Jars of Clay

By Pamela Lewis

A Reading from 2 Corinthians 4:1-12

1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice 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. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 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. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 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.

7 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. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 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. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Meditation

Preachers, teachers, and writers who talk about Jesus Christ have a large responsibility in common: They must bear in mind that they stand in God’s presence and that he hears and reads every word, and discerns each heart. They must be careful to neither deceive others nor distort God’s word. What these individuals say or commit to writing must be truthful, as they are commending themselves to others’ conscience. Though in this space they shall remain nameless, history is strewn with those who presented themselves as bearers of God’s Word, when in fact they were deceivers, who distorted God’s message to please themselves or to please their audience. They only claimed to speak the truth but did not proclaim it.

The gospel is open and revealed to everyone, except to those who refuse to believe and give their allegiance to the “god of this age” (Satan). Refusal, like acceptance, is a matter of choice, an action that has been given to us by God as a manifestation of our freedom.

There is a deep humility in Paul’s admission that he and those who have been entrusted by God to share the message of salvation in Jesus Christ are frail and fallible human beings (“jars of clay”). They are perishable vessels, but their contents, linked to Christ, are eternal. Death is always at hand, but life in Christ is also always at work.

To preach or teach about Jesus Christ means knowing that he has all the power, not us. This work is not a solipsistic adventure nor an exercise in self-promotion, but one which lets people see God through us.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New YorkerEpiscopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Krishna-Godavari – The (united) Church of South India
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ft. Thomas, Ky.

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