An Election Day Reflection on Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house. Delivered as a rant on Sun 8th Sept at Hobart North UCA
I have to confess that actually getting started on this reflection was incredibly hard for this week. Trying to write a well thought-out, logical and objective witness just wasn’t working…
Mostly because for much of this week, and the last few weeks, I’ve been too angry to think straight!
Now don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with which party will form government after yesterday’s election. (As I wrote this, it was still yesterday morning, when I was feeling sick about having to vote at all.)
As a matter of fact, my anger is not all directed at the major parties… (Not ALL of it!)
It’s actually directed mostly at the social, political, and media process that has brought our nation to the terrible situation in which we find ourselves, and at ourselves for allowing ourselves to misled by all the lies we’ve been fed.
- Like the lie that we’re in some kind of budget emergency, when we’re actually close to the most financially comfortable nation in the world… or would be if the gap between rich and poor wasn’t expanding quite so rapidly.
- Like the lie that our borders are under threat from rampaging hordes of refugees. I’m not advocating open slather, but we have turned our back on some of the most needy people in the world
- Like the lie that we can’t do something about climate change in case other countries don’t.
- Like the lie that the only real ‘moral’ issue we need to deal with is whether people of the same gender are allowed to marry or not.
- Like the lie that it’s ok that over 20% of the world’s pokie machines are in Australia, because governments need that revenue stream.
- Like the lie that we are a really generous country with overseas aid. Did you know that the third largest recipient of Australian overseas aid is Australia?
- And like the lie that it’s ok for a newspaper baron in New York to try to control not only what we read, but how we think… and vote!
Jeremiah hears from the LORD in a vision: “I want to show you something. Go to the potter’s house, and pay attention to what happens there…”
So Jeremiah wanders off, and watches the potter at work.
He watches the potter realise that the piece he’s making isn’t going to work out… and sees how he scoops it up off the wheel, balls it up in his hands, and throws it back on the wheel.
“Hey Jeremiah, guess what?” says the LORD in Jeremiah’s vision,
“I can do that too, just like the potter does. And this will be how it is for the people of Jerusalem, unless you change the way you live”.
It’s not really surprising that Jeremiah wasn’t too popular as a prophet!
He kept saying stuff that people didn’t want to hear.
I don’t consider myself in Jeremiah’s league, but it may be that what I’ve just said was as uncomfortable you to read as it was for me to write.
For Jeremiah, the people of Judah were under the judgement of GOD, and about to be punished. That’s how he made sense of the political and military disaster that was coming their way: it was the direct action of a GOD obsessed with justice.
I don’t see GOD in the same terms as Jeremiah, as one who intervenes to reward and/or punish, but I have come to the conclusion that Australia may be under judgement too.
I believe we may be under judgement because we have let ourselves be diverted from the way of justice and compassion, based on a false fear that if we share what we have, we might not have enough.
I don’t believe that somehow GOD is planning to have us overrun by Indonesia, or whoever the modern equivalent of Babylon might be.
No, the judgement on us is that, as a nation, we are already seen by much of the rest of the world as shameful, insular, and completely lacking in compassion and humanity.
I said that Jeremiah wasn’t a popular prophet. So why were his stories and his visions preserved through the generations? Because they spoke to the people! Not only in the warnings of impending doom, but in the reassurance of hope in its midst.
And it’s this that has enabled me to say ANYTHING AT ALL today!
I love the image of the potter and the clay… It speaks of something creative coming out of something that isn’t working.
As the potter realises that what’s being made isn’t going to be beautiful, or hold water, or whatever, he makes the decision to start again.
He risks a new beginning. He also risks another failure, in the hope of success, of something worthwhile emerging.
This image speaks to me even though, as I said before, I don’t see GOD in the same way as Jeremiah.
[I don’t see GOD as the elderly interventionist watching from above, who steps in to make changes at opportune (and mysterious) moments.
But I DO see GOD as the holy and divine and creative SPIRIT at work in the world, bringing forth new beginnings out of disasters.
I’ve spoken before of the idea within scriptures and our traditions that we can say not only “God is love”, but also “Love is GOD”. And it’s that kind of idea that inspires me in the story of Jeremiah and the potter, and which gives me hope as I grieve for our nation today].
I dare to hope, as I think Jeremiah did, that the holy Spirit I call “GOD” is love at work in the world, shaping hope and creativity: the one whose light is not overcome… The one for whom we are called to be hands and feet and voice. That spirit spoke to me yesterday, through a wise friend called David: reminding me of the blessings of OUR political system, its freedoms and opportunities, and the responsibility to do better with it.
I dare to imagine that somehow our nation might have been shocked enough by the dreadful state of politics recently, to engage more fully in the process, to hold those who wish to be our leaders to account. Remember that politics, at its heart, is not about politicians or parties. It’s about who gets what in society, and how we decide.
It may mean active involvement in party politics, or the political system, but that’s not for everyone. It may be in letter writing and lobbying, as some do already. It may be in questioning what we read, and in engaging others in conversations about things that matter. There are many ways…
I’m going to write to my local member and offer my help: not in getting him re-elected next time, but in working with him to bring change.
To anyone who might be offended by me saying what I’ve said in church today, I sincerely apologise for offending you. But I don’t apologise for my anger, or for letting it shape my witness. I believe that Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house is OUR story today in Australia.
I have become convinced that faith and politics must mix, because that is the way of Jeremiah… and of Jesus.
I looked for an image to put on the screen for this Witness, and chose this one (below) because it reminded me of something else:
being a potter means getting your hands dirty, so that something creative might emerge.
So too, does the way of love and peace!