In a book entitled Treasure in Clay Jars, we can find this statement which (among several others) describes a congregation on a mission from God. “The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.” (Barrett, et al, Eerdmans, 2004)
A congregation that is going to change the community in which it finds itself needs to understand this fact. In a class I once took, we studied “the mission of God in the Old Testament.” In that class, we focused on the many facets of God’s mission as we see it in the prophets, in the temple rituals, in the everyday affairs of Israel in the ancient times, and in the role God gave to the leaders of his people. In many ways the people of God were expected to be noticeably different from the culture that surrounded them. They were to be a unique people whose lives and culture raised the question of “Why?” among the nations surrounding ancient Israel.
A couple of “for examples” might be helpful here. The nation of Israel, in its infancy, had no king by God’s won design. They were to live in God’s Promised Land without the need of a King who would be their national leader. They had God as their king. They did not need a cheap knock-off of the real thing. The question would arise among those who saw it, “Why would no one take control of this people and its land?” The answer would be that God’s people already had all they needed in God’s Book of the Torah to shape their lives with justice, with mercy, and with humility. What more could a king do? Or, as another for example, all the rituals in the Temple which had been carefully circumscribed by God as He taught Moses how worship was to be carried on were for the purpose of creating a “Why?” in the minds of those who observed their worship. Why was there no visible image of God? Why was there just one family whose lineage gave the whole nation their priests? Why was there just one central location for worship? From our perspective thousands of years later, it is clear that God was demonstrating that he was not like anything humanity could imagine for themselves. He was the One who was the Truth, and there was no other.
History teaches us that such wonder was simply too great for the humans who made up God’s people in the ancient times. It was a treasure that was carried around in clay jars. Those pots would crack and break and fall to pieces. In the process something of the wonder of God among his people would be lost and the “Why?” of the peoples around Israel would be muted. It looked all too often as if God’s people were just like the culture around them and the beauty of life in the presence of God would go unlived and unknown.
But God was not deterred for He was committed to bring his Good News to the lives and hearts of the people he loved. Finally, in the fullness of time, as the Bible puts it, Jesus was born. God’s own Son came into the world. Finally, here was a jar made of clay that could withstand the threats of breakage. It was because God himself was in Christ so that he could reconcile the world to himself. Of course, there were those who thought they could destroy that clay jar. But, in his death, Jesus paid for the sinful debt of mankind, in his resurrection he demonstrated for all that the clay jar could withstand even death itself. Now he lives at God’s right hand as the Great King that he is. No, cheap knock-off, Jesus is the real thing!
We are Clay Jars, Jesus is the Treasure!
Today the church/congregation that sees itself as participating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus finds that the mission of Jesus becomes their mission as well. We will readily admit that we are clay jars! But we carry the treasure of God in these clay jars and we know that in Christ, we shall change the very life character of the communities of which we are a part.
At Christian Leaders Institute we are providing training to Christian leaders so that they can participate more effectively in their churches in enabling the churches to be caught up fully in the Mission of God in the world today, For example, Vee writes the following:
“The main goal I feel I am being called to and hope to attain is to be an active working tool of God. I want training so that I can help give light on the foot paths of so many who have accepted that a dark and brooding way of life is all there is for them. To be able to share the love of a wondrous and caring God through His word and creation is a huge blessing to so many. To be able to help someone over what might seem like an insurmountable hurdle, all the while watching God grow inside of them and feeling the peacefulness that blossoms, is such a truly wonderful miracle.”
Another of our students, Uwegba writes of how he sees his calling to participate in the life of Jesus and so bring the light of Jesus to others who do not have that life. He writes,
“I have a project I am currently about to do in Nigeria which is a medical outreach for people in rural areas. I am currently gathering medical and nursing Christians who have volunteered to be part of our mission. My dream is to put a smile in the faces of many by introducing them to Jesus through doing good for them, just as Jesus went about doing good.”
While each of us and our congregations as well may only be jars of clay, the treasure we carry is extremely valuable. You too, even if you see yourself as a cracked jar of clay, maybe thinking you are useless, you can participate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In so dong, you can carry the treasure God has been entrusting to his people for millennia.