Broken Jars

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  - 2 Corinthians 4:7

The above verse from Paul's nearly two-thousand-year-old letter to the church at Corinth has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  

Until recently, I assumed that Paul was merely pointing out the finite and transient nature of human beings--addressing our frailty and potential for brokenness.  

But I've come to believe that when he used the words "jars of clay," Paul may have also been referring to the ways in which we convey our understanding of God.  

Paul seemed to know intuitively that we would be tempted to worship our beliefs about God rather than simply worshipping Godself.  Which is why he said that we hold the treasure of God's great story of love, grace, redemption, and resurrection in "jars of clay."

Sometimes it feels like there are far too many of us Christians these days, who act as though we have it all figured out.  We claim to have settled all disputes over Scripture.  We know quite clearly what God is all about.  We are smug in our certainty.  

And all the while we don't see that so many of our firmly held beliefs are being held in crumbling containers that are falling apart in our hands.  

From time to time, I will pick up one of my old journals or read a sermon or two I wrote years ago, just to remind myself of how I've grown in my faith, expanded my understanding of God's love and still continue to find new examples of beauty, goodness, and truth in the Bible.  

It's in these moments that I become very aware of how so many of my own cracked and worn out jars of clay have had to be discarded.  Discarding those familiar jars was painful, and I still feel the pain of it at times.  

But when I did, I found myself being shaped anew by God's "surpassing power" and love.  I began to do my best to follow the path of wisdom outlined in the Hebrew Scriptures: 
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. - Proverbs 3:5-6
May you have the wisdom to acknowledge your own jars of clay, and not be dismayed by their crumbling.  See them as they are: blessedly temporary and finite.  And then see God as God is: forever faithful and patient.    

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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