18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’
– Jeremiah 18:1-11
One of God’s most arresting metaphors in Holy Scripture is the potter and the clay. It is more than a metaphor in Genesis 2, when God forms the first man out of the dust of the earth. Perhaps when the prophets use the metaphor it is God’s subtle way of reminding us how He created humans. More than that, He reminds us He is the Creator, and we are the creatures.
The metaphor was certainly arresting when God used it through Jeremiah. It was not good news to hear that God might completely rework the house of Israel. It is not good news for nations in 2021. The rulers and leaders of all nations would do well to pay heed to God’s warning through Jeremiah. God can pluck down and destroy even the mightiest of nations. It is not good news for humans in 2021. A growing number of North Americans do not believe there is a God who created them. Even if they do, they probably find it offensive to be compared to clay in the hands of the Potter. The culture has such a high view of ourselves and what we can do. There seems to be no limit. We can be whomever we want to be. We can even make up preferred pronouns for ourselves and demand everyone addresses us that way.
The metaphor demolishes our human pride, arrogance and presumption. Let’s be honest, we all need to be reworked. In truth, that is what God does in our Baptisms. He joins us to Christ in His death, so we die each day as sinners. He also joins us to Christ in His resurrection, so each day we are raised as saints, completely new creations in Christ. In the promise of our Baptism the metaphor is very good news. We are clay in God’s hands and there’s no better or safer place to be.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are the Potter, and I am the clay. Do all the reworking and reshaping of me needed so I am who You called me to be in Christ. Amen.
Lenten Response: What part of your life is most in need of being reshaped by God, but, at the same time, the part you least want Him to reshape? Then imagine that part of your life as clay in God’s hands and pray for Him to be at work in you and on you.
Devotion written by the Rev. Mark Chavez
Jeremiah 18:1–11 (Listen)
The Potter and the Clay
18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’
Romans 8:1–11 (Listen)
Life in the Spirit
8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
John 6:27–40 (Listen)
27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Psalm 5 (Listen)
Lead Me in Your Righteousness
To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
5:1 Give ear to my words, O LORD;
consider my groaning.
2 Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
9 For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalm 147:1–12 (Listen)
He Heals the Brokenhearted
147:1 Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
Psalm 27 (Listen)
The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation
27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
Psalm 51 (Listen)
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Patrick, Bishop, Missionary to Ireland, 461 (March 17)
About the Commemoration
Patrick (Patricius was his Latin name), the Apostle of Ireland, was born ca. 389 in Roman Britain, the grandson of a priest and the son of the alderman and later deacon Calpornius. The details of Patrick’s life are uncertain. He admits in his brief Confession that he was not religious as a child and had little use for the Church. At the age of thirteen or fourteen, while staying at his father’s country estate, he was seized by Irish raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland. There in hardship and isolation he began to pray every day. After six years as a shepherd he managed to escape, find a ship, and eventually reach home. His experience had been a spiritual conversion, and he now had a certain conviction of his vocation: he was to preach the faith to the Irish people. He studied for the priesthood on the continent His superiors did not favor his mission to Ireland, apparently because of his deficient education, but upon the death in 431 of Bishop Palladius, who had been sent by Pope Celestine to the Irish, Patrick was named his successor and was consecrated bishop for Ireland.
Bishop Patrick’s mission concentrated on the west and the north of Ireland where the gospel had not been preached before. He secured the protection of local kings and traveled extensively making many converts and founding monasteries. The clergy for the country were first brought from Gaul and Britain, but increasingly they were drawn from the native converts. The claim of Armagh to be Patrick’s church, although not recorded before the seventh century, seems to be genuine.
Patrick was criticized by the British when he demanded the excommunication of the British Prince Coroticus, who, in a retaliatory’ raid on Ireland, killed some of Patrick’s converts and sold others into slavery. Despite physical danger and harassment, his was a vigorously’ heroic life. The well-known hymn called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” although probably not by him, expresses his faith and zeal in a powerful and memorable way. The hymn belongs to the genre of loricae, an invocation of the Holy Trinity, angels, prophets, the powers of heaven and earth, and finally Christ himself against the powers of evil.
Patrick died at Saul in County Down in 461. He is remembered on the Roman Catholic. Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist calendars.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Saint Patrick
From the Confession of St. Patrick
I give unceasing thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the day of my testing. Today I can confidently offer the living sacrifice of myself to Christ, who kept me safe through all my perils. I can say now: Who am I Lord and what is my calling that you worked through me with such divine power? You did all this so that today among the Gentiles I might constantly rejoice and glorify your Name wherever I may be, both in prosperity and in adversity. Whatever happens to me, I can with serenity accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God, who has shown me how to trust in him always, as one who is never to be doubted. He answered my prayer in such a way that in the last days, ignorant though I am, I might be bold enough to take up so holy and so wonderful a task, and imitate in some degree those whom the Lord had so long ago foretold as heralds of his Gospel, bearing witness to all nations.
Where did I get this wisdom, that was not mine before? I did not know the number of my days, or have knowledge of God. How did so great and salutary* a gift come to me, the gift of knowing and loving God, though at the cost of homeland and family? I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly’ pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even imprisonment, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.
If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for his name. I want to spend my life here until death, if the Lord grant me this favor. I am deeply in his debt, for he gave me the great grace that through me many people should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth. As God had prophesied of old through the prophets, “The nations shall come to you from the ends of the earth, and say, ‘How false are the idols made by our fathers: they are useless.’” [see Tobit 13:11; Judith 5:7] In another prophecy’ he said,“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” [Isa. 49:6]
It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in his Gospel, “They shall come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” [See Matt. 8:11] This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.
Chaps. 14-16, from the English translation of the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., rev. PHP.
Almighty God, who in your providence chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may bring others to the peace and joy of your gospel and come at last with them to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
PHP, LFF + RS
Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 97:1-2, 7-12 or 96:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12; Matthew 28:16-20
Hymn of the Day: “I bind unto myself today” (H82 370; LBW 188 and LSB 604 [abbreviated], ELW 450 [less abbreviated])
Prayers: For the church and people of Ireland; For an end to the many sufferings of the country and deliverance from terrorism and oppression; For missionaries in physical danger and harassment; For zeal in God’s service; For renewed respect for the natural world.
Preface: Epiphany or Apostles (BCP)
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.