away.” As we can see here, the message is clear that God doesn’t want lukewarm participation. All we say and do in life should reflect God’s kingdom values of compassionate love and justice. Discipleship requires complete dedication.
God Can Shape Us in Christ’s Image
Our limitations as humans makes it seem impossible to be like Jesus. We might become discouraged. However, we should remember that we are God’s clay. God can form us into the image of Jesus. God who created us and knows us inside and out will guide and empower us, if we only entrust ourselves in God’s mighty and loving hands. Therefore, let us take a deep breath, empty ourselves, and become flexible like water or clay so that God can shape us and use us to bring God’s reign here on earth.