The Transfiguration of our Lord
As we heard from the apostle Paul in todayís second reading; ďAnd 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.Ē
Paul in this passage is referring to an interesting phenomenon, which is recorded in todayís first reading from the book of Exodus. It seems that whenever Moses had a ďclose encounterĒ with God, his face would be SHINING because he had been in the presence of such glory. Not just ďaglow with excitementĒ as we would say about little children when something special like Christmas is drawing near, but literally and physically GLOWING! This first happened to Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai after having received the two tablets of the covenant from God. And it also happened again and again and again every time thereafter whenever he went into the Tabernacle to speak with God.
Needless to say, his brother Aaron and all of the other Israelites were awestruck at this holy phenomenon! They recognized that Moses had truly been in the very presence of God Himself, and at first they were afraid to come close to him. But he reassured them, and then afterwards he put a VEIL on his face because the people were afraid to see this glory for too long.
Although todayís first reading is the only explicit reference to Moses wearing a veil, this apparently became the routine with him. Whenever he would go into Godís nearer presence to speak with Him, he would take the veil off - and his skin would begin shining brightly because of his encounter with Godís great glory. Then he would go out to the people with his shining face - tell them what God had said - and then put the veil back on his face again so that the people would not be too afraid of Godís presence which was so obviously with him! Although I have never seen a picture of Moses wearing a veil over his face, he probably had it on well over 90% of the time! Interesting, isnít it?!
Moses wore a physical veil to keep the people from being too afraid of Godís glory that was with him. But as the apostle Paul points out in todayís second reading, everyone else wears a SPIRITUAL VEIL that keeps them from seeing Godís glory! And it also keeps them from understanding Godís love! The name for this veil is SIN. The ďveilĒ of sin is what causes people to stay away from God and causes them to feel guilty and afraid whenever He is mentioned and His will is made known.
But Paul says that through Jesus Christ, our veils of sin have been removed! Through Jesus, we can come into Godís nearer presence with a clear conscience because our sins have been forgiven. Through Jesus we can now see and experience Godís glory! As John Newton puts it in his famous hymn Amazing Grace; ďI was blind, but now I see!Ē
But we do not yet see and experience Godís glory all that clearly - at least not in this life. Paul writes that even though we through Jesus now have ďunveiled facesĒ, we still are seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror. He used that phrase one other time in his writings - in his famous ďlove chapterĒ of I Corinthians 13 (which I preached about several weeks ago) - where he wrote that ďnow we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.Ē (1 Cor. 13:12)
Because of this world of sin, we do not yet see and experience Godís glory directly. It is still for the most part hidden from our physical senses. And when we are experiencing problems in our lives (and who among us isnít?!), it is often difficult to understand and feel how much our God loves us. All that we often see and feel is suffering and shame and guilt and despair.
But Godís love and glory is still here! It is always, always here! Through our faith in Jesus Christ we can see it! And the more time that we spend with our Lord Jesus in prayer, in worship, and in studying and meditating upon his words, then the more and more that our spiritual eyes are opened and we experience Godís glory and love!
And then - yes, like Moses! - Godís glory starts to CHANGE us! Perhaps our faces do not begin to physically shine, but in a very real way we are being TRANSFORMED! As Paul puts it in todayís second reading, we are being transformed into the same image of glory as Jesus has! Each time as we come to worship to hear Godís word and receive Holy Communion, we receive Godís glory in the same way that Moses did whenever he went into the Tabernacle to be in Godís presence. In a mystical but very real way, every time we worship and pray we are being changed. Bit by bit, we by receiving Godís glory through Jesus are being freed from the power of sin and are being filled with love. And one day, we know that we shall share the same kind of incorruptible BODY that Jesus has which shall never suffer pain, disease, or death!
Thatís our hope as Christians, my people! Jesus has taken away our spiritual veils of sin so that we can see and receive Godís glory. Although we do not yet behold it in its full measure, this glory is nevertheless changing us and making us fit for the kingdom of heaven. And in the end - in that life and world to come - we shall fully possess the very same glory as Moses did after his encounters with God. And, unlike him, our glory shall never fade - because we shall be in God's presence forever! And, unlike the Israelites of old, we shall not be afraid of God's glory but shall be filled with a joy beyond measure, which shall never ever end!
It is because of this hope that we - as Paul writes - do not lose heart! We may indeed suffer many things in this life. We certainly have to deal with many temptations each and every day. We each have crosses to bear. And we are all moving toward death. But despite all of these things, we still DO NOT LOSE HEART - because we know that God is with us and is TRANSFORMING us into the very image of His Son Jesus Christ. And we believe that one day we shall be fully as he is - completely perfect and completely triumphant over all that oppresses us - yes, even death itself!
And on that day, our faces - like Moses and Jesus - will SHINE with glory because we shall be with God forever and ever! Yes, we shall see God face to face! And sin and pain and suffering and sorrow and death shall be no more! That's our hope. That's our faith. That's our JOY that can sustain us through all of the trials that we may ever have to face in this life! Thanks be to God! Amen!
George R. Karres,
Pella Lutheran Church
418 W. Main Street
Sidney, MT 59270