Summary: For our Remembrance Sunday, when we honor the memories of those members who died since Easter a year ago. God refines each life so it is prepared to receive something imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
There have been hints of late that something shiny would be nice. No outright demands, you understand, and no whining. Just a hint that as our wedding anniversary approaches, a little chip of something shiny might be appreciated.
Now fortunately we are not yet at the fiftieth year, so it will not have to be gold. I think forty is the ruby anniversary. Ruby, huh? That’s expensive too, isn’t it? Don’t think you can pick up a much of a ruby at the Salvation Army thrift shop. What can I do? What can I get her that is affordable and still a ruby? Hey, I have an idea. Suppose I go out to our garden path, pick up a piece of gravel, and then grab some red fingernail polish. As long as she doesn’t take a fingernail to the fingernail polish, I might get by. And if that works – fake rubies at the fortieth year – I already know what I will do in ten more years. Would you believe yellow paint on a steel faucet washer? Yeah, that would look like gold, wouldn’t it? That’ll pass, won’t it?
It will not. It will not, because it isn’t really what it pretends to be, and the slightest testing will prove that it isn’t. If I were to try to pass off painted steel as gold, all my wife would have to do to is to leave it in water overnight. And the rust would show me up. Gold doesn’t rust. Steel does. Or, if I were to manage to keep the thing dry, she could let it sit out in the open air a few days, and watch it discolor. Gold doesn’t tarnish; iron and steel do. Fake gold just won’t pass muster.
And then there is a deeper issue, isn’t there? Do I really want to celebrate a relationship with something phony? Do I really want to commemorate forty or fifty years of marriage with something unreal? It’s not the way to celebrate a relationship, is it? I know that if I am solvent in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, I will have to pony up for genuine 24-karat gold. 24-karat gold, pure, without alloys or impurities. The real thing.
When Peter speaks of eternal life, he speaks using the image of gold. He tells us that what we have from God is like fine gold, 24-karat gold.
Do you know anything about the process of refining precious metals? Well, it’s been a long time since my metallurgy class in engineering school, but I do recall that impurities are typically removed with heat. The longer heat is applied to the ore, the more the gold melts and the more the worthless stuff settles out. This refining process is pretty intense. The fire is hot. But the result, if it’s 24 karat gold, is pure, valuable, durable, attractive. It’s something to celebrate. 24 karat gold.
Peter tells us that our impurities have to be dealt with. The immaturity and the outright sin in our lives have to be refined out. But, says Peter, look what you get for it. You get something finer even than gold; you get an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. You get 24 karat.
By [God’s] great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you … In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed … believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
You are receiving a 24-karat inheritance. But on the way to that 24-karat inheritance, all of us undergo some refining. All of us take some heat. There is no pure gold without refining. And there are no lives prepared for eternity without God’s purifying. I invite you to think with me about our inheritance, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
First, God wants to give us something imperishable. Something that does not die, does not decay, does not degrade. Like gold, that does not react with its surroundings or decay into something worthless. God wants to give us an imperishable gift. In so many places the Bible tells us that the free gift of God is eternal life. God so loved … that He gave His Son … that whosoever believes should have eternal life. That is imperishable.
But on the way to this imperishable gift, God refines in us what is perishable. God refines our attachment to things that do not last. And when we lose those things on which we have depended so much, then God can show us what really matters.