Getting to the centre of things
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel
of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 ESV)
It is hard to change one’s perspective, world view, perception because it would mean that the world – or the person – which previously made sense to us – now didn’t – or we see things in a new light and the former perspective, world view, and perception no longer holds true for us. Thus we change. It can be a gradual process or a sudden moment and it is happening all around us – people who voted one way in their 20s might vote differently in their 50s – people who were religious when young might not be at retirement – people who mocked Christianity in their 30s find themselves saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ in their 40s – and we can look inwards ourselves and ask, ‘How are we the same and how have we changed over the years of our life?’.
The Apostle Paul who wrote our Second Reading – his second letter to the Corinthians – was a person who made a massive change from a persecutor of the followers of Jesus to becoming an open and vocal follower of Jesus. Paul would say that he didn’t change himself as such but he met and encountered the risen Jesus who totally rearranged the Old Testament that Paul thought he knew and so that he saw it pointing to Jesus being the Messiah and that this Messiah was God himself – God incarnate – in the flesh – who used a cross to redeem. We don’t appreciate how different this reality was for the old Paul – now preaching Christ crucified – but it now made sense and the scales fell away from his eyes and in his baptism he was a new person. And God gave him a task for preaching and teaching – and the rest of his life is one of wanting everyone to no longer be in the dark but to know, live, and enjoy the freedom and joy of living with the confidence of knowing God’s grace and love in the face of Jesus Christ.
And we instinctively react to people enthusiastic and evangelical about anything really – not just religion – it could be politics, natural medicines, bitcoin, diet, weight loss, a new model of car, and much more – with the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’. Believing we know what we want, what is good for us, what we need, we assess and determine our response – and those wanting something from us, know this, and so factor this in their pitch to us – a good sales pitch creates the need and then offers to fill it.
So it is one of Planet Earth’s great mysteries why the story of a crucified God, who tells his followers to take up their cross and follow him, has any followers at all! Jesus’ rising from the dead isn’t inconsequential, I’ll grant you, but following Jesus offers no book of vouchers – 100 miracles for any circumstance – no guarantees of doing what we want – but instead promises they can know each other personally. Yes, we can grow in a relationship together and growing in the trust that this Jesus is with us bringing about what is finally good for us in the day’s mess, in the year’s tough times, and in a lifetime of living on this planet – through words, water, bread and wine. Our sinful self always wants Jesus’ gifts and blessings far more than ever wanting him – but Jesus offers himself to us in serving us – on the cross – and today but it is always on his terms – ‘thy will be done’ we learn to say. Is it enough? Can Jesus be trusted?
[Now’s the time, I embarrass Hannah, and ask, ‘What do you say?’. But I won’t because I’ll ask all of you. Can this Jesus be trusted? This one God in a supermarket of religions? Is he enough or do we want more – and if he doesn’t supply, will we walk away and be like the Hulk who has just smashed Loki into the ground again and again and say, ‘Puny God!’.]
It can be hard to say ‘yes’ – when things don’t go as we wish. And when things do go as we want – answers to prayer – what we describe to ourselves as personal miracles – then we simply want more. But Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to speak about his transfiguration until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Mark records in summary that Jesus took the three up the mountain, was transfigured, Moses and Elijah (the Law and the Prophets) are talking with Jesus – and then Peter wants to keep the spectacular happening – tents, booths, this place is now special – and maybe they are the gate keepers and crowd control. Yes, it is spectacular but it is also terrifying – we can assume the sin getting close to holiness situation – and when the cloud descended – both hiding and revealing God who speaks – they are pointed to Jesus only – listen to him.
Christianity has never been built on the transfiguration of Jesus because it pales against the glory of the cross and empty tomb. Eyes are to give way to ears. And hidden in every day of our lives this amazing Triune God who has become one of us in the person of Jesus promises those baptised – those in Jesus – linked to him – that their lives are joined together and hard as it is for us to live beyond our senses, Jesus is faithful each day and still serving us.
That is why Christianity is still around because his followers want people to encounter Jesus and not them and to discover Jesus’ love and mercy and grace and forgiveness and he will never use us to serve him, never abuse us, betray us, belittle us, but will also not be our plaything, or genie, or fit into our image of what he should be and do. Meeting him – through his Word and in Holy Communion – is about us listening to him and then going down the mountain – into the rest of the day or the coming week – with him present because he has risen from the dead!
Christian living and Christian ministry are not about what you can get out of it and a bit of a promotion for the salesperson who got you that special deal. No. Instead Christian living and Christian ministry is about encountering Jesus – hearing about him and who he is and what he has done for us – stick to the Scriptures – and growing in a relationship with him through each day that is personal to us. Jesus’ life and death and presence today still draws people to him and gives people a new world view of this world and the next. Yes, people can push him away – feel he is too puny – or that it is too dangerous or terrifying to trust him – better the world we know and see than the Jesus we don’t see – but the story of his sacrifice for us draws people again and again – new and returning people – and the darkness is lifted in the face of Jesus Christ – who reveals God to us. Our God is for us, not against us, and that is how we live each day.
- 2 Corinthians 3:12 - 4:6