As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

 A voice of one crying out in the desert:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.’” – Mark 1: 2-3

There are more than 150 mentions of the the word, “Prepare” , kun in Hebrew, in the Bible. The word, “prepare” has to do with making ready; making the necessary provisions; to procure before the occurrence of an event; and to set in place certain needed things with the end in mind before any proceedings may take place (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.).

I recently signed up for some ceramics and pottery classes – coincidentally, I have found my periods of transition matching with moments of fiddling about with clay, either via the hand-building process or by wheel-throwing. This week, I was having a particularly frustrating time and found myself trying to rush through the processes with terrible results, such as my clay flopping down, or breaking apart on the wheel as I was working with it. I had to intentionally slow my body and the speed of the wheel down before any height could be achieved in the clay on the wheel. As anyone who is familiar with pottery knows, the process of creating a, stable,  usable, aesthetically-pleasing vessel usually takes several months from the start to the finish, with every stage of the process, a part of the necessary preparation for success in the subsequent stages. Missing a stage, or rushing through certain steps tends to lead to disappointment with the supposed finished work presenting with cracks or damages.

The first step in working with the clay is wedging.

While potters use different methods to wedge their clay, wedging is crucial to make homogenous and pliable the clay. The process of repeatedly kneading the clay and pushing the clay together strategically, forces out any air bubbles that would weaken the structure of the clay, and cause the pieces to explode in the kilns as the air bubbles expand and push against the already solidified surfaces. When the clay is not wedged, in this case, prepared properly, then on the wheel it tends to be brittle, lacks elasticity, and has the tendency to collapse upon itself. If the material is not prepared well, then it cannot receive the expected moisture and force needed to shape it into the vessel that it can be. If the clay is too dry, the molecules cannot stick together, and breaks apart easily while if the clay has been too saturated with water, it becomes mud or slip which cannot be shaped on the wheel. The clay must be of a right disposition and composition before the potter can begin working with it.

The next step is centering the clay. Using the centrifugal force of the wheel, the potter shapes the clay into the centre. Centred clay is stable and does not jiggle and wobble as the wheel spins. It also allows the potter to raise up the clay to its fullest height and with potential. Clay that is not centred correctly tends to imbalance in the vessel, with the walls varying in thickness and symmetry, leading to a structure that will not be able to withstand the high temperatures of the kiln later on, as the thinner parts will expand faster than the thicker parts causing breakage as the vessel heats up. Uncentred clay also makes it difficult for the potter to work with the clay. The clay then at this stage has to be cooperative and in tuned with the will of the potter.

The shaped vessel then undergoes a drying period, then a trimming period where the excess and unnecessary parts of the vessel are trimmed off, then further drying until it is bone-dry, then the piece is bisque fired at a temperature of 700 to 800 degree Celsius. After this stage the piece is solid enough to retain its shape even when water touches it. Following this stage, the bisque fired piece is glazed, with each coat taking time to dry before the next coat is applied. Finally, the piece undergoes a final Glaze Firing at temperatures of 1200 to 1500 degree Celsius over a period of several days. The cooling process then takes another several days, before the kiln is opened. At this stage, if the glaze process is not done properly, the piece would fuse to the shelves with the only way of removal being to break the piece and start the process again. If all goes well, the finished earthen vessel is complete.

If the astute reader has noticed, there are many parallels found in working with pottery with the Christian Life. The journey takes several stages to complete, and each stage is crucial and cannot be omitted, and has to be completed properly, to ensure success at the next step of the journey. In this case, one stage prepares for the next and proper preparation is key.

In Scripture we see many instances where there is a repeated call to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Kingdom of God and for the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. Jesus for example tells the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids in Matthew 25 where we see the wise bridesmaids bringing an extra provision of oil with them, and being awake and ready when the bridegroom came knocking on the door. And yet again in Proverbs, 24: 27, “Complete your outdoor tasks, and arrange your work in the field; afterward you can build your house;” While 2 Chronicles chapters 1 to 7 gives a beautiful account of the detail, work, and preparation that went into building the Temple.

Lent is a season of preparation, and it is also an invitation to be moulded and shaped to our true Christian potential, living as sons and daughters of God our Father. Yet as the clay stubbornly dances off centre by itself, the processes of wedging, clay preparation, waiting, and centring take time and can be even painful. God our Father is the expert and master potter. Can we the clay trust that the stages in our life that we are going through are exactly as God envisioned them to be? Are we allowing ourselves to be ready for Easter?

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan


Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Prepare. in Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved March 18, 2021 from