Over the last two sermons we have been following the process of the creation and the development of a clay vessel. We have followed both the vessel itself and the Master Potter through the fearful and wonderful steps necessaryBWe have come to understand how God works in our lives and how many the times of doubt were the times His love was strongest for us. We have seen His vision take shape from a lump of smelly clay. We have been baptized by the water of repentance and shaped by the Master Potterfs design, by His subtle touch and the strength of His unrelenting love. We have been set apart from the world, of the world but no longer based in the world. We have followed Jesus out into the wilderness to be lead by the Spirit and attuned to it. We became parched and found the deep streams of His wisdom. He feed us by the raven, gave us our daily manna and let us drink from the rocks. When we got through the valley of the shadow of death we realized that He was with us all the time. We were changed permanently by the fire of the kiln. Slowly being killed off, all that is holding us back from holiness, a closer relation to him. He has planned this death from before we were in our motherfs womb. He knew what it would take to fire our faith. And now we have left the shelf the same in many ways but completely different then we were before. We have a stability now, a certainty, our foundation has been set in the Lord. But a price has been paid, a price that needed to be paid. A price that many of us are reluctant to pay now but we will have no regrets after. Yes it is the fear of possible future regrets that is worse than any regret itself. It keeps us from moving forward, it keeps us from progressing. The price we pay is the price of our lives, our ego. We have had hatred, impatience, aggressiveness, competitiveness, pride,@jealousyAand doubt burned from our lives through the baptism of fire. We have been fully born again, metamorphosized. We have come to know and love our Potter more than anything else. We revere Him, a state of love and fear intertwined and woven together. Yes, we have a fear, we now know the full power of our Lord. But let me stop here for many get confused by the use of fear here. This is not fear as the world knows it. Sometimes words, our language cannot always describe something beyond the world. It is the fear that comes out of respect and reverence of knowing your position in the world. It is a joyful fear if you would, not a selfish, self-preserving fear. With all this in place we are now ready for the third and final stage. We are ready to be given His authority. We are to become knights of the Cross, defenders of the faith and given the suit of armour that will protect and preserve you and will identify you as a knight of the kingdom of heaven.
You are back on the shelf and there is something that has changed. You are fully aware of Godfs omnipotence, you are grateful that He was there with you as you went through the fires of the first kilning. You are also aware of what is ahead of you for the first time, the wisdom the fire has given you has opened your eyes. You know that yet another fire is up ahead. The anticipation of it is again a mixed feeling of dread and excitement. You are in no hurry to feel the flames again but you are fully comforted in living by the Potterfs will. You know He is preparing that day for you. He is preparing the final stage in you, the vision He has had for you from the beginning and you are excited to see what you will finally become. But, for now, you are content to sit and wait, knowing that the Lord God makes good for all who love Him.
While we wait, let us pause to cross over to build our understanding through another three part process. The potterfs child comes in and reads a story about the making of a knight.
When a boy born by a knight turns six or seven he is sent from his home to a near by castle. There he is trained by the lord of the castle to become a knight. He is a page. A page helps his lord dress and put on armor. He plays many training games that include wrestling, piggy-back wrestling, sword practice with blunt wooden swords and tiny round shields called bucklers, and lance practice on a rolling log pulled by two other pages toward a quintain(A quintain is a target on one end of a swinging board. On the other end is a bag full of sand. When the lance hits the target the rider has to duck or the bag of sand will strike him on the back or the head.). The ladies of the manor taught him table manners. The page waited on his lord and lady. It was his duty and privilege to accompany his lord and lady at all times. He learned how to hunt and hawk. When his lord's armor was rusty, the page rolled the armor in a barrel of sand so that the rust was gone. He was taught to be quick, graceful, and flexible. He received religious training from the chaplain. He sometimes received training-in-arms from the squires.
If the page showed promise, then at the age of fourteen, he became a squire. A squire is a Knight's personal servant. In battle, a squire would bring his knight replacements of lances, swords, horses, or any item lost or damaged in battle. The squire had to become accustomed to heavy armor. A squire played games with real weapons against real knights! The squire learned to ride his war horse while keeping his weapon arm free. While he was a squire, he was allowed to carry a sword and a shield, which showed what rank he had achieved. The squire was taught not to kill many knights. Most knights held other knights for ransom. If he got through all of that, he was knighted or "dubbed".
