Sermon, Transfiguration Day
1 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.
Weddings have been on our mind. Last weekend our oldest Son got married. He is the first of the four kids to do so. It was a great day. Only one small thing went amiss – the bride’s veil! Somehow the veil got left on the table as bridal part left to get to the church on time. Not to worry. She looked stunning without the veil anyway.
I don’t know what it is like to be a bride walking down the aisle, arm in arm with a parent, looking through a veil. In one way it must feel safe – When everyone is looking at you, you are still hidden in part. No one can see you fully – your emotions – tears, joy or anxiousness….. There is a certain safety of being hidden behind the veil.
Moses was being safe when he wore his veil. His face would literally glow when came down from the mountain or out from the Tabernacle after speaking with the Lord ‘face-to-face”. Moses put a veil over his face from people so they were not prone to mistrusting him as leader when the glory glow eventually faded. Maybe he wore the veil to just not ‘spook’ them too!
The glory of God can spook us. Just ask Peter, Andrew and John up on that Transfiguration mountain we heard about! Jesus’ glorious perfection, holiness, purity and light was too much for them. It is too much for us. His complete freedom, full life, extended joy and all-knowing heart and all-seeing eye when unveiled can rock us, overwhelm us, shake us.
This might be why we often prefer to keep the veil on. Like the Bride in that big moment when everyone staring at her, we often want to be safe, secure and in control of ourselves and others – and especially God’s stare. Like the Bride with the veil, the veil between us and God is a bit of safety in an unsure life.
But what is ‘the veil’? For Paul, the Old Testament Law is still God’s good Law, but it can be used by us as a veil that feels safe but hides the truth of what the Lord has done to allow is to live in his glorious freedom and light without any veil.
The Law is what we know. We can hide behind God’s good Law to the point that we will not allow the safety to be shattered by the more extensive, more complete, less controllable, understandable glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, who is God’s ultimate revealing of who God really is and what God is really doing in our lives.
And this is who we know already, according to Paul. Jesus is the new way in which God gets his glorious presence close to us without dazing us, overwhelming us, even killing us. Jesus is Glory hidden in human flesh and bones – tiredness, laughter, anger, joy in a real human person – but who he is really is – the Son of God – the glory of God, the Majestic King of Glory is revealed in a flash of brilliance that still dazes Peter, Andrew and John.
Like when the groom finally raises the veil of his lovely bride, her fullest beauty and presence is finally revealed to all gathered, so it is with Jesus up on the mountain stunning three people and stunning us – the fullest revealing of God’s gracious presence to us. Like the groom, we are stunned by his brilliant and complete love for us.
But it seems more natural to us to stick to the rules and the things we know like a bride keeping the veil on than let the Lord take the safety of the veil away and eye-ball us face-to-face with his overwhelming light that exposes our darkness, his calling that re-orders our work and family life, his forgiveness which renders our chasing after other safety and security outside of his promises useless.
Friend, here and now, the Spirit of freedom is lifting the veil of safety in things and self and even that misplaced confidence in our ability to earn his acceptance by the keeping of his holy and good Law.
You could choose to settle for walking down the aisle of life with that veil on.
You might want to keep the veil on because you don’t want him to expose you, know you or even love you – lest you have to let him interrupt you; cause you to re-evaluate what you are doing, who you are and where you’re headed. Many people will not let that veil go. They get to the Groom face to face and will not let him take that veil off.
But, by faith in this man up the mountain who would be that dead man on the Golgotha hill and that raised man ascending to rule this world in love, you could let him lift that veil again as you simply come to him in repentance and faith this morning – repenting of all your attempts to control your life, all your anxiety about the future of our country and our church and your life, the state of the world, the changing winds of our culture, your reluctance to trust that even that sin, that regret, that anger because you don’t understand why that terrible thing happened, that weakness that gets you in trouble can be restored, forgiven and freed. “….only in Christ is it taken away”.
And when you allow him to lift that veil, the path gets clearer, the steps bolder, the joy fuller as the Groom truly sees you and his community greet you. There comes a certain boldness about you and about us, no matter what is going on.
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
It is this hope of wonderful acceptance and love for limited, struggling, sometimes scared people – just like that Corinthian community – this hope of God’s preferred future for us in his world that brings a boldness to our words and ways. Boldness, freedom, transformation and ministry/serving – that is who we are and what we live in when the veil is lifted. A much better way to walk and relate!
And this is Holy Spirit given.
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.
With the Spirit’s words of hope, freedom, transformation into Jesus’ ever-increasing wisdom, knowledge, understanding of who he is, what love is and how to love, we ‘do not lose heart’.
You don’t need to give up, shut up or veil up anymore. Neither do we as a local mission outpost of Jesus’ kingdom. There is no need to hide you or your faith in Jesus.
There is a need to avoid things that are not from Jesus or approved by him.
2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways;
There is no need to trick people.
“….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.
We have nothing to hide in or conversations, in our plans for our mission work here. We certainly have no need to get side-tracked into that old Law again – telling people what they should do or don’t do for God to love them – that is back in the veil. He loves them before they are friends of his; before they know him, before they try to be good.
We do have the responsibility and the joy to keep it simple:
“On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God”.
Friend, the Groom raises the veil. Your motives, needs and directions are laid bare by his abiding gaze without the veil. How could you and we do anything but gladly reflect his acceptance, love, hope and freedom?
We are not like Moses. We have the veil off. We are being transformed by the Spirit. God is at work in this struggling man, this struggling church, this changing world.
‘…since we have such a hope, we are very bold”.