Sermon, Sunday February 7, 2016.
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/20160207_message.mp3
People glow. And not just when they are sunburnt! Angelique Kerber is probably still glowing after that Australian Open win last Saturday!
People glow and those around them sense it and see it and celebrate it.
A young woman who receives the gift of pregnancy “glows”, we say. A young couple enjoying the glow of new found love, “glow” we see. We recognise the glow of that gladness and celebrate it.
A young boy who has found his place at school and is learning and loving life and growing in every way glows. Teachers love this. So do parents.
A retired man who after a long career of serving his Saviour and loving his work glows.
This glow is about being fulfilled, satisfied, content.. It is a kind of thankfulness and humility – being thankful for what has happened; for the people around us who helped us, for Jesus who has been our rock.
This glow is a mysterious thing. You don’t set out to glow, it just happens to you. It may be quite strange. Like it was for Moses and God’s people. Someone had to tell Moses he was glowing as he came back down the mountain with the Word of God under his arm – and a glowing face. Someone had to tell him his glowing face was causing concern among the people!
The glow is a gift; a surprise; a thing to be enjoyed.
Of course a lot of the time for us the glow is a very illusive thing. There are plenty of times when there is no glow. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve more than others. We can tell when they are glowing and when they are not.
Peter, James and John saw the glow of all glows. They saw greatness right before their eyes; the three great men – Elijah, Moses and their friend, and mentor, Jesus; right there. All three are speaking and all three are bathed in light and in the glory cloud of the Old Testament; the “Shekinah”, which has again descended in human history.
The old world and the new world are overlapping. All that the Lord did through Moses and Aaron, and in leading his people in desert times with glory cloud by day and glory fire by night, and all he said and did through his prophets for a thousand years is brought into this moment around Jesus. What a glowing moment of which to be part!
But the other three ordinary chaps like you and me are sleepy and mostly stunned, at least for now. Even so they can’t miss the glow and they want it to last.
Before Peter can finish his sentence about making this glow last by pitching three tents for the three great men to stay, the glow is gone. In a flash, only what was before the glow remains – land, sky, sun, food, drink, the road down to the valley again – but still with Jesus.
I see the glow of fulfilment in Jesus and the serving in his name that results everywhere around St Petri, Redeemer, our Parish office, our town. I even glow sometimes!
The glory of Jesus’ love and power is among us. We enjoy his presence as we sing and pray and listen and share week by week. The glow around here is a gift. No one can manufacture it or control it. Like a light bulb, we don’t make ourselves glow and cannot sustain the glow. It is all gift. The glow of knowing the deep peace of Jesus, the hope we share for now and the future, the victory we have over any pain and suffering and even our death is all gift – surely a work of God’s Spirit powering us.
And what are we to do with this glow of God’s goodness in us when it comes?
We could do a Peter and try and grab a hold of it, control it, make it into a formula and peg it down so it stays with each of us. That is obviously not what God wants us to do with it. We see that in the absolute dismissal of Peter’s idea of the tents.
Paul later tells us what we are meant to do with the hope-filled glow we share…
“Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness”.
Confidence! Boldness. That’s his direction for us. Enjoy the glow of the church and the sharing and the belonging and take it with you when you go – boldly.
This is challenging. Paul says God’s Old Testament people could not do this. Not even Moses could do this with his glowing face and God’s words to speak.
“….not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the glory that was being set aside”.
This is because they, and I would say, we, struggle to receive God’s gift of grace glow – his acceptance, compassion, power and good will for us. That is the glory Jesus always offers, but we struggle to trust that he does forgive me, he does accept me, he does love me and he does have a present and future for me in his plans for me and my church.
Paul says that the Old Testament people struggled to receive the glory of God’s love because,
“…their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”.
That is us! The veil is removed in our baptism and in every moment that we are reconverted back to Jesus – day by day. Every time we receive his promises of faithfulness, love, affirmation of us, the old veil of self-interest, self-focus and self-promotion go and we glow.
And the even better thing is that this glow of the gospel is not a static thing like a light bulb burning away. It is more like a welding stick or a blow torch or a fire – it actually does something to us and others around us. The gospel glow is active. It is a spiritual force; a spiritual power which transform people for the better.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces (because of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb), seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another….
Friends, what happens here Sunday by Sunday, what happens in your small groups, your conversations and support for each other around God’s Word at home or work, your Christian Studies lessons at school (if you have them), your Confirmation sessions and anywhere else we receive and share the good news of Jesus is active and transformative.
So, as we head down the mountain of transformation with Jesus and his disciples – still with him, even into the valley of the shadows, we engage in the gospel ministry here and now in whatever way he calls us and we do not give up, lose heart, be downcast or try and manufacture the glow ourselves.
“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart”.
Instead we turn away from the things people do to try and find the glow of God’s grace by merely human means, or as Paul says, “The shameful things that one hides”.
We instead remain open and honest in our dealings with others and we stay close to Jesus’ Word on things. In him we live in the joy and freedom of a clear conscience before the Lord and other people in as much as it is up to us.
Friend, enjoy the glow of Jesus. Take it and be. Receive it and go. Glow and go! Go and glow!
Boldly go with the glow of the gospel in your head and heart as he transforms your head and heart and our whole congregation bit by bit over the long journey he sets before us.
We glow and we go.
Ponder or share a high and low you have experienced lately.
Read through the Luke gospel text (Luke 9:28-36) noting three things; 1. If there was a Bible scholar in the room, what question(s) would you ask him/her about this text? 2. What words. Images, ideas interest you in this text? 3. What do you find yourself imagining as you hear this text?
Share these with the group.
Imagine yourself in this text. Which person do you identify with the most – Peter, James, John, Jesus, Moses or Elijah? Share why……
Note the actions and words of Jesus closely. What does he say and do and what do these tell you about him? Read the 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 again noting Paul’s remedy for “losing heart” for Christians.
Share 2 or 3 things that cause you to lose heart in your walk with Jesus and his people, the Church.
Out of these things, which is the one that is threatening to make you lose heart and confidence as you keep living out your faith?
If you could ask the Lord for one thing related to this thing, what would you ask him for?
Paul speaks of this veil that covers the Jewish people or anyone who has not turned to Jesus in repentance and faith. It keeps them from “seeing” (experiencing and sharing in) the glory of Jesus’ forgiveness and acceptance (the gospel). Did you ever have this veil over your face that kept you from knowing Jesus’ love and hope and if so, what took the veil away?
With the veil taken away, Paul says we can know the glory of Jesus’ acceptance and love. But it is still possible to “lose heart” and feel like giving up on faith in Jesus. What is Paul’s remedy for when we feel like giving up on church and learning the bible and loving others?
Focus on these verses and share you findings. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 4 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. He says despite our times of losing heart and feeling despondent about the church, about the evil we see in the world, the suffering we experience, we are being transformed by the acceptance and love of Jesus bit by bit.
If you met a person down the street who was telling you they were ready to give up on the Christian faith, what might you say to them if you had this bible text in your mind? Share your examples of what you might say to the person.
PRAY Spirit of God, help us not lose heart but trust in your ongoing work to transform us more and more into the acceptance and love of Jesus. Amen.