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Lifting the Veil


Transfiguration Sunday February 18th 2015. St Petri

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.Mark 9:2-9 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

There is something quite special about being “on top of the world”.

The view from the airplane window, Mount Lofty summit, recently for me – The Empire State Building in NYC and etc…takes you to another perspective on the day, or even on life. Surely Peter, James and John never forgot their mountain top view with Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

There they really did experience the presence of God in such and “unveiled” way; such a visible, touchable way. This mountain top view would be theirs forever – it would sustain them. Is that the problem we have? Not enough “unveiled” experience of God? I often wonder why it is that so many people we know do not, will not or say they cannot believe in Jesus as Saviour of the world or themselves.

Do you ever wonder why they all don’t just believe like you do and live accordingly? I do.

So, what about people who don’t believe the gospel and the Saviour we trust and love?

We believe the Bible says that nobody can come to a saving faith by themselves. Remember that third part of the Apostle’s Creed and Luther’s understanding from the Bible of it:

I cannot by my own understanding or my own effort come to Jesus.

But it is the Holy Spirit who has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and made me holy and pleasing through faith in Jesus….

So if faith in Jesus is a gift given by him in the power of the Word and the Spirit, then what about our friends, family members, school and work mates that simply don’t believe?

Are they without the Holy Spirit? Are they too bad for the Spirit to reach – or too good (trusting their own goodness)?

Are they left by God to muddle through their work, family, study, relationships, marriages, parenting, university life on their own – spiritless, punchless, faithless? Or worse – are they suffering being afflicted by some evil spirit or curse?

Paul says that if the gospel is veiled to a person – it is only veiled to a person who has been blinded by “the god of this world”.

This is a bit troubling to me. Naming Satan this way seems to give Satan a grand title! Paul is not alone.

John also names Satan similarly: “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Elsewhere Paul names Satan “the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:19). He says people “follow the course of this world” which is laid out by a spirit that urges disobedience to God’s will (Ephesians 2:2).

So, is this world really a battle ground between two God’s after all; with you and I and our family and friends caught in the middle? Is it all on us to choose the right God to back? But the Bible says we are unable to make that choice anyway.

And can the gospel, which Paul says is the very resurrection power of God be veiled anyway (Romans 1:16)?

Isn’t the good news of the grace of God in the life, death and resurrection from death of Jesus of Nazareth THE life-line for anyone of any sin of any pride of any place? (1Corinthians 1:18)?

Doesn’t the gospel of Jesus shield gospel people from Satan and his minions bent on further destruction (1 Peter 1:5)?

On this day when the veil of Jesus’ glory is lifted off for the three disciples in a once-off show of God’s grand majesty up there on the mountain what is Paul driving at here?

One thing Paul is saying is that the “god of this world” has the ongoing intent to blind people with a dark veil so that they cannot see the dazzling light of Jesus like Peter, James and John were allowed to see.

But having said that, Paul launches straight into our role in all of this light and darkness. He says we are the difference between the two – or more fully, the gospel in our words and actions are the things that pull back the veil now.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Just as God said, “Let there be light” and there was light, right at the beginning, so he says by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit now at work in us who have received the light of the gospel, “Let the veil be raised” and the veil is raised.

This veil Satan pulls over people’s eyes is no match for the light of God’s grace.

This gospel we carry is indeed the power for a person to be saved from endless idol making and chasing, endless trust in things and people that cannot deliver what only Jesus can give.

Jesus says to us today:

“…. have no fear of them; for nothing is veiled that will not be unveiled, and nothing secret that will not become known” (Matthew 10:26); and“No one after lighting a lamp veils it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lamp stand, so that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16).

Friends, people can’t or won’t receive the grace of God in Jesus for a lot of reasons. Satan is at work trying to cast a veil of blindness over my friends and my family members. That is the truth of it.

But Jesus, the light of the world, is also at work among these same people. As we hear here and as we are then called to trust with all of our heart,

5 … what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and we are your servants for Jesus’ sake.

The stunning thing here is that his light, his resurrection power, his plan to draw all people into his love is at work in all of us who believe.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

In every breath we take, every move we make, every word we speak every servant hearted kind-hearted thing we do, is Jesus Christ at work lifting the veil – bit-by-bit in another person.

His light penetrates any veil of darkness, any shadowland, any satanic power or oppression.

And here is the other thing I find remarkable and so hopeful; the glory of God in the face of Jesus shining bright is still ours.

The veil of our own trivial concerns, our own self-righteousness, our own lack of understanding, our own spiritual laziness, our own lack of forgiveness, bad behaviour, self-reliance is peeled back weekly around the world.

Every time we call to mind what Jesus did for us in that gift of baptism where we died for the first time and were resurrected for the first time; Every time we hear those precious words of forgiveness of sin from Jesus himself;

Every time we taste, touch, smell, hear and see the living Jesus in bread and wine together around the new meal of life he has given us, we see his glory – the glory of the forgiveness of Jesus for all sinners at work in the here and now.

As it was for the three stunned Apostles, so it is for us.

This moment of glory was not just for them.

Eventually they would live their lives in response to what they saw and heard that day and other days with Jesus.

What we receive in this new holy mountain of light called Christian worship is not for us to keep.

But unlike the command Jesus gave to them to keep it quiet for time being until the future plans of God came to pass – there is no such command on us.

The plan of God has been revealed in full in Jesus and in the church and now we are sent.

Now we just go. Now we live and we speak and we tell and we invite and we love in Jesus’ name for all our worth –

And friends, this is church; this is what happens in a local church; this is St Petri week-in, week-out:

“…when a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, 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; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). Amen
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