The Parish of Sutton with Seaford

When you’re asked later what you did today and you say I went to Church and then they say What did the preacher say then you can say Well, the preacher told me I am a mug. To which they will say ‘I could’ve told you that for free’ and then you say I am a mug filled with treasure! We are clay jars filled with treasure.


Welcome to a new sermon series. We will be spending the next 5 or 6 weeks in 2nd Corinthians so you’d be wise to have a read of it yourselves.

St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles ch 18 tells us about the 18 months that St Paul spent in Corinth building the church. Then off he went

and ever so slowly it would seem that the Church began to lose its way and Paul got downwind of this so he wrote his First letter to the Corinthians.

That letter had a mixed reception and so we think that Paul went back. He later called it a painful visit. (2 Cor2.1)

Its not clear if that visit came before or after another letter written out of distress and anguish with tears. (2 Cor 2.3, 4; 7.8) probably afterwards and that seems to have resulted in a reaching out, a willingness to reconcile, and so we have what we call Second Corinthians, but you know that this is at least Paul’s 3rd if not 4th letter to Corinth. So that’s a shame, it would be really interesting to come across that actual Second letter – no matter.


The first half or so of 2nd Corinthians is about that reconciliation between Paul and the Church but Paul is constantly connecting reconciliation to what we have and who we are in Jesus Christ.

So we will come to Ch8 at some point and Paul will remind them about the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who are struggling because of a famine there and how he is taking a financial collection and wouldn’t it be nice if all these gentile churches though they are a world away from Jerusalem, yet they care for their brothers and sisters and understand that the riches that we have in Christ are because of their love that welcomed them in, that sent Paul to them.

This isn’t about money, this is about unity and love and showing that through generosity and our financial giving.


But throughout 2nd Corinthians we come across a problem of expectation of what should a Cool Christian look like. We want our vicars to look smart and not mumble, and all that.

So in chapter 11, Paul gives us this list of how superior he is to other so-called super apostles –

Paul’s list shows how qualified he is to be their apostle – he starts off with good credentials – a Hebrew, an Israelite, a child of Abraham, but then says I’ve been in prison more often than they have, been flogged, been whipped to within an inch of his life five times, beaten up three times, pelted with stones once, shipwrecked three times. Paul is showing off his credentials by showing how very much he has suffered – homelessness, hunger, poverty.


If you’re new to church and you’re hearing this sermon I’d understand if you’re thinking – ‘You’re not really selling it’. Is being a life of a Christian, signing up to a hard life?


So as you read through Corinthians look out for these lists. We have one in today’s reading – we are hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down.

Again, James, you’re not really selling it!

We want a religion that tells us that we are loved and held and safe and all will be well.


But if you listen to any of the Christians that I know and to St Paul in this letter – they would agree with you. Paul would say – I know that I am completely held and loved and protected by Jesus – whether I live or die – I know that I am held in the loving arms of Jesus Christ my Lord.

Alas that does not mean that you’re in for an easy ride.


But here’s the secret – in Jesus Christ – we are Clay Jars who have been filled up with His light, His love, His life. We don’t get to just hold this treasure, we get to pour it out wherever we find ourselves.


When Paul says ‘You’re a Clay Jar’ – he means that there’s nothing very special about you, you’re quite ordinary. But Paul wants you to know that with God’s love poured into you by the Holy Spirit, that you can do, be, extraordinary.


We are Clay Jars who have this treasure of Jesus in us. In John’s Gospel, Jesus promised us Pentecost, the Advocate, one phrase He used was I and the Father, we will come and make our home in you.

That’s a bit overwhelmingly wow. This is the treasure that we have in us.


The evangelist JJohn has a talk where he pulls out a £20 note and asks How much is this worth? And everyone shouts back Twenty Quid. Then he scrumples it up – Now how much? £20. And then he drops it on the floor and jumps up and down on it. Now how much? £20. You get the picture. I once tried a version of this where I offered it to a kid in between each thing and after I’d jumped on it a couple of times he said – No he didn’t want it. It sort of ruined my sermon!

But it made it quite memorable because everyone knew that it was still worth £20.

We have been through all sorts of things in our lives many of which have left us feeling that we are worth less than we once were. But to God that worth has never changed. God sees us as Clay Jars yes but loved and filled with His life and light.


Perhaps we could push the analogy a little further and see in baptism a cleansing, a renewal of our spirit, a restoration of our self-respect as we come to absorb the love of God.


It ought to make you think differently about yourself. It ought to give us more hope and courage, more faith and joy in how we live and love.


Paul’s letter does talk a lot about suffering, ‘we carry around in our body the death of Jesus’ –

I’ve always wanted to ask St Paul if he ever did any youthwork. It’s not especially my cuppa tea – but we have this love inside of us that gives us the strength to do things that normal people wouldn’t do. Others of you love it, and oddly afterwards I am really glad that I did it, I find that God has again given me the grace and strength to step out of my comfort zone and to do this.


Some people sit in St Leonard’s for 3 hours of a morning. Its not like they haven’t got something better to be doing. I’m sure they have their to-do lists, but they have this love inside of them that says I want this Church to be open for people to pop in and pray and chat.


I want youth work to be able to happen so that some of these children might come to know this treasure that God is pouring into our hearts. So others get up early to come to St Lukes and cook bacon, and others put chairs away and clean and others – you get the idea.

I’m sure there’s a bundle of things that you do  – and if there isn’t well have a pray and think about it.


We do not do it because this is our favourite club. We do it because we have this treasure in us.

God has made me and you, and yes we are little clay jars, we can’t hold that much. And in being Clay I need to be careful, I am brittle and quite breakable, but God. God has made you and me to be a useful pot, with purpose.

Someone said to me – I can’t do much these days, in my care home, so what I do is I pray, I pray through the old phone list, for each person that comes my way, for the news sheet activities but I can’t do much. And I thought wow, if only I could do that much!


I want you to hear that God sees you as a Treasure, as a Clay Jar full of His treasure. I’d like that to help encourage you in how you see yourself.


I’d also like it to change how you see each other as the family of God. Those funny people who worship up at the Methodist chapel – they too are Clay Jars with God’s treasure in them. Those people who like this sort of service or that sort of service – they too are Clay Jars with God’s treasure in them. Its wonderful. They don’t need to be like you. They and you, we, just need to make sure that we are full of God’s treasure and that we’re pouring it out, we are being a generous blessing wherever we find ourselves.


But this means we need topping up. Psalm 22v3 in the King James version was translated – you inhabit the praises of your people.


This is the idea that in our praises, God’s Holy throne and presence and power, meet with us. That as we worship, as we get lost in wonder love and praise, that God comes to us and ministers His grace to us, and pours His love afresh into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, that our worship of God is a tool, a channel, a ministry, through which God blesses us, renews us, fills us up again with His treasure.


So keep at it, in praise and worship and adoration and allow God to restore your faith and hope and love, and so remember that you are yes a Clay Jar but you are filled with His immense, wonderful, love light and life, with His treasure. Amen


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