Malachi 3:1-4 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight-- indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Luke 3:1-6 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
Reflection When living in Santa Fe my first home was near Los Cerrillos, the little hills south of town that were decorated with mostly defunct turquoise mines. Sometimes I would go riding with friends who recognized in the craggy rubble, rocks that hid within their hearts turquoise treasure. All I saw was gravel but my prophetic friends could see beyond the accumulated dross of the rubble’s history to the treasure hidden within the rock.
What I learned about turquoise is, it is mostly found in sedimentary rocks, rocks born of preexisting rocks that have been battered and delivered by weather, infused with mineral bearing water (the copper in water is actually responsible for the chemical reaction that becomes turquoise) then cemented together under the pressure of time.
I find it interesting that in many ways we humans are like sedimentary rocks. Conglomerates of our encounters with preexisting humans (think parents, partners, church, teachers, colleagues, strangers) subjected to the changing tides of our circumstance (age, position, finances, health, success, failure), infused with Divinity born of water and the Spirit and cemented into the conditioned composite of all of our experiences, skills, talents and desires. In other words, we are a motley mix of multifarious matter and moments akin to the sedimentary rocks in which treasured turquoise is hidden.
Much as I needed friends to deliver the message that turquoise treasures were hidden in the rubble beneath our horses’ hooves so too must we hear the voice of the messenger crying, “Dear people of God, the treasure of your true selves lies hidden within you. And, it must be subjected to the refiner’s fine and fuller’s soap to be revealed and purified until you are pleasing to the Lord.”
When I think of fire images of the Paradise wildfire in California leap to mind. Destruction. Fire destroys everything in its path. This is not good news. But this is not the kind of fire to which Malaki refers.
Malaki is speaking of refiners fire, controlled fire that is used to melt and purify the silver and gold that is hidden in unrefined rock. Here is the thing. We humans need to be refined so that the precious metal of our true selves will rise to consciousness. Another way to say this is, the layers of accumulated dross and dribble that make us think and feel and behave as if we are less than brilliant revelations of Divine Presence must be burned away so that we experience and express the light and life of Divine Presence on earth.
Of course turquoise, gold and us cannot refine ourselves, which is why we also listen to John the Baptizer. When we are ready to be set free from our stoney exteriors, we stop whatever we are doing, turn around and receive God’s consciousness transforming forgiveness. When we stop obsessing about the wrongs done to us and by us, and allow our “crooked ways to be made straight and our rough ways made smooth,” we experience the freedom of being and becoming aligned in Divine Presence.
Our human mentality gets all wrapped up in the countless wounds and humiliations we have endured; the times we were not chosen, were cheated on, abused, betrayed or misunderstood. Likewise, we are imprisoned by our errors and guilt for the wounds we have inflicted on others. From time to time we are stuck in a cyclone obsessed with our sin and the sin of others.
Here is the thing. Allowing thoughts of the wrongs done to and by us to own real estate in our minds is like condemning ourselves to life in prison or burying turquoise beneath Mount Lemmon. Of course we must admit the wrongs we have done and those that have been done to us, but, then we must stop, receive and express forgiveness, amend our ways and move on.
John the Baptizer is essentially saying, “Stop. Look at what you are doing to yourselves. Turn around. Let your emptiness be filled and let your pride be leveled. Whatever is needed will be completed by the Spirit of God with you in the baptism of the refiner’s fire.” For as long as we identify ourselves as victims or perpetrators, in other words, as long as we obsess over wrongs done to us or by us, we are not free. We are all tied up and constrained like turquoise hidden in rubble. We do not have the spaciousness to experience and express the light and life of Divine presence on earth.
And here is the good news. We do not have to fix it, because we cannot. God, Divine Presence, is like a refiner’s fire or fuller’s soap. The fire and the soap are the unconditional forgiveness of God. All we have to do is turn away from our self-imprisoning thoughts and turn toward God’s transforming forgiveness and our mountains and hills will be made low, our crooked ways will be made straight, our rough ways made smooth and the gold and silver of our true selves will be revealed as reflections of the light and life of Divine Presence with us.
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