Writing about his experiences, Paul proclaimed in the reading from Second Corinthians, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 Some of the trials that Paul faced included multiple periods of imprisonment, beatings, intimidation, being driven out of towns by mobs, and shipwrecks. I doubt that he would have wanted huge amounts of money, time and energy being devoted to buildings, let alone to one memorialising him. Rather, I believe, he would want the church to know and share their true treasure-the treasure that he describes as ‘this treasure in clay jars.’

This may sound like a strange analogy to us, but it might be helpful to know that not far from the splendid Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls is a hill called Mount Testaccio. Mount Testaccio is man made, and it is adjacent to the old river port. The hill consists of thousands, probably millions of shards of Roman amphorae. Amphorae were large clay jars used to transport olive oil, wine, and other liquids across the Roman empire. Clay jars were like the disposable containers of their day. They were cheap and easily made. So once emptied, they were often smashed (to reduce their volume) and dumped. Households, too, used cheap clay containers. These were much more fragile than the amphorae and often cracked and broke.

So, when Paul says we have this treasure in clay jars he is saying that we have in our fragile and impermanent bodies the great treasure which is our faith, given to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through this faith we know the love and forgiveness of God. This is a treasure that will live on beyond our human lives if we share it with others by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed.

Because Paul believed that he had this great treasure to share, he was prepared to endure whatever was thrown at him, and ultimately be killed, rather than not proclaim the gospel. It was, indeed, a costly ministry. But it was also wonderful. For Paul’s legacy was not only in the churches he founded and guided, but it is also our treasure. For Paul’s writings live on. They have taught, guided, and enriched the lives of churches and Christians ever since.

Rev Sandra Houghton

Fig Tree Worship Resource,

Friends of the Fig Tree, UCA