Lifting our own veils
Sermon March 3, 2019 “Lifting our own veils”
Delivered at West Springfield UMC – Pastor Rick Rabe
Lectionary for the service
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Luke 9:28-36 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
There is such a conflict for me this day. Such a challenge. So much tension. You maybe faced with people coming up to you and saying “how can you go to THAT church?” or you may have people come up to you and say “yes, your church finally got it right.” I’ve already seen a news article in the local Belchertown web news saying “Belchertown’s Methodist Church closes its doors to gays and lesbians.” Really?
So my conflict this day is this, do I focus on this news or focus on continuing our work, continuing our mission, continuing to do what we do here in this church, come together as a community in Christ worshiping, serving, helping, supporting and loving one another as Jesus told us to, without prejudice? I think that’s exactly what I am supposed to do. We can talk about the outcome of General Conference in the parlor afterwards, I’ll be here. So lets get busy with worship, lets stay focused on our Lord, let’s get back to God’s work.
We are lucky today really to have these two readings, Corinthians and Luke seemingly unrelated except that Moses appears in both of them! Yet for me, I see that they are interrelated beyond what we could imagine. Let’s tear these apart for a moment. First we have Paul writing to the church in Corinth about this cryptic veil over our faces. First he tells us about Moses and the veil that prevented him from seeing the promised land but then he goes further, he tells us of the Jews that still hold onto that veil. He tells us that even us as Christians today, hold onto that veil. You know what a veil is, it hides the view either in or out or both. That’s the veil Paul’s talking about here. Wow, listen to this from the scripture:
“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. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds…”
“A veil lies over their minds…” what do those words bring to you? Close your eyes and envision a ‘veil over your mind.’ What veils do you have that stop you from getting closer to Christ? What veils do you wear that keep you from sharing God’s love, from accepting that everyone is a child of God? What veils do we hold fast to like the followers of Moses in the past because we are afraid of what we will see or worse, how others might see us. Do we still put up a veil so we may remain blind to the truth all around us and call it justified because of our faith?
And then we have this ‘transfiguration’ message in Luke. Imagine yourself on that mountain and bearing witness to this event. You go up there with Jesus, you think you know who he is, you’ve been with him a while and then this light opens up, Jesus, the guy that you’ve been walking and sharing meals with, this sort of special guy with a real gift to enthrall people suddenly lights up in blazing white. Whoa. Then what happens next is almost beyond comprehending. Your hero’s Moses and Elijah appear standing next to him, and they are there talking with each other. All in front of you these three.
How can you even relate to this? How could anyone? Yet there were Peter, John, and James standing there witnessing this event, this change from Jesus the guy they hung out with and liked a lot to something else entirely.
I’ve seen this. No, not the white bright light, not Moses and Elijah, no mountaintop performances for me but I have seen it. I’ve seen it and didn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t believe the miracles I have witnessed instead choosing to frame them in my own context.
Peter’s reaction was equally predictable. What was a good Jew to do but to build a temple, a tent right their on that spot so that people could come to that place and worship there? I mean the center of their religion, the religion of Moses, said that’s what you do. You put up a place to worship. You see, Peter, John, and James had that veil of Moses over them, its like a filter, you see everything through a filter. That filter was there to keep them from seeing. That filter, I suppose in the beginning, was their to protect them but instead, it hid them from the truths. Like a veil, no one could really see what was going on.
Peter, John, and James were there following the rules that they knew. They were good religious people and they got it wrong. They missed the big moment because they were wearing their veil, they had their ‘rules of our religion’ filter on. See a miracle, build a place to worship.
That’s what was going on with me. I saw people all around me filled with the Holy Spirit, giving their lives to be in service. I saw people who didn’t just ‘go to church’ they became the real church, out on the streets, protesting injustices, attending rallies, or quietly caring for the poor, for the homeless, for the sick. I had my veil on alright, so tightly wrapped around my head that nothing got in our out. But then I saw them. I saw all them, all these people going about their lives but guided by a truth, guided by a faith and belief that God loves even them. That was my mountain moment.
With Perter, John, and James God saw all they were saying about building more temples, no surprise there. God saw this and said “OK, you still aren’t getting it so I am going to put it a plainly as I can… this is my son. This is me in front of you on earth, listen to what He says, because it comes from me.”
I am stunned by this passage. I am stunned and happy at the same time. I mean if Peter, John and James could get it wrong with all that they saw, then OK, I can get it wrong sometimes. Maybe it is what Paul said in Corinthians, I’ve got my Moses veil on, or my “scripture is my veil”, or my “I’ve got my own ideas about how this should be” or my biases or politics or whatever is going on in my life, veil on.
I feel like Peter this week. I thought I knew how things were supposed to be. I’ve been a Methodist minster for what, not even 2 years, and this week that veil I was wearing was ripped to pieces. I feel like God came to me and said this week, “Rick, this is your wake up call, there’s a lot of work to do, starting with “this is my son, listen to HIM!” Listen to Him. Listen to Him. Wow.
I was ready to put up those tents and then I found all these people in St. Louis wearing their veils still. I found all these people acting like Peter, thinking they knew better. There they were putting up new barriers, new ways to set one group apart from another. I found myself sitting there as if I were with the crowd in St. Luois, in stunned disbelief…. “This is my son, listen to Him” – Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself…. Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Those early apostles, oh boy did they get the rough lessons. God coming down a shouting to them from a cloud. Us, sitting here in our safe little congregation, we had our veil lifted too. “This is my son, listen to Him!”
I tell you, the blush has come off the rose for me. I tell you we need to get out into the community and share the good news. John Wesley, in his sermon on Bigotry told us to beware of the ‘us and them’ mentality. Instead he said, deliver the good news, deliver the good news. Go where you need to go and know Christ is with you.
My filter is off, I’ve heard God loud and clear, “listen to him.” I’ve heard God’s command, love one another without prejudice. I’ve heard it as clear as if I had been on that mountaintop. “This is my son, listen to Him!”
Now, the next step isn’t building a temple or setting up a tent. The next step is getting out there, out in the world to help people take off their veils of prejudice and hate, yes that word, hate. To help them instead find love and grace.
Let us pray. God of love and grace. We a shaken by the vision. We are cowered in the corner wondering how we should respond. Yet, your voice cries out to us from all time, “this is my son, listen to him.”
Gracious and loving God, grant us the strength to lift not only own veils but those of others so they too may “listen to him.” Grant us the courage to abandon our old securities, those old and hurtful ways, to lift the veils of privilege and go forth proclaiming Christ’s message of love and grace, of acceptance and peace. Be with us as we go forward in your name this day.
Come and empower us now through this holy meal, through the gift of remembrance from your beloved son who gave his life so that we may live. Come to this table today and feed us with your holy spirit. Fill us to overflowing with you love and grace so that we too may be your disciples bringing hope in this world. Amen