"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from ourselves." – 2 Corinthians 4:7
I'm a sucker for chunky lobster bisque.
It's a pricey, hoity toity sort of dish, typically served in gourmet establishments, which means I don't enjoy it very often. The best I've ever tasted was at The Harbor Gawker, a funky little takeout café on Vinalhaven, Maine, served in a large paper cup.
The contrast was not lost on me. The humble container might have made the bisque taste all the better to a cheapskate like me…that and the outstanding harbor view off the restaurant's back deck.
When Paul describes us as "earthen vessels" in the verse above, he doesn't use the word for "good china." He's talking about ordinary, everyday dishes. In effect, Paul is saying, "We're not vases from the Ming dynasty. We're the paper cups you find in aisle five at Walmart."
Yet God has dumped her jewelry box into the likes of us to make the contents shine all the more. After all, diamonds stand out better on a pile of dirt than in a pile of treasure. And this heaven-in-an-earthen-cup image has profound import for us. Whenever we think poorly of ourselves, it helps to remember that we are not only "stardust" as Carl Sagan famously said, we are dust that carries the priceless power of God. Conversely, whenever we think too highly of ourselves, it helps to recall that we are only a paper cup.
Never forget that you have eternal value as God's beloved vessel. If you need a good cup of bisque to remind you, I'll meet you on Vinalhaven.
God, may I treasure you today as you treasure me.
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Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.