FREE ACCESS INTO GOD’S MOST HOLY PRESENCE
In our first reading Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, and we are told that when he came down from being in the presence of God, his face was so bright that people were afraid to look at him because his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But, Moses called and gave them the message that God had given him, and then after that he covered his face with a veil. He kept the veil on in-between his visits to the mountain to meet with God. When he went up the mountain to meet with God, he would take the veil off, and when he would come down and his face would shine. He would communicate the commands that the Lord told him, and then he would again put the veil over his face.
Moses is a type of Christ. He points to the Christ to come. In our gospel passage today we are told that Jesus took Peter, James and John up to the mountain to pray. While he was praying the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white. Then they saw two men appear, Moses and Elijah, and they were talking to Jesus. Peter, not knowing what to say, lives up to his reputation by saying whatever happens to come into his head. Jesus, it is good for us to be here. Since there are three of you here, let us make three dwelling places here on the mountain, one for the three of you. The scripture says Peter said this, because he did not what else to say.
One of the qualifications for being a preacher is to open your mouth and start talking. You might not know what to say, but at least you’re saying something. Of course you might start saying stupid things because that’s what happens when you open your mouth and start talking about something when you have no idea what else to say. Maybe that’s why Peter was such a great preacher, because he didn’t mind saying stupid things. He said stupid things all the time. I love Peter. He gives preachers hope that even when we say stupid things, God still uses us for good.
The writer of 2 Corinthians says: When we have hope we act with great boldness. We don’t need Moses, or any other great leader to go to the mountain-top on our behalf as an intercessor and go-between. We don’t need a middle-person. We can go direct to the source and cut out the middleman. The message of the resurrection is this: God has torn the veil in two. In the Tabernacle of Solomon, the Holy Place was cut off from the Most Holy Place by a thick veil. Only the most high priests could go into this most holy place, and when they went in the assisting priests tied a rope around his ankle, so just in case he died, fainted or was struck down by God for some altar infraction, they could pull him out of the most holy place, because no one else was invited to go in. So it was with Moses. He had a veil over his face, because he alone carried around the presence, the Shekanah glory of God. And the veil covered his face from the rest of the people.
No longer do we need a Moses to be our leader. Jesus has opened up the door to the Most Holy Place, and we all have access. We are entreated to enter into this Most Holy encounter with God with enthusiasm and boldness. In this metaphor Moses face shone. I don’t think we need to think our face will shine, but if your face starts shining, I’m sure you will be an overnight sensation. The National Enquirer will be knocking on your front door for an interview. The veil has been ripped in two, the veil that was over our minds, and God is revealed to us in His glory. The veil has been removed.
I love this scripture: Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. And 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. (2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2) There is freedom in this place. God is in this place. God is in the house! You are on holy ground. But, guess what, wherever you are, you will also be on holy ground. And, why is that? Because Jesus Christ has entered into the Most Holy Place, our high priest has shown us the way, so that we have the access to the most holy place anywhere and anytime. Hallelujah!
What are the advantages and the disadvantages of living in the light of God’s presence all the time? The answer is the same for both. Transparency!Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
Okay, Father Dave, how do I make this message applicable to my life? I can answer this question quite honestly. I’m really not sure. I can give you some scriptural guidelines, but the application is up to you and the Holy Spirit. Transparency means that we are aware of shortcomings. This is why we practice confession of our sins in our Sunday liturgy. This is a good daily practice as well. We confess that we have sinned against God, both knowingly and unknowingly. We have not loved the Lord our God with all of our heart soul, mind and strength. And, we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. And, we humbly repent.
In biblical Hebrew, the generic word for sin is hef. It means to err, to miss the mark. The Greek word hamartia, is usually translated as sin in the New Testament. In Classical Greek, it means to miss the mark or to miss the target, which is also used in archery. So when we enter into Gods presence fearlessly and boldly, we confess that we have sinned, and then we take our bow, aim and shoot again. And, by the way, I don’t care how spiritual you may think you are, you also miss the mark. We confess personally and we confess together our sins as people of faith. Okay, where’s it say that? (Hint…Read the Lord’s Prayer. We say that prayer every Sunday morning).
In my reading of scripture, sins have to do with more than personal moral defects and mistakes. They also have to do with the way we are asked to consider the weak, the poor, the impoverished, the sick, and the people on the outer edges of our society. In what ways are helping to correct the wrongs we see and perhaps those wrongs which we all unconsciously participate in?
I like how St. Alban’s is involved with outreach. I was impressed this past Tuesday with the food distribution, the food cards, clothing and other services. I’m impressed with the feeding program at Wells Park that this church is involved in every month, the tutoring volunteers, the volunteers that work in the community garden, refugee involvement and lots of other stuff. I’m excited about our Sunday school, refugee involvement in the community, and I know there are still things going on this church that I don’t even know about yet. I know we’re not doing as good as we can, and we can do better, but I think we have a pretty good beginning, and we can always grab another arrow, take a little closer aim and shoot again. In that perspective, life is kind of lived on the archery range.
Most importantly, allow the Spirit of the Lord to work in your life. You have access to the Shekanahglory of God through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. For 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.