Sermon Transfiguration Day Sunday February 14th, 2010. Ocean Forest
Lifting the veil 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 3:13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 3:14 But 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. 3:15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 3:18 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. 4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 4:2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
I had an embarrassing moment related to a veil once. I was conducting a wedding in a packed church with the beautiful bride and groom. There is that part of the wedding rite where the vows have been exchanged and the moment everyone want to see is about to happen. As the minister, you can finally let the great moment happen by saying, “You may now kiss the bride”, or you can say the same thing in a little more subtle and modest way, “You may now lift the veil”. Well, I got it a bit mixed up on this occasion and ended up saying to the Groom, “You may now lift the bride”! The large laugh was on me!
Speaking of veils….. I have often wondered what is must be like to be a Muslim woman who must wear the veil. I have often been saddened as I imagine what it must be like for a women to have to wear the birka – that full heavy clothing that covers the whole body except for the eyes.
The great man of God, Moses had some experience of wearing a veil. He has a shine problem! On the many occasions he spoke directly with God, the result was a face that radiated extreme light. Quite a problem for those around him! On the mountain of the Lord (Mt Horeb) in the glory cloud and in the Tabernacle in the glory cloud, his face would shine like the sun when the conversation with the Lord was over. So he would strap on his veil as he exited God’s presence so that the people were not overwhelmed.
Because of all this direct connection with God, Moses stands out as one of those very rare and extremely highly regarded people of God.
There was also another very unique man who had a direct/special connection with the Lord. The prophet Elijah and Moses shared a common greatness – both of them had a unique end to their earthly life. Moses dies on Mt Nebo in God’s presence and God buried Moses in a place that noone could ever find. Elijah was taken up into the skies on that famous chariot of fire.
So, if you are Peter and the others on that cloudy mountain of this Transfiguration, you would be in total awe at the sight of Elijah and Moses, let alone Jesus being transfigured like Moses used to be.
You can imagine what euphoria this cloudy mountain experience must have created for Peter and the others! The two greatest men with this very special man they had left everything to follow these two years – right there – in the “veil” of the glory cloud that obscured the light of God enough to enable mere humans like Peter, James and John to see enough of the three great men in a knowing conversation.
No wonder Peter says in some kind of euphoric daze – “let’s make this last forever!”
Of course, this moment does not last forever. it is back down the mountain to the valley of that last journey to Jerusalem, veiled in human suffering, injustice and death for Jesus.
Jesus will join the ranks of the great men. He will surpass both Elijah and Moses in his death. he will be buried for sure; A human death; a death where the veil of death seems to win over love. But he will be raised from death. The veil of death that overshadows all creation will be lifted for all creation and all time. What a death!
No wonder St Paul makes much of this in all of his preaching and teaching around the known world. We hear a bit of his talk about the lifting of the veil of death for human beings and God. Actually, he speaks of this veil as a real power that actually does things to people. Its power is the law. The high demands of a holy God hit a flawed, imperfect and rebellious human heart and the end result is darkness, ignorance, separation, lovelessness, alienation and in the extreme – death.
This veil of human striving to try and appease God by keeping the rules and being very good all the time misses the truth. It casts a shadow alienation between people and God like a veil isolates a person from others. But the veil can be lifted. Unity, peace and love in God can be experienced and lived by flawed people. Paul can say that we are not like Moses. When a person turns to God in repentance and faith, this veil of alienation from God is removed and there is open access; open conversation, an experience and a knowing of God’s deep love and compassion; a receiving of God’s glorious gift – the forgiveness of all sin and the removal of death is accomplished by God for us.
Of course, the veil has not completely disappeared yet. We can fall back into law keeping to try and win God’s favour and actually put that old veil back on. We can put up walls around our heart out of fear or guilt or shame or pain caused by others and not turn to God for freedom from these things. We can dice with death in our addictions and self-seeking passions.
But there is no reason we have to stay under the veil. The veil of alienation and death has been removed for us. We are being called today to let God lift the veil and draw us close. We are his baptised and loved people after all. We are all his bride – the one, holy universal Christian church.
And this veil lifting is a process too. We live in Jesus’ peace and power and this constantly transforms us from the old shadow people to light people.
3:18 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.
Friend, is it a time to let God bury you and resurrect you? Is it a time to turn to God in all humility and trust and let him lift that pain; lift that guilt; lift that shame and receive the gift of freedom for which you so long?
3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Ahh Yes. Freedom from that sense of failure that hangs over me like a dark shadow. Freedom from those addictions. Freedom from those flaws. Freedom from which to truly live and love and contribute good things….
We need the veil lifted. We need to be transformed. Things are not meant to stay static. We have been called into a relationship with God that grows and deepens in trust and appreciation, like a young married couple. Married people are meant to grow and deepen in understanding and love for each other. Actually, human beings are meant to grow together in understanding and love.
Will you turn back to the lover of your soul today again and receive the freedom the Spirit brings; have that veil of sadness or sickness or sorrow or sin lifted and start again with the Lord?
As we all do that by a simple seeking of God’s power and forgiveness, we will enjoy a hopefulness for our life; a boldness of faith that comes from having that veil between us and God lifted. 3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,
And with this hope and this bold appraoch to living in God’s grace and power, we share in this ministry of lifting the veil on darkness, despair and death we see all around us.
4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
With our heart fully engaged in our work, our family, our spiritual journey, our church community, we are ministers of veil lifting – or hope giving, of freedom giving.
Imagine that – imagine being a community that lifts the veil of darkness for people? imagine working together to lift the veil of despair and alienation we see – among the young and the old?
Imagine being a church and college community where for moments in the life of a parent or a child, there is real freedom, a real lifting of the veil of guilt and pain – hope springs up and the freedom of the Holy Spirit is powerfully present.
Yes Lord Jesus. yes Spirit of God. yes Father in heaven. Lift the veil of alienation from you. Bring a gift of true freedom today. Make us you community of veil lifters and draw us and many more into your loving presence and peace. Amen.