Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer
St. Hyacinth Church, Amarillo, Texas
Immaculate Conception Church, Vega, Texas
Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?
Why do you harden our hearts so that we do not fear your name?
Behold, you are angry and we are sinful.
There is none who calls on you, no who rouses himself to cling to you.
For you have hidden your face
and delivered us up to our guilt.
Not easy words to hear.
Not easy…because they’re true.
We are sinful and the world is troubled.
No matter how hard we might try to keep
the trouble of the world at bay,
a half-hour of any news broadcast
reminds us how thin the protection
the doors of our house
and the glass in our windows
and violence of the world.
Return, O Lord, for the sake of your servants.
Would that you would rend the heavens and come down
with the mountains quaking before you!
Today’s passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
presents an assessment of human society
more menacing than a Texas tornado...darker than a Panhandle dust storm.
But have you noticed something missing?
Have you noticed that, in quoting this passage,
I omitted the opening and closing verses?
Each of those verses speaks of God as a father.
The passage opens with this cry:
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
And the passage closes with this statement of hope:
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Now, you and I, we are accustomed to hearing God called Father.
It was the favored word used by the Lord
to call upon God: Abba, which is to say, Papa, Dad.
Today, we find the Book of the Prophet Isaiah,
also using the word Father
in reference to God.
However, the prophet employs the word Father in a different context.
All though it is the largest of all the prophetic books,
the Book of Isaiah refers to God as Father only three times
and each time it is in the context of God forming and rescuing his people.
A father’s manner of loving
tends to be different from that of a mother’s.
God loves us in every manner possible.
Yet, in this passage from Isaiah,
written in a turbulent time,
a troubled age when “push comes to shove,”
the people of God
need the push and shove of God’s steady hand to guide them through the darkness.
You are our father.
We are the clay, you are the potter.
Now picture that image beneath that phrase
in context of the time in which it was written.
When push comes to shove
and our world spins out of control like a hunk of clay,
God’s hands, like that of a potter, do not leave the clay.
In fact, the faster the clay spins
the tighter the pressure exerted from the force of the Potter’s hand…
those hands that form us and shape us
and keep pushing us back to our true center
and out of the gravitational pull of the world.
I’m not talking about here is not the kind of love
that simply soothes us, saying
“Don’t worry, everything will be okay.”
Rather, I’m talking about the traditional father kind of love
that gets us through hard times by pushing us into shape.
“Dad, I don’t know if I can get through this.”
“Dad, I’m quitting that job.”
“Dad, I’m walking out.”
“Dad, it’s hopeless. I’m giving up.”
How does a father respond?
He says things like:
Listen to me.
Let’s get to work.
Let me show you how it’s done.
Or, as Isaiah puts it:
Rend the heavens!
Come down to earth and set things right.”
And God’s answer?
You are the clay, I am the potter.
In other words:
Put yourself in my hands.
Allow me to shape you and to change you
so that you, in turn, can go out
and change what needs to be changed.
A father’s love, after all, tends to be very practical.
And when it comes to the season of Advent…
when it comes to preparing our hearts to receive the Lord
it means preparing the world around to receive the Lord as well.
Advent is here.
It’s time to get our faith back in shape.
God is the potter.
We are the clay.