By Jeff Greunke

As I began doing research for this new series on “Hand-Crafted Discipleship” and more specifically the first week on being shaped by Jesus, I came across some interesting instructional YouTube videos on how to throw a clay pot.

We are the clay, You are the Potter; we are all the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

The person demonstrating was explaining, in various steps, what was involved with throwing a vessel. He began with the very basic step of taking the “bat” or wheel platform and moistening it. Then he took the lump of clay and began to pound and fold it.

Once this was done, he placed it on the wheel and made sure it was in the center. Then he started to shape it followed by some extra trimming and finally when it was completed, removing it from the wheel.

As I pieced this flow together in my mind, I began to see the essence of what one could potentially experience in the flow of a worship service. Bear with me…

The moistening of the bat is to make sure that the clay adheres to the wheel. This could be symbolic of our baptism, which joins us to the death and resurrection of Jesus. As some are wont to do, making the sign of the cross during the invocation, during one of the early parts of the service, is a remembrance of our baptism.

The next step is the pounding or wedging as it is called. This is probably where we get the concept of “throwing pottery.” The Old English word thrawan from which “to throw” comes, means to twist or turn.

The point of this is to make sure there are no air bubbles inside the clay when you fire the pot. These bubbles could cause the jar to burst or be weakened once it is fired. I see this as the time of confession. It’s during this time where we are to examine ourselves and purge one’s self of those impurities and things that could cause us to crack under pressure and trials.

Once the clay is prepared and ready to be worked comes the centering. This is accomplished by putting the worked-over clay on the wheel and maneuvering it until it is seated in the center and not wobbling out of balance as it spins. I guess I liken this to the absolution or words of forgiveness. In concert with the act of confession, it is the aspect of “making us right with God” (see Romans 3:21-31).

Following these steps, this is where we can begin to start the shaping of the vessel. There are several steps described in making a container. First there is the opening, where you start the process on the lump of clay. This is followed by the widening of the object to be created. This then leads to the actual shaping to which the potter wishes the object to be.

Each piece of work can obviously be made into whatever the creator wants it to be. In regards to a worship service, typically at this point, we would be ready to hear and receive what God would have for us through the message or sermon by the Word preached and proclaimed. Perhaps the time where the Creator shapes us and molds us into what He wishes us to be; by opening our hearts and our minds.

During this shaping process, the potter will sometimes use wires or other tools to remove excess bits of clay or even to create designs in the piece. I think this could equate to us being molded to hear and then to do just what it is that God would have for us in the world; how we are to apply what it is that which we heard so that we are not only hearers but also doers in the world.

Of course no vessel would be complete without a proper firing. But I won’t get in to that part. Suffice to say that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

As we begin this new series on discipleship and as you engage in worship this coming weekend, maybe let this be a guideline as to how you participate and receive from God all that He has for you!

“The Potter’s Hand”