Summary: All Christians are supposed to be ambassadors of Christ. As his ambassadors, we carry his authority. But we avoid showing it because we’re afraid of what people may think of us.
Other Scriptural passages:
Psalm 66 or 66:1-8
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus mentions authority. He mentions it in the context of delegating authority to others, to us. The authority to spread the Gospel is evangelism. But evangelism is not just standing on a street corner with a bullhorn telling people to “turn or burn” and “get right or get left.” Verse 14 of our Psalm for today, Psalm 66, says, “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.”
Evangelism has been defined as “one beggar telling another where he found bread.” Doesn’t that sound like the absolute substance of the Gospel, the Bread of Life? Yet we refuse to share it. We don’t believe we know enough about the Bible, or behave like good enough Christians to lead others to the Lord.
From what the Psalmist tells us in verse 9, that’s hogwash — which is a pretty loaded term theologically, considering the prohibition against pork. He says, “For you, O God, have proved us; you have tried us just as silver is tried.” The words “proved” and “tried” might be better understood in that context as “refined” or “completed.”
The Bible has many passages that describe our Lord as a refiner of silver. Malachi 3:3 says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
An email that’s been going around mentions a woman who heard that particular verse in a Bible study. She decided to find out more about the process to tell the others the following week, since they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
So she called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, you need to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
She 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 he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he also 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.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”
He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.”
So when the Psalmist tells us in verse 9 that God has tried us just as silver is tried, he is reminding us that we have been made in the image of God — that all our difficult moments in life, our trials and tribulations, refine us so that we bear the image of God for others to see as well.
In biblical times, emissaries from the emperor would arrive in the nation they were sent to with large banners bearing the image of the emperor on them. They understood that anyone bearing the image of the emperor acted on his behalf, and had the emperor’s authority.
They were ambassadors of their emperor. Today, we don’t use banners with God’s image on them, but we are his ambassadors nonetheless. When I was training for my credentials in Pastoral Crisis Intervention, the chaplain who was teaching us said that when we arrive at a disaster scene with our crucifix, or clerical collar, or chaplain’s shirt, many people there don’t see a person. They see God reaching out to them in their distress. The embodiment of God’s promise of hope has arrived. That chaplain on the scene is an ambassador of God.
Part of our country’s naval tradition includes announcing the arrival of important visitors aboard Navy ships. When they arrive, what they represent is what is announced. When the President of the United States of America boards a U.S. Navy ship, the announcement is “United States of America arriving.” The president is the embodiment of the entire United States of America.