Feeling the Heat

Earlier this week and feeling hard pressed, succour came from an unlikely source. Someone from the community stopped by at my desk and holding a flimsy photocopy in front of my face said, “Have you seen this?”

‘This’ was a small article that had appeared before Christmas in our local newspaper, The Forres Gazette. Headed Church View, and written by The Rev Canon Cliff Piper of St John’s Episcopal Church, Forres I read this article at least three times, melted myself by its warming, sincere and beautifully crafted prose. It touched me so much that driving into Forres just now, I found myself waving at St John’s as I passed by!

So here it is, a Church View and much more, from one of our neighbours. When I asked Cliff Piper if I could share it with you he replied,: ” yes….if you think it is good enough.”Thank you Cliff and the Forres Gazette.

“The heat of the fire!
No, I don’t mean the roaring fire that you may sit in front of at Christmas warming your toes and roasting your chestnuts.

I mean the refining fire of God that I was reminded about in St John’s last Sunday in the reading from Malachi 3: 1-4, especially verse 3 that says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”.

Some years back, in a Bible Study, this verse puzzled me as to what the statement meant about the character and nature of God. I decided to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next meeting.

I knew someone who knew a silversmith and was helped to make an appointment to watch him at work. I didn’t mention anything about the reason for my interest beyond my curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As I watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest, so as to burn away all the impurities.

I thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, and then I thought again about the verse that says:”He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ I asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.

The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

I was silent for a moment. Then I asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at me and answered, “Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.”

If this Christmas, or some time in the future, you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you. His aim is not to abandon or destroy you, but to give you strength through God’s empowerment, to refine you — until He sees his image in you.”

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