The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words."
One of the great joys of being president is the opportunity to visit with women and men who are thinking about a seminary education. I met a person recently who is an Information Technology "geek" who observed that while his field of expertise changes every 36 months, God does not! I observed that while God doesn't change, our ministry needs to constantly reform to respond to the changing world, needs and hopes that surround us. At times I have described this truth as it connects to our mission at NBTS: "We are rooted and relevant."
There are many pictures of God that we carry around with us, and some of them are not very biblical (like the old man with the white flowing beard that we see on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel). Many of them evoke warm feelings of affection and trust: a good shepherd, a rock that is our dwelling place, a faithful gardener who comes looking for us in the cool of the day, a verdant vine, a luminous light and a judge who speaks with grace and truth.
One of my favorites is found in the 18th chapter of Jeremiah, where the prophet is told to walk to the village and watch a potter at work. The potter doesn't change, but the clay seems to have a mind of its own. And so the potter, with strong hands and a faithful heart, works with the clay eternally until it is fashioned into a useful instrument of God's goodness and love.
As we enter again the time in which 9/11 consumes our thoughts and theology, I am often reminded of the potter and the following words of William Butler Yates:
For surely He does not forsake the world, but stands before it modeling in the clay and molding there His image. Age by age, the clay wars with His fingers and pleads hard for its old, heavy, dull and shapeless ease; but sometimes - though His hand is on it still - it moves awry and demon hordes are born.
The dark day we call 9/11 witnessed the evil of clay that warred against the divine hand - and yet the hand remains. Shaping, reshaping and finally whispering: "It is good!"