Before a squire was dubbed, he did lots of things in preparation. First, he prayed all night. He prayed without sleeping or eating. When morning came, he would take a nice, warm bath. Then he put on a special padded vest and hood so that his armor did not hurt him. Then he would have a page help him put on chain mail armor or plate armor. Then the almost knighted squire would put on a white tunic. The tunic was white because white is the color of peace. The tunic was so that his armor did not rust in the rust in the rain and sun. He knelt before his lord. Then his lord would slap him with his hand or the flat of the sword. As his lord was doing that, his lord would say, "I dub thee Sir Knight." Then the new knight would receive his sword, lance, and golden spurs. Each of the weapons had a good meaning. The lance had a saying. It was said, "As fear of the lance drives back the unarmed, so the knight drives back the enemies of the church." As for the sword, it was said that, "The two edges of the sword show that the knight serves God and the people." Then the knight was free to roam. He usually rode off on quests of adventure. He either stopped by the road and challenged any knight that passed by or he did battle for a damsel in need.
As you listen from the shelf the story rings true with your experiences so far, you see how the stages of becoming a knight and a vessel are similar, the shaping, the long hours of prayer, the humbling and the testing. Could it be that you too will be glorified as the knight is? Does the Master Potter have something similar in mind for you? You grow in excitement. In the first stage the page is shaped with the constant contact and care needed to raise him up. You recall the hands of the master Potter guiding you raising you up, changing you from inside. You remember the training and testing you received just as the squire did, you remember being tuned into the spirit just as the squire must be tuned into the exact needs of his knight. You were most affected though by the test of battle, surely you too had been through the battle, the fire. You learnt that to move forward you must be willing to die. The fire changed you as the battle changes a squire into a knight. You too are willing to die for the master potter if it is His will His vision for you.
But will you also be honored with the amour and the sword. Only the most loyal are, only they are dubbed with the authority of God. You grow excited at the prospect.
Now the story of the knights is finished, offering you a glimpse of the glory ahead of you. You have met some of these knights in your life and the thought that you could be like them is warm inside you. You look across the room to see the Master Potter with many containers before him and a set of scales in front of him, He is in deep concentration measuring out different powders from the containers, adding a little, taking away a little until he gets the exact amount he wants. You look carefully to see the labels on the containers, the first says gTruthh, the second reads gRighteousnessh, the thirdh g the forth gFaithh the fifth gSalvationh and the sixth gSpirith He has measured out each in the exact amounts he needs for his formula. He then places them in a bowl, slowly mixing and grinding them together. He takes some living water and adds it to the mix and continues the grinding and mixing. Once it is perfect he takes the glaze and pours it through a sieve into a bowl with your name on it.
He then comes over to the shelf and picks you up. You are speechless, you are so happy this is what you were waiting for. This is what it was all leading to. He looks at you and there is a knowing smile on his face he is looking at what you will be. He then brings you to the table with the glaze. Again he examines you carefully, He seems as happy as you. He takes out a funnel and slowly pours the glaze inside you. It feels wonderful. The glaze on the inside is the most important. You remember back to your time on the wheel how he spent so much time inside you. He now wants to protect the inner you. The spirit and the soul. For often what is in you can damage you more than what is outside of you. He picks you up in his hand and slowly turns you allowing the excess to flow out, Now picking you up and turning you over he gently dips you head first into the glaze from your tip to your base. He slowly removes you and you can feel the glaze covering your insides and outside. Is this it? Is this the final stage? The Master Potter then puts you back on the shelf. As the days go by the joy you had with your shiny new coat fades as the shine fades away. You are drying off again and as you do the armor losses it gleam. But once you are fully dry again the potter comes back again and repeats the glazing. He knows exactly how thick it must be to vitrify and how thin it must be to avoid cracking. You ask him why you are not shiny like all the other vessels that you had seen. Again with a knowing smile he says, gJust Trust Meh. So as we sit on the shelf drying out once again we hold our faith in him. After a few days he then picks us up and brings us back to that room we were once in before. We know that we must again go through the fire. We cry out,hHow many times must I endure this?h He says just once more. At those words you calm down. After all youfve been through the fire before.You sit back and await the fire; he was there with you before surely he will be there again. As before the doors are closed and you feel the flames, but it is different the flames quickly pass through the first two stages of the red and orange flame and almost immediately you jump into the yellow flame. The whole room is engulfed in the flame. When suddenly the room turns pitch black and you begin to gasp for air. You are fighting with the flame for the available oxygen which is quickly disappearing.@All the air vents have been shut. As all the oxygen is consumed, the black heat and flames continue for a time. In the darkness you begin to lose sight of you Lord and you are about to cry out when you hear His Words, gJust trust in meh and you do try in Him your very life and everything you know is completely in Him. This is the stage were many of the colours are brought out in the glaze, the bright reds that will display the lion of