Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, July 15th, 2018

After two weeks of not preaching on Sunday (attending the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas on July 1st and providing space on July 8th for our teenage attendees to share with the congregation their experiences at the Gathering), I am back to my regular sermon-prep schedule.  The themes from the ELCA Youth Gathering, "This (including God's call, love, grace, and hope as well as Jesus) changes everything!" and the theme from this week's Vacation Bible School, "Building Christmas," will be weighing on my mind as I prepare to preach.  Any connection back to these themes will help others hear these readings in a new way.

As always, you can find my comments in italics after each reading.  If you have an insight, a comment, or a question, please leave it in the comments below!

Amos 7:7 - 15:

7This is what [the Lord God] showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, 
 “See, I am setting a plumb line
  in the midst of my people Israel;
  I will never again pass them by;
9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
  and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
  and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
  10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said, 
 ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
  and Israel must go into exile
  away from his land.’ ”
12And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
  14Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”

Readings from Amos 7 usually focus solely on the plumb line.  This week, we get the reaction from Amaziah and Amos’ response.  Amaziah’s report to Jeroboam intensifies (exaggerates?) Amos’ prophetic message, likely as a way of stirring Jeroboam to act against Amos.  Then Amaziah turns back to Amos, telling Amos to be a prophet somewhere else.  Amos responds by saying that the Lord has sent him to prophesy in this place to these people.  Amos may not be a citizen of the Northern Kingdom, Israel (this was during the time of the divided kingdom: Israel was the Northern Kingdom while Judah, including Jerusalem, was the Southern Kingdom), but the Lord sent him here and he will not leave until the Lord sends him elsewhere.

Have you ever been sent away from home for a season, either for work or for ministry?  What was that like for you?  Were you at peace with the change, or were you longing for home until you returned?

Psalm 85:8 - 13

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
 9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
 11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
 12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
 13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

We have yet to find a way to turn “righteousness” into a verb.  The best way to think about righteousness in an active way is doing or performing an act of the Lord’s justice, which is based on mercy and grace.  Thinking in these terms, it will be acts of the Lord’s justice based on the Lord’s mercy and grace that will prepare the Lord’s pathway.

Ephesians 1:3 - 14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Whom do we include among the “us” in this passage?  In other words, whom has God chosen as adopted children?  What are the limits to our understanding of “us?”  If we are not among God’s adopted children, is because God has excluded us?  Or do we find ourselves on the outside because we have excluded ourselves?

We are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” when we are baptized.

Mark 6:14 - 29

14King Herod heard of [the disciples’ preaching,] for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
  17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

This week during VBS, we are discussing how Jesus entered the world to rebuild the world.  Certainly, a world where we are more comfortable killing someone than allowing ourselves to be embarrassed in front of others is a world that needs to be repaired and rebuilt.

We see that people are still wrestling with Jesus’ identity.  The people recognize that Jesus is something more than just another rabbi, but they have yet to identify Jesus as the Messiah.  This leaves them comparing Jesus to the prophets of old…or perceiving that Jesus is the resurrected John the Baptist.

The reader remembers the scene from chapter 1 where John baptizes Jesus, so the reader knows that Herod is wrong when he identifies Jesus as the resurrected John the Baptist.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, June 24th, 2018

There is so much going on around us.  As a nation, we are wrestling with the issues of immigration, asylum, justice, mercy, and compassion.  As a community, we are learning of a terrible fire that killed one person and hospitalized another.  As a congregation, we have many families in various stages of grief and many who are battling cancer or severe illness.

In the midst of all this turmoil, we come to the Bible readings for this upcoming Sunday, June 24th.  While we have the opportunity to commemorate St. John the Baptist, we will be using the Lectionary 12 readings during worship.

With all of these things in the background, plus whatever is happening in your life, what are the important ideas, themes, insights, and questions that pop into your mind as your read these passages?  I will share my thoughts below in italics.  I encourage you to use the comments section to tell me what reactions these readings (and my additional comments) provoke within you.

Job 38:1 - 11

 1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
 4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
 5 Who determined its measurements-- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone
 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
 8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?--
 9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,
 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,

 11 and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'? (Job 38:1-11 NRS)

God’s response to Job and his friends comes after approximately 35 chapters of debating the goodness and righteousness of God.  Job believes that he is be unjustly persecuted by God.  Some of Job’s friends are pushing him to confess the sin for which God is punishing him.  God’s invitation/demand for Job (and the others?) to “gird up your loins” means that he was asking him/them to tie up their long robe/tunic/garment, which often extended down near one’s ankles while walking or at leisure.  By “girding” the garment, the wearer would have more freedom of movement for labor or combat.  The rest of the passage can be summarized as God saying to Job, “Here’s who I am.  Who the heck are you?”

