Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart…For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God… (2nd Corinthians 4: 1, 5-7)
I love these words from Paul empowering and encouraging us, proclaiming Christ’s light that God has planted in our hearts to shine brightly in the world with love, mercy and grace. Echoing Paul’s words, extraordinary things are happening here at The Falls Church Episcopal because it is God’s power working in and through us. So we do not lose heart! But, as Paul also reminds us, we have this treasure in clay jars…
This says two things to me: First of all, there is indeed a necessary vessel for God’s power working in and through us. God’s strong loving presence become incarnate in material things. In Christ Jesus, our lives and creation are vessels of God’s love and presence. The church and her ministries and worship, her leadership organization and functioning, even our sacred buildings and things like chalices, patens and offering plates are some of the important vessels God works through.
But it’s easy to confuse the significance of the vessels, the clay jars, with the ultimate significance of what and how God works. So Paul’s message also tells me, yes, the vessel is important, but it is not permanent. The vessel changes because we do not put new wine into old wineskins. But let me say again, God and we need the vessels as the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus shows, as creation shows.
And so, in the church we acquire new clay jars at times in our life together. This weekend at the Falls Church Episcopal we have an opportunity to hear about the Rector Search Process and how it will bring new life, vision, and leadership. Our Canon to the Ordinary, The Rev. Dr. Mary Thorpe who facilitates transition ministries in the Diocese of Virginia, will be with us preaching and leading the Adult Forum this Sunday. Please join us to hear about new clay jars for the next chapter. This is a time when we affirm God’s extraordinary power and presence continues but we look to new vessels that will serve that new wine and living water. Commissioning our Search Committee begins the process.
And then the next Sunday, January 26, we have another Sunday to focus on the clay jar, the vessels of new leadership that will emerge as the Holy Spirit leads us to elect new vestry members. At our Annual Parish Meeting we’ll celebrate the leadership of four faithful outgoing vestry members, but also look to God’s extraordinary power working in the continuing vestry and new vestry members to lead our mission forward. We’ll be pouring the new wine of leadership into new clay jars, new vessels.
This is also part of the work of the Interim Ministry I share with you. Metaphorically and literally, we’ll be utilizing some new vessels in our worship and ministries. We tried a few of these at Christmastide utilizing different vestments, adding and subtracting things to worship, and in doing things a bit differently. We’ll be doing some reorganizing and implementation of ministries. We’ll be hiring some new staff. But none of this detracts from God’s extraordinary power in Christ working in and through us at The Falls Church Episcopal. And so we do not lose heart!