Give Us An Inquiring Heart

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Proper 18 – September 8, 2019 (C)

Jeremiah 18:1-11, Psalm 139, Philemon 1-21, Luke 14: 25-33

Fall Launch – Give Us An Inquiring Heart


         I heard a story once about a man who went to a craft fair.  As he wandered around the craft fair, he came upon a potter.  He stood as the potter described what she would be doing.  She talked about how the clay felt in her hands and about importance of centering the clay on the wheel before beginning to shape it.  A small crowd began to grow around the potter’s booth as folks watched her work with the clay.  She kept describing the work she was doing with the clay as she carefully formed it from a non-descript lump into a vessel.  People leaned in excited to see what it was becoming. 

         When she was done, someone asked when it would be fired, so they could purchase it.  She kindly looked at piece and smiled and said, “Well, this isn’t going to be fired; it’s no good,” and she crushed it.  Folks let out gasps of surprise at her actions.  The crowd slowly dispersed…some angry that they’d seen something created only for it to be destroyed, and others were still in shock over her actions. 

         Once the crowd was gone, the man leaned in towards the potter and asked, “Why did you do that?”  The potter responded, “Oh, the clay was just not cooperating tonight.  If I’d fired that piece it would have shattered.  So, since it didn’t want to work with me, I’ll leave it for now, and I’ll get back to it later.”  After the man thought about it for a few minutes, he asked, “So the clay has a mind of it’s own?”  And the potter responded, “Oh yes, sometimes it does.  Sometimes I want it to be a bowl, and it wants to be a plate. Sometimes I want it to be a large mug, and it wants to be a small one. You have to be patient, you have to listen and you have to be strong.  You have to love the clay into what it needs to be.”[1]  The man walked away with tears in his eyes as he reflected on what the potter had just shared with him. 

         “Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You trace my journeys and my resting places and are acquainted with all my ways.”

         We read that just a few minutes ago.  It comes from our psalm for today, Psalm 139.  What do you hear in those words we said?  When we truly pause and pay attention to these words, what feelings wash over you…to be searched out by God…to be known through and through by the God who created us? 

         On Sundays, the psalm is read as a response to the first reading. In today’s readings it was the potter from Jeremiah. How beautifully these two images go together.  The potter creates in unison with the clay, because the potter knows the clay.  Imagine God shaping us – our minds, body, and souls, but not in a way that requires force and coercion or control, but as the potter at the craft fair…patiently, lovingly guiding us into who we need to be. 

         Over this next year I invite you to join me in exploring this relationship with God.  I invite us all to explore this God we are in relationship with by learning more about God.  We are at the start of a new program year, which runs traditionally from September until June.  In talking with folks in our community and listening to what people are both excited about and wrestling with, it occurred to me that grounding ourselves in our faith would be helpful. 

         I know that sounds elementary in nature, but just think about what is happening in our lives now…in our personal lives, in our local communities, in our country, and in our world.  To spend the next nine months intentionally studying the history of our faith, the teachings of Jesus, the meaning behind the Episcopal traditions we practice each week, and talking about what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus will help us to deepen our faith and enrich our relationship with God. 

         With that in mind, we’ve come up with a theme for this year.  You may have read about it in the weekly newsletter.  The words come from the prayer that is said over a person right after they are baptized. Give Us An Inquiring Heart  - We pray for the newly baptized to have an inquiring heart, so they learn about this God with whom they are in relationship with.  We pray that they may want to learn about God and about Jesus, so that they come to know and feel the love of God…the peace God offers.  We pray this, because we know that being in relationship with God and being in community with others who seek God changes how one sees the world.  It transforms us and by doing so, we live our lives differently, and we respond differently.  So join me in this adventure – join me as we explore our faith, our traditions, and what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. 

         And as a way to launch this journey, I invite you to grab your prayer books.  Turn to page 308 – the liturgy of Holy Baptism.  At the top of the page is the prayer from which our focus for this next year comes.  Let us pray this together and where it says “them” in italics, insert the word, “us,” because we will be praying for ourselves and one another.  Standing as you are able…Let us pray…


[1] Pastor Melissa Myers,, 9.08.2019.


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