Psalm 107:1 - 3, 23 - 32

 1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble
 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

 23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;
 24 they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
 25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
 26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;
 27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end.
 28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;
 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
 31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

 32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Usually, the psalm serves as a response to the first reading.  On this day, however, the psalm seems to prepare us for the Mark 4 reading.  Other than the similarities to the claim that the Lord created the sea, this seems to point more to Jesus calming the storm than the Lord’s statement to Job.

2 Corinthians 6:1 - 13

 1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.
 2 For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,
 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,
 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;
 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,
 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;
 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;
 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
 11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.
 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.
 13 In return-- I speak as to children-- open wide your hearts also.

Paul points to the reception he has received from some among the Corinthians, which is similar to the negative reception he has received from other communities.  He is used to being welcomed with afflictions, beatings, and imprisonments.  And yet, he and his coworkers continue to pursue their callings and greet communities with open arms and hearts.  Paul declares that whatever hard feelings exist between the Corinthians and Paul (and, by extension, his coworkers) come from the Corinthians who are pushing back against Paul.

Mark 4:35 - 41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."
 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
 40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mar 4:35-41 NRS)

Those who are following Christ are still wrestling with just who Jesus is.  They have witnessed him heal illnesses and injuries as well as cast out demons.  But it appears that controlling nature is considered a step above these previous actions.

I remember a gentleman on a radio program broadcast in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area who proclaimed that all things could be healed by a declaration of “Peace, Be Still!” To be clear, he meant that each of us could claim this power of God, declare “Peace, Be Still!” at a problem, and the problem would go away.  It has yet to work for me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Good afternoon!  God's peace and wholeness to you as you read this post!

Unfortunately, we had another death within the congregational community last week.  Preparations for the funeral and care for the family took up the time I would have used to put together my responses to the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for Sunday, June 10th.

But this is a new week, and here are my reactions and questions after reading through the RCL readings for this upcoming Sunday, June 17th.  Many will be celebrating this day as "Fathers' Day," but the Church does not officially celebrate this social holiday.  We may mention it during the prayers, but we will not make it a focal point during the worship service.

As always, you will find the RCL readings below.  After each reading, you will find my comments in italics.  If you would like to ask a clarifying question or offer your own insights into these passages, I encourage you to do so in the comments.

Please enjoy!

Ezekiel 17:22 - 24

22Thus says the Lord God
 I myself will take a sprig
  from the lofty top of a cedar;
  I will set it out.
 I will break off a tender one
  from the topmost of its young twigs;
 I myself will plant it
  on a high and lofty mountain.
23On the mountain height of Israel
  I will plant it,
 in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
  and become a noble cedar.
 Under it every kind of bird will live;
  in the shade of its branches will nest
  winged creatures of every kind.
24All the trees of the field shall know
  that I am the Lord.
 I bring low the high tree,
  I make high the low tree;
 I dry up the green tree
  and make the dry tree flourish.
 I the Lord have spoken;
  I will accomplish it.

The entirety of Ezekiel 17 is fascinating.  The chapter sets a context for the three verses we hear today.  We combine the political drama with the divine proclamation.  The “king” of Israel is now a vassal of Babylon.  However, the king has struck an agreement with other nations under a plan to overthrow the rule of Babylon.  The Lord proclaims that the king will fall because of this treachery.  The Lord will then pick a branch and establish this branch as the new leader of the nation.  Does this point to the next king, who will be faithful to the Lord?  Or does this point to Jesus?  Are these identities mutually exclusive?

Some quick Google research reveals that some species of trees grow better from planted twigs/branches compared to planted seeds.  Planting a sprig from the top of a tree is a very common method of planting new trees.  The tree that grows from the planted twig will be an exact replica of the tree from which the twig was taken.  ~ Gardening Know How  This causes us to ask: symbolically, what did the cedar tree mean for Israel in the days of Ezekiel?

Psalm 92:1 - 4, 12 - 15

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
 2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
 3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
 4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

 12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
 13 They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
 14 In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap,

 15 showing that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

According to Psalm 92, those who grow within the house of the Lord will always remain healthy and fruitful, even in old age.  “Fruitful” likely means that the person is still serving in mission and ministry, carrying out the will of God by serving others.

2 Corinthians 5:6 - 10 [11 - 13] 14 - 17

6So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
  [11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ] 14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
  16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

The confidence in 2 Corinthians comes from the promise of resurrection, of mortality being swallowed up by life (5:4), which is guaranteed by the gift of the Holy Spirit (5:5).

How many people in our society today boast about themselves as a way of giving their audience a reason to listen to the speaker?

All have died, and all who are baptized into Christ, the one who died and was raised for us, now live in Christ.  Therefore, they (we) are new creations who know Christ in new ways.

