Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are We In the Potter's Hands?

Flickr Photo:  No. Carolina Brian Cook the Potter

The first reading in today's liturgy truly deserves some careful, thoughtful reflection.  What we read in this 10th chapter of Isaiah might easily be considered as proof that God is a vengeful God.  This chapter recalls the actions of a powerful nation, Assyria ... conquering, dividing and vicious political actions.  But true to his skills, Isaiah produces poetry that, if the OT history is known, is powerful.

Historians might see the events as signs of a genuine powerhouse.  Isaiah, however, sees through glasses that provide deeper than usual insight.  He sees the conquering as the unintentional staff in the Master's hand, as Ignatius of Loyola would write.  Isaiah sees the sometimes horrific events as the signals of a clear message.  For the prophet, Assyria unknowingly acts as a surrogate for God against Judah, God's own people.  While Assyria, under the leadership of Sennacherib, was destroying and conquering, he was in the prophet's mind bringing punishment to the people for their sinfulness.

Although Sennacherib might have believed he was all-powerful, he was, as Isaiah indicated, living with an illusion: "Will the axe boast against him who hews with it?  Will the saw exalt itself above him who wields it?  As if a rod could sway him who lifts it, or a staff him who is not wood!"

We must walk through this text like a blind person, using a long, white walking stick.  Easily these difficult moments for God's people and ultimately for Sennacherib could depict God as vindictive.  Could he be the God demanding  payback for disobedience?  One commentary suggests that Isaiah sees all of us -- good or bad - as putty in the great Potter's hands.  

So what is the word we should take from this reading?  People who do turn their back on God will ultimately see that their gain is minimal or nothing.  Even the greatest among us can be brought down by a simple illness, a natural disaster, a stock market quirk, the deception of a schemer, the hidden greed of others, even s simple valve on an oil well rigging.  Ours is a a world where each of us might reflect upon the realities that have so harmed and ruined many people just in our country in the last decade -- the great beginnings of the 21st century!!!

Perhaps we might come to realize that true peace and genuine joy come to each of us when we accept ourselves as putty in the Creator's hands and when we permit our God to us us to bring happiness  and new life into HIS world.