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Pentecost 2B: June 18, 2006 – “Jars of Clay”

19 Jun

Text: 2 Corinthinans 4:5-12

        Grace,
mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes
from the Epistle which was read earlier.

        Have
you ever thought about what all it means to be a pastor, one who defends the
ministry of the Gospel? It’s a very easy
job because we only work one day a week. The other six days are just vacation I guess. But for that one day a week that we do work,
it takes a great deal of preparation. Sermons do not write themselves. Just
about anyone could sit down and write a sermon, but it takes great effort to
write a sermon where the Gospel is properly preached and Law and Gospel are
rightly divided. 

        When
a pastor preaches, it has nothing to do with him personally. It is the Holy Spirit, working through a
pastor who preaches. If we ourselves do
the preaching, we can preach about whatever we want to preach, however we want
to preach. But that isn’t what Paul
says. Paul says that we preach “Jesus Christ as Lord.”

        In
today’s text, Paul doesn’t focus on who is doing the preaching, but who it is
that is being preached about: Jesus Christ. Paul explains here why he is proclaiming Jesus and not himself, why he
is their slave and not seeking to be their master. It is because Paul had nothing to do with
creating this salvation. God the
Creator, who made light out of nothing, in the midst of blackest darkness, did
it. He proved His lordship even in our
conversion. He placed His light in the
heart of a man who once lived in darkness. The ministry of the Gospel is based on a justification and a conversion
which are entirely the decision and work of God. Paul has nothing to say about a contribution
on his part. God did it all. This is why he preaches only Christ.

        However,
that isn’t how it always is. Unfortunately, not every sermon a person will hear in their life will
focus on Jesus Christ and what it is that He did for us. We might hear a sermon that focuses on what
it is that we did to earn our salvation. We might hear a sermon that minimizes the salvific work of Jesus
Christ. God’s will is that people see
His glory and be saved, His glory is seen nowhere more clearly than in Jesus,
His person and His work. With faith the
light, the Holy Spirit gave Paul a drive to reveal Christ, God’s embodied
glory.

        For
Paul, there was darkness inside of him. He recognized that, as we should recognize the darkness inside all of
us, as well. That darkness is sin and it
is inside all of us, regardless of how much we try to deny it. Paul wrote to the Romans that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of
God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Sin is much a part of us. It became a part of us when Adam and Eve ate
from the tree and it will be a part of us until the day we die, and we will die
because of death.

        If
God wanted to, He could have left us in the state of sin and death but chose to
send us hope. That hope was in the form
of His Son, Jesus Christ. Instead of
death, Paul writes that “we have
this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from
God and not from us.”
This light of God is a great treasure
and an all-surpassing power. It changes
people, as it changed Paul. It causes
them to preach Christ, too. It leads
others to ask them for the reason for the hope that lives in them. This treasure that we have is the knowledge
of God; it is the Gospel. But human
beings would not naturally assume this was from God.

        Every
Christian is a saint and a sinner. The sinner in all Christians will always try
to take some credit for what God has done. And people listening to a preacher may try to give humanity the credit
for what they hear: “It was his education, his family background, his
parents. The people he preaches to must
be wonderful people.” God made sure
that anyone looking at Paul would not be inclined to give mankind the credit for
Paul’s faith and accomplishments. God
did that by using such a fragile, homely, clay jar as Paul.

        In
Paul’s day, people often hid their precious valuables in the cheap pots used
for mundane household chores. A
wastebasket, a garbage bag, or a throwaway cup might come closer in translating
into our idioms the scandal Paul has in mind. We tend to do that today also. We
hide a spare key in a fake rock in our garden if we get locked out. People hide money under their mattress or in
a book that has the pages cut out of it so it becomes a hidden compartment for
valuables.

        Our
treasure was also hidden in a jar of clay; the treasure of Jesus Christ. He came in the form of a man to bring
salvation and the forgiveness of sins for all of mankind. People took one look at this “jar of clay”
and dismissed it. They didn’t want to
listen to what Jesus had to say. They
looked at the miracles that He performed and dismissed those, calling it
trickery and the like. When they looked
at Jesus, all they saw was a man and nothing else, until His crucifixion. There they made the poignant statement: “Surely he was the Son of God!” It was in that statement that they saw the
treasure hidden in the jar of clay.

        We
are all called, in some manner, to preach the Gospel. At times, it can be rather easy, while other
times it can be quite trying. For Paul,
he experienced times of both, but more often than not, it was trying times that
Paul was preaching the Gospel: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not
crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck
down, but not destroyed.”
Here, he was talking more about himself than
anyone else. He was plagued by
Satan, sinful people, a sin-riddled world, and his own sinful self with its
doubts and anxieties. Other things made
life difficult for him. But he never
became hopelessly pessimistic. The light
of the Gospel kept that from happening.

        The
same thing happens to us as well. We are
plagued by Satan, by sinful people, a sin-riddled world, and our sinful self
with its doubts and anxieties. But that
is not a cause for us to give up the fight of preaching the Gospel, the good
news of Jesus Christ. Paul used the
adversities in his life to push him all the more to preach the Gospel. When Paul visited the churches at Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi,Colossae, he saw and heard things that were
devastating blows to the Gospel. Instead
of giving up, he fought all the harder to right the wrongs going on in the
churches at those places.

        We,
too, should never give up on the Gospel, for the prophet Isaiah records that “my word that goes out from my mouth: It
will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the
purpose for which I sent it.”
God’s
Word does what it says it will, where it wills. We may not see the immediate response to that, but we know that it will
happen.

        For
us, we always have the great treasure in our jars of clay. “We always carry around in our body the death
of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given
over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal
body.”
We are always a living remembrance of Jesus
Christ. People should be able to see
Jesus Christ in us. His love should
always be reflected in us.

        God proclaims His
Gospel through us jars of clay as He makes His light shine in darkness, Jesus
Christ taking our sin upon Himself and gives to us His righteousness. God proclaims His Gospel as He delivers power
in clay pots, using broken vessels to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ
and brings life from death, so that we all may have everlasting life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

        Now the peace of God
which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith until
life everlasting. Amen.

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