Mark 4:26 - 34

26[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
  30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
  33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

This parable in Mark 4 comes after Mark’s version of the more popular “Parable of the Sower.”  Therefore, those who are reading or hearing all of the Gospel of Mark have already heard about the differences between types of “soil.”

“The seed of both black and white mustard is similar in size, about 1.0 to 3.0 mm (1/8 inch)(11) so it is not the smallest seed but it is the smallest seed of those which "you plant in the ground" clearly indicating that the Lord was not comparing the mustard seed to all plants but only to those which were commonly grown. There would be numerous plants familiar to His audience with smaller seeds, of which the best example would be the seed of the black orchid. But there are few plants which grow so large in one season as a mustard, and few plants would be characterized by such rapid germination of the seed. Mustard planted one day could begin growing the next.” ~ ODU Plants of the Bible

Mustard plants grow very quickly once they have been planted.  In the right soil and sunlight conditions, mustard plants can grow to be 10 feet tall.  When the seed of faith is planted in good soil, many things can sprout and grow quickly, revealing the Holy Spirit’s presence within and blessing on our ministry in Christ’s name.  And if something does not grow, that should cause us to question whether the problem is the soil (not the right place/time), the seed (not a seed of faith/calling of the Spirit), or both.

Connection between the birds in Ezekiel 17 living under the branches of the new tree and the birds in Mark 4 finding rest under the branches of the mustard plant.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

After a week of vacation and a national holiday, we are back to discuss the readings for June 3rd, the first Sunday in the long stretch between Pentecost and Reformation Sunday.  We may pick up one or two small celebrations between now and the end of October, where we will have Reformation Sunday, All Saints Sunday, and Christ the King Sunday in a span of 4-5 weeks; otherwise, we are in the portion of the liturgical calendar referred to as either "Ordinary Time" or "Time after Pentecost."

The good news is that the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary will build off of one another from week to week.  The second reading each week will work through some of the letters within the New Testament.  The Gospel reading each week will pick up where the previous week's reading left off or will pick up after a short jump in the story.  Therefore, it will be easier to follow what is happening in the second readings and the Gospel readings from week to week.  (Note: the first reading is either a) chosen as a connection to the Gospel reading and the psalm is chosen as a response to the first reading, or b) a series of semi-continuous readings (working through books of the Old Testament with large gaps between readings so that we get the high points in the larger story) with psalms chosen as a response to the first reading.)

As always, I will share the readings with my responses (in italics) to each reading.  If you have a response of any kind (affirmation, question, thoughtful criticism), start the conversation in the comments below.

Deuteronomy 5:12 - 15

12Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Deuteronomy is a longer reflection on the Sabbath and the purpose for the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is meant to be a day of worship and rest.  In our modern society, what does it mean to rest?  What does it look like and feel like to truly unplug from everything and relax?

Psalm 81:1 - 10

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
 2 Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
 3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.
 4 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
 5 He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a voice I had not known:
 6 "I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.
 7 In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
 8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
 9 There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
 10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

Psalm 81 focuses on the worship portion of the Sabbath.  The psalmist speaks for God, calling the Israelites to worship the Lord in thanksgiving for the Lord rescuing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  Verses 11 – 15 set a context in which the Israelites have turned away from the Lord, so that Lord released them to follow their own desires, and the people wandered their way into trouble.  The Lord promises to sustain the people of Israel and defeat their enemies, but this proclamation seems to be conditional, depending on the people of Israel returning to the Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:5 - 12

5We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For 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.
  7But 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. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For 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. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4 is a popular passage for its imagery of clay jars and its certainty that we will face hardships but they will never destroy us.  For this community, which has faced a lot of hardship over the last 3.5 months (now up to 7 funerals since Ash Wednesday), the image of carrying the light and life of Christ in clay jars may resonate.  In our combined grief and sorrow, we may feel our clay cracking or even feel like pieces have fallen out of place.  But a light in a whole clay jar will never be seen because the light cannot get through the clay.  The light and life of Christ shines through those cracks and gaps in our jars.  We can try to patch up these cracks and gaps and act like nothing is wrong, or we can acknowledge where we are broken and point to where Christ and the Holy Spirit are at work within us so that others may see and believe.

Mark 2:23 - 3:6

23One sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
3:1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

In Mark 2 and 3, we see that the invitation to observe the Sabbath has become oppressive under the leadership of the Pharisees.  The definition of “work” is so limited that life-giving actions from foraging for food to healing a deformed hand are considered sins against God.  Jesus invites us to see a difference between that which is work and that which is life-giving for ourselves and/or others.  The Sabbath is meant to be life-giving for us, so engaging in life-giving activities on the Sabbath is encouraged.