Luke 14: 25--33

'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine.' (26) When you hear someone carrying on about Christian "family values", recite this verse to them.

But that is a side issue. Hear Jesus explain what He means. 'So also, if you are not prepared to leave all your possessions behind, you cannot be my disciples.' (33) To our Lord, family (let alone "family values") is just another of our possessions. The problem, as Jesus elsewhere pointed out, is that our possessions more often possess us. We humans-- Christian or not-- become enslaved by the things we have, whether they are physical things like our jewelry, cars, computers, etc., or intangibles like our careers, memberships, hopes, personal relationships.

I think Jesus is deliberately using overstatement here. He does not want us literally to abandon our cars on the street(1), quit our jobs and hate our relatives(2). What He does want us to do is to set these things in perspective, to correct our priorities, to come into proper relationship to God.

Psalm 139: 1--6, 13--18 (TNK)

Meditate on this: I end-- but am still with You.

Jer. 18: 1--11[-12](NAB)[suggested]

Rise up, be off to the potter's house; there I will give you my message. (2) The potter's house is specific in this instance because God's message was to be framed in the metaphors of clay and pottery-making. But we need also to read it in a generic sense: any place of common human occupation. Rise up, be off to a workplace. As Christians, we must realize that God does not speak to us solely in our sanctuaries and closets. Wherever we are, perhaps more especially in locales of commerce and manufacture, we need to keep our ears and eyes open to see and hear the living and active Word of God, the message of life symbolized in and illustrated by the materials and the artisans. [T]here I will give you my message. But, unless we go, look and listen, we will miss it.

I went down to the potter's house and there he was, working at the wheel. (3) We are all well aware of the ambiguity in the Hebrew Scriptures, and often wonder to what extent it is accidental or deliberate. In this verse, there he was could refer to the LORD. If we read it this way, what does it tell us? If Jeremiah encountered Yahweh at the wheel, whom do we meet when we go out into the world?

If we follow this reading, though, verse 4 makes us uneasy; we do not want to accept the intimation, even, that anything God does might not be perfect. But verse 6 throws that right into our faces; the LORD applies the image directly to creation: that created by the Creator can, has and does turn out to be flawed. Then the potter has to make a decision.

Here, the LORD makes it conditional: if that nation... turns.., I also repent.... (8) Recall, first of all, that nation (or individual) is a partner to the covenant. Ponder the ramifications of this fact. Second, look to the parallelism for God's definition of repent; it is far different from that widely used and accepted by the Church and world.(3) Which raises the question: whose definition needs to be amended?

Third, and with great reluctance, we must remember to honor the context, which causes us to ask: how can the (still unfired) pot mend its own crack? Does God imply that we are in an impossible situation?

Make no mistake; this is where it's at. Which is why verse 12 has to be included: We will follow our own devices; each one of us will behave according to the stubbornness of [our] evil heart!

Now turn to Paul's letter to Philemon, but make a few substitutions: read "[my name]" for Onesimus, "God" for Philemon and for Paul, "Jesus". The parable says it all: I, [Jesus], appeal to you[, God,] about my child.... (10)

If we rely on our own wisdom and capabilities, then our situation is, indeed, hopeless. We are just wet clay with cracks, unable to mend our flaws. But the potter cares, and applies pressure with his gentle hands to restore us. YHWH loves us, and in grace and mercy provides the solution: someone to appeal to God on our behalf.


1. 1 More walking, however, might do us some good.

2. 2 Many of us seem to do this very well already.

3. 3 I have compiled the beginnings (OT & NT) for a study of "repent" (KJV, NIV & NRSV). If you

wish copies by e-mail, send your request to <>.

4. 4 Haiku poems by Phil Gilman. Please feel free to utilize anything by me; just give God the

Glory, Praise and Thanks and me whatever credit may be due.

(comments to Phil at )