Let us pray: Dear Savior, all of us here today are getting older by the minute. Gravity is taking its toll. Age is slowly grinding us down. Our energy levels are waning just like our hairlines. We look into the mirror and sometimes we hardly recognize ourselves. We long for youth! We long for a carefree heart! We long to recapture that elusive “something” we seemed to possess so long ago! Lord, today on Your transfiguration Sunday you remind us that a miracle is occurring right now in our lives. You are transforming us. You are renewing our minds. Your Spirit is winging us heavenward right now as we fix our minds upon Your glorious Gospel! Yes, only at Your Church are we able to drink from the fountain of eternal youth! Amen to that!
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GLORIOUS LORD AND SAVIOR!
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 3:12—4:2
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Do you know where bridal veils originated? The sources I discovered trace them back to Roman times. Biblically, they actually go back 1700 years before that, at least. Recall Jacob marrying Rachel (he thought) but in actuality it was her sister, Leah. He never realized father-in-law Laban’s trickery until it was too late. How could that happen? It was all the fault of the bridal veil she wore which totally obscured her face from his gaze.
Bridal veils today are fashion statements. In former times they served a more practical nature. The Romans viewed them as a way to protect the new bride from that heathen “evil eye” they so feared. I suppose they also masked tears, in some cases, and plain features in others—especially in an arranged marriage where the couple had never yet met. But, since marriage is also about anticipation, they helped heighten the suspense of it all for both bride and groom. In desert cultures, a veil also served as a mask to protect a person from the elements—specifically, blowing sand. Even today in the middle east, women employ the veil to exude modesty and to keep prying eyes at bay.
St. Paul uses all this imagery and more to teach a great and wondrous truth in today’s lesson. He takes us back to Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai after God had given him the 10 commandments. Since Moses had been in the very presence of the Lord Almighty, his face had absorbed some of God’s radiance and now it glowed like lightening and actually hurt the eyes of anyone who looked upon him! Out of concern and compassion for the pain that was causing, Moses put a veil over his face as that radiance slowly faded. Since Moses was a sinful human being and suffered from mortality—just like all of us—eventually the radiance did leave and the veil was no longer needed. Everyone reading this epistle in Corinth knew this story and well knew the background behind it. But then, Paul adds something quite audacious and he directly applies it to the lives of those OT adherents who were rejecting Jesus Christ: “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant (commandments) is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses (the Old Testament) is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Finally, Paul gives the pointed application as to why this is so important for you: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
On this Transfiguration Sunday, when Christ briefly sheds the veil of his humble human form to reveal the all-powerful, all enveloping radiance of God which lies just under the surface, we’re going to focus on the fact that:
GOD LIFTS THE VEIL ON IMMORTALITY—FOR YOU!
Remember that famous movie scene between Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise where in court Jack yells: “You can’t handle the truth!”? When it comes to our mortality vs. Godly immortality, that’s exactly the point. Can you imagine mortals being handed the gift of immortality apart from Jesus Christ? I know that Ponce de Leon searched for the “fountain of youth.” I know billions are made today by cosmetic companies hawking the “elixir of youth.” We exercise, we take our vitamins, we do everything we can to turn back the clock of mortality and stave it off. We hate being mortal because it will end in death. If, if, we were handed immortality apart from Jesus and His love—can you imagine how insufferable, arrogant, and out-of-control this world would be? If you think evil runs rampant now, can you imagine it without mortality and death curbing its power and ending its reign?
The fact of the matter is: our mortality prevents us from ever grasping or ever seeing the beauty, majesty, and humbleness of being immortal. Our pride over self-achievement and our holding such human victories before God and thinking He’s obviously impressed by it all—well, it all ends up being a self-imposed veil that dulls our hearts.
But, into this maelstrom of human self-contradiction Jesus has come! He was and is the immortal Son of God. He was and is our Savior. He was and is fully human, true God and true Man at the very same time—but without any sin. He assumed our mortality so that His immortality could triumph over death, humble our hearts, and turn us back towards heaven. And on that Mt. of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed for a moment just how awesome, glorious, and heart-healthy immortality actually is. Recall how Peter did not want to leave and was willing to do anything to stay in that blessed state. He and the others saw and experienced God’s never-ending, forgiving love and it drew together their entire being into total heart-felt joy.
According to St. Paul, each humble believer has been given a small slice of such immortality right here, right now, via the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Spirit’s gift of faith, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.” Did you catch the ongoing action of the verb? This lifting of the veil and showing us God’s radiant love is ongoing every moment of every day. This lifting of the veil takes place whenever and wherever Christ’s Gospel is preached, proclaimed, applied, spoken, and meditated upon. And through it our lives shine brighter and brighter.
When I was a child we used the expression “don’t let someone pull the wool over your eyes.” I suppose that’s derived from using a woolen veil to obscure the truth. Well, God doesn’t want to obscure his truth concerning His gift of immortality to us in Christ. And He doesn’t want us to obscure it, either, as we serve Him in sharing it. So, as Paul says: “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 every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
God Lifts The Veil On Immortality—For You! He did it on that first Transfiguration. He did it on Easter. He did it on the Ascension. He did it when you were baptized. He does it when you commune and when you are forgiven. He does it at church, at home during devotions, yes literally every time His Gospel helps calm your troubled conscience. And in the process you and I are actually getting younger in the soul—just as the Psalmist says in Ps. 103: “He satisfies my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” All that Jesus has, He freely gives to you, including immortality. Remember that the next time you gaze into a mirror. And then smile at your wrinkles! Amen