Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
The term clay jars brings a couple of images to mind, firstly, making clay dishes/ashtrays at school and how on occasion they exploded in the kiln. Secondly, the paint-your-own pottery shops in various holiday locations around the country where a lot of money is paid so a child can create a masterpiece on a mug, plate, dish or other pottery-based item.
What strikes me in both of these images is that the items are similar but have different memories attached, and the crockery is oddly sturdy and fragile at the same time. Our lives are just like that, as is our faith. There are times when our faith enables us to stay strong when people expect that we would break, but there are other times when it would be the expected norm that our faith gets us through, and in fact we feel distant from God.
Clay jars in my head vary from arts and crafts rough and ready simplicity, to beautifully handcrafted artisan pieces, and again that is like us. I look at some of my friends and colleagues and wonder at how well presented and together they are as human beings, and then think I must look like a child’s art and craft project in comparison with my less than togetherness, then I am reminded that to others, I am the one they see as all worked out together grown up and they see themselves as the “mess”.
The thing is, to God, we are all the child’s messy art and craft clay project that didn’t make it out of the kiln intact, but that is exactly why we are called by God to show and share the message of hope to God’s glory, because through God, we are all made artisan handcrafted pieces even on the days we feel arts and craft.
Creator God, you have crafted the universe precisely, And even when we feel like the rough arts and crafts clay pot Remind us that we still hold your grace and spirit and are called by you.