My last blog highlighted the Jeremiah reading from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, The First Sunday in Advent. This entry picks up the Old Testament Reading from Advent II - 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.
The prophecy contained in the Book of Malachi challenges Israel to faithfulness in every way - to offer pure sacrifices in both the temple and in daily living; to be faithful to our earthly and spiritual 'spouses' (read 'God' here); to speak truth and not dissemble.
As I get my mind around the reanimation of this blog, I promise that I will tell the truth - at least as I see it. I promise to be faithful and I promise offer pure words from the heart. This will not be easy. The truth often hurts and begs to be 'softened.' In being faithful to God's call and leading I must admit that I have found truths expressed in Buddhism and Islam which I will share from time to time. In offering pure words from the heart, I may open myself to reproach, challenge and even ridicule.
Yet this is the experience of those who stand before the messenger of The Lord. "Who can endure [the] refiner's fire and...fullers' soap?" The whole point of the refiner's fire and fullers' soap is to wash away the impurities - the lies and deceptions - to reveal what is really there. The point is to reveal whether we have lived with integrity.
Integrity has been the single greatest principle that has guided my journey with God, and integrity is why I must write, express, challenge and be challenged.
To paraphrase Malachi again in his description of Levi, the archtype of those who would be priests,
True instruction was in Levi's mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his or her mouth, for priests are the messengers of the Lord of hosts.
Now, if I may take this one step further, let me add the Lutheran/Protestant principle of 'the priesthood of all believers,' I would suggest that the call to 'integrity' is for all who would profess to be Christian...
Integrity is not easy. It involves matching our insides with our outsides. More than simply walking the talk and talking the walk, having integrity means being honest with ourselves about who we are and what we may be going through. If I am sad or angry with God, I should not be ashamed to say it out loud without fear of being labelled 'faithless' or 'weak.' Having integrity takes courage. Read through a handful of the Psalms if you want to find integrity of expression.
The Anglican Church of Canada itself has recently shown refreshing signs of integrity. In light of dwindling numbers all over, we need to take a look at how we do business as a National Church. The current call is for: "Less reliance on standing committees and more on task forces, a review of the size and function of General Synod, increased partnership with dioceses and other churches, an “overhaul” of the national church’s communications strategy and a review of the national stewardship initiative." - http://www.anglicanjournal.com/nc/other/news-items/c/sliders/article/new-ways-of-structuring-general-synod-11381//abp/141.html
This process will be painful, like the refiner's fire and the fullers' soap...but in the end, with all the excess washed away, we will be true, integral, and whole.
Look inside yourself and ask, am I being true?
If you don't like the answer, don't shoot the messenger.