Bread – Jars

March 1, 2013


Readings for Friday, March 1, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 3:1-18; 2 Cor. 4:1-12; Matt. 5:38-48; Psalms 140,141,142,143

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From today’s reading by Paul to the church in Corinth – “But we have this treasure [the light of Christ] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7

This morning, I would like to focus on the word “jars.” Jars hold things. They are typically glass, meaning that they can hold something without changing it. Jars can hold both solid food (think marmalade) and liquid (think water). Jars are useful and they are practical. Some jars are pretty and some are not, but they all do their job pretty well.

Until they are broken, at which point all the insides spill out to the outsides and the insides are ruined. Although we may try to glue a jar back together, the end result never works as well as the original result.

Paul describes us as jars of clay. Clay jars are weak jars until they are fired and tempered (think ceramics). However, even ceramics can be brittle and break upon striking a tile or stone or marble floor.

What is remarkable to me about this passage is its focus. We normally think of ourselves as the container and God fills up the container with faith, His love, His providence, etc. Think about how prideful that is. We provide the container. Of course we provide the container – we can see it in the mirror, right?

Paul reminds us that we do not even provide the container. God provides us the container, the body, which is a fragile body, a container made of clay, a jar of clay. He does this for a reason – “to show that surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us.” He has the power to create us, to strengthen us (reinforce the clay jar), and to fill us with good things, things we need to meet our physical needs (food, shelter, clothes, transportation) and our spiritual needs (faith, the Holy Spirit, wisdom, grace, love, encouragement).

There are many of us, and perhaps all, whose jars have actually been broken. Our jars of clay have been shattered physically, emotionally, or spiritually, or perhaps all three. Like I said a minute ago, when we try to put our jars back together, the end result never works as well as it did before. When we put our jars back together, with some caulking here and some glue there, patched as it were, we end with a jar which does not look as good as when we started, maybe does not hold as much, and for sure probably leaks somewhere.

But what happens when God puts our broken jar back together? What is the end result?

O the jar repaired and restored by God may look the same, but is it the same? After God has fixed our jar, listen to what Paul says – “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:8-9

When we live in the clay jar of our making, we naturally live in fear because we know that the jar is fragile and once broken, cannot be restored to its original state. When we live in the clay jar of God’s making, we supernaturally live in victory because we know that, though the jar is fragile, its Maker is not, and we know that the jar, once broken, will be restored by God to an even better state.

“Surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” We live in jars not of our making, to live to a purpose not of our design, sustained by power greater than anything we can generate or imagine, saved by a love which surpasses all understanding, all for the glory of God. Cool!

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© 2013 GBF

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