"When you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the Lord." It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made." - Jeremiah 3:16
I love the verse of "How Firm a Foundation" which says,
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."
It's true to my experience of growing in faith. Each further step means letting go. Those unnecessary bits I've been clinging to are taken away and the gold gets purified.
But before I walk through the fire I have a hard time telling which is which, distinguishing the essential parts of my faith from the unnecessary. Dross is only dross in hindsight.
Imagine carrying a wooden box overlaid with gold and filled with stone tablets through the wilderness for decades. Imagine that this box has the power to take down city walls and afflict conquering armies with hemorrhoids (1 Samuel 5:6!). Imagine that it is the very presence of God among your people.
And now imagine spinning in your grave as a prophet declares a time to come when that holiest object will be neither remembered nor missed.
It's an intimidating scripture. If the Ark of the Covenant is dross, what can I be sure is gold? Which of my beloved traditions or beliefs can I withhold from the refiner's fire?
Grant me a firm foundation and open hands. I surrender everything I hold sacred to you, Sacred One. Lighten the load I carry through this wilderness.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.