2018 June 17 “The Jar”

SCRIPTURE   II Corinthians 4:5-12     5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

COMMUNION MESSAGE       “The Jar”             Rev. James Renfrew

I brought one of my most special possessions to show you this morning.  It’s a jar.  “A jar?”, you think, “what’s the big deal.  I’ve got dozens of jars in the pantry and all over the house. What’s so special about a jar?”

But this is not just any jar.  This jar contains all of the treasures that I have ever received from Jesus.  Going all the way back to when I was a little boy, each treasure I was given goes right into the jar.  Even yesterday I put a few things in the jar.  It was my grandson Maverick’s first birthday yesterday, and even though he may not understand all the fuss he was happy when he saw the presents, and who wouldn’t want to keep a memory of his smile.  And then of course, my son Roberto, the proud father, with a smile just as big as his little boy.  So there it is, that memory of Maverick’s smile and Roberto’s smile, both of them in my very special jar.  Thank you, Jesus, for the treasure of children and grandchildren!

The jar may not look very large, but it has lots of room.  It’s all in here:  experiences, memories and hopes of love, joy, peace, healing, mercy, justice, music and praise, kindness, truth, and eternity.  Jesus is incredibly generous with me.  He keeps giving me things, so I put them in this jar.  This way I’ll always know where to find the treasures of Jesus when I need them most.

But I worry a lot about this jar.  It could easily break.  SO I think of a safe, secure place to keep it.  If I put it high on the shelf it might fall off and break into hundreds of pieces.  If I put it under the bed, well, one time the bed frame collapsed and it would have been crushed had it been there.  If I put it in the back of my closet, Robin might not realize it’s there and put a heavy trunk on top of it, smashing it into little pieces.  If I put it in the attic, a squirrel or a raccoon might find a way in and tip the jar over and smash it thinking that there might be food inside.  If I leave it in garage, someone might think it’s just clutter and toss it into the recycle bin.

So all of these treasures, stored in a fragile, breakable jar.  It makes me wonder if Jesus ever hesitates to share all of these treasures with someone like me because I probably can’t be trusted to keep them safe.

Of course, you’re already figuring out that the treasures of Jesus are not things put in a breakable jar.  The best container for holding all of these treasures is not a jar, it is you yourself.  Your own body is the container.  And why not, there’s plenty of room in your mind for God’s wisdom, plenty of room in your heart for God’s love, plenty of room in your soul for eternity.

The treasures are deposited into your mind, heart and soul, ready to be used when you need them most.  Even so, in his Letter to the Corinthians Paul says that the human body is just as fragile and breakable as a jar.  We are fragile, breakable people and Jesus knows full well that the jars of our lives easily break.  There are crises, there are disasters, there are tragedies, there are injustices, there is violence, there is sickness, and the jars of our lives sometimes crash onto the floor, shattered into a million pieces, and all of the kings horse and all of the kings men could never put them back together again. Wait a minute, that’s not Scripture, it’s Humpty Dumpty, but maybe Humpty and Paul are in agreement?

Yet Paul is not dismayed by the fragile state of believers like ourselves, for our breakability as receivers does not invalidate what Jesus gives.  The treasures come from God, not from any of us.  Our weaknesses and breakability do not negate the source of the treasures. In fact our frailty emphasizes the power and might of God.

So we are fragile and easily breakable, yet God keeps giving us what we need, God keeps giving us what we can share, and God keeps giving and giving and giving.

We may be easily broken, but in Jesus God is always completing what we lack.   In what may be the most extraordinary verse in Second Corinthians, Paul writes:  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

SACRAMENT OF COMMUNION

Some are of the opinion that communion is all about the recipient, that we who receive the bread and the cup need to have proven ourselves worthy of receiving them, that we need to believe all of the doctrines, theologies and traditions.  If we don’t meet the high standard of faith we should hold back and not receive the bread and the cup, because we would cheapen the sacrament by receiving it undeservingly.

Paul’s letter about fragile, breakable jars answers this concern.  The value of communion does not depend on the worth of the recipient.  Its value is that it is from God, deliberately offered to imperfect people, in fact it is designed for imperfect, breakable people.

I volunteer in my granddaughter’s third grade class each week.  The teacher and I have a plan for my time there, not to focus my attention on the kids who are doing well in their studies, but on the ones who are struggling.   This is how God reaches out with the bread and cup, not to those who deserve it, but to those who need it.

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