Sermon: What do people see when they peek under your veil?
Scripture: Exodus 34:29-35 (The MSG)
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church Fort Lauderdale
Date: March 3, 2019, Transfiguration Sunday, Communion
This morning we are picking up in the Moses Story when Moses is getting the stone copies of the Ten Commandments for the second time. If you remember, Moses has climbed the mountain once already to receive the Commandments of God but as it took him a lengthy amount of time, the Hebrews at the base of the mountain got a bit antsy. They made a false idol of a giant golden calf and worshipped it. When Moses came down the mountain, he became disgusted at what he saw and threw the tablets to the ground smashing them. He has since gone back up to be with God on the Holy Mountain and God once again speaks to him face to face and gives another set of commandments for the people in the valley below. This is where we pick up in the Story.
Exodus 34:29-35 (The MSG)
29-30 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two Tablets of The Testimony, he didn’t know that the skin of his face glowed because he had been speaking with God. Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, saw his radiant face, and held back, afraid to get close to him.
31-32 Moses called out to them. Aaron and the leaders in the community came back and Moses talked with them. Later all the Israelites came up to him and he passed on the commands, everything that God had told him on Mount Sinai.
33-35 When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face, but when he went into the presence of God to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. When he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they would see Moses’ face, its skin glowing, and then he would again put the veil on his face until he went back in to speak with God.
I love what John Wesley once said about this passage, “Moses carried his credentials in his very countenance.”In other words, Moses demonstrated he was God’s leader because his very face glowed the glory of God to all who looked at him! Moses grew to become what he loved and spent his time doing: He enjoyed his time in the Presence of God and as a result, he became a reflection of the Divine. There is an axiomatic relationship between time, proximity, and outcomes.
You see, the amount of time we invest in the close proximity of people, things, or ideas produce behaviors and ideology that reflect what we have been spending our time and proximity with in the first place.
Parents, how often have you told your child growing up, “I’d rather you not play with little so-in-so because he or she do not hang out with the best of friends.” Why do we tell our young people this? Because as wiser adults we have learned to meaning of the old saying, “Birds of a feather, flock together.”
The deal is this, beloved: We become the company we keep. Moses, as imperfect as he was, kept personal company with God and it literally beamed from his very face and presence. Moses could not be in the presence of God without being changed from the inside out. Close proximity to God changed Moses without Moses even being aware of it. Moses comes down off the mountain and his very face glowed the glory of being in God’s presence. Moses was not aware of that until he encountered others in the community who could experience it themselves. It’s a wonderful reminder that the benefit of our being in the presence of God is not so much for ourselves as it is to radiate that divine grace and glory to someone else. Others benefit from our being in God’s presence and we personally may not even be aware of that what we reflect and its impact on those around us.
We in the Presbyterian tradition love our Scottish heritage and our men get to dress up in skirts, i.e. kilts, as often as we can! I love wearing my kilt! Everything is so light and breezy! One of the questions I always thought was interesting was getting asked, “So, Preacher, what are you wearing under that kilt?” So, I simply lifted it up and showed them! People in my former town knew that I wore black shorts under my kilt because I would wear my kilt while riding my Harley through town to get to church! In Moses’ case, people would want to take a peek up under his veil and see what was going on with him.
Taking a peek under Moses’ veil would show the face of a man who took time to spend in relationship with God. The reason his faced beamed was because a person cannot consistently be in the proximity and presence of God without being transformed by God’s glory. What does that mean?
The word glory is the very splendor of God that thrusts itself outward and onto others. It means to bestow riches, blessings, and honor to another person so much so, that the other cannot bear the weight of the blessing itself; it’s too much to hold and carry! When Moses spent time in the presence of God’s glory, the proximity of that glory physically, materially, dare I say molecularly? impacted Moses. It changed him and how others experienced him. When Moses came down off the mountain that second time, there was no doubt Moses was God’s guy and leader.
Michelangelo has a famous sculpture of Moses that depicts Moses with two horns coming out of his head. The Hebrew word for “glowed” or “shone” means to have beams of light emanate from the face; an early scriptural translator described them as horns which Michelangelo artistically used to portray the glory shining from Moses’ face.
Think for a moment with me: Have you ever met someone or have been in the presence of someone where you know that you are in the presence of the Holy? It’s not their personal holiness you experience but the holiness of God as a result of this person spending time in close proximity with God. It’s a presence, as Thomas Currie writes, whose “beauty disconcerts the other. This glory silences our religious chatter and render us blinking and confused in its light.” It’s very much what Peter, James and John experienced on the mountain of transfiguration with Jesus isn’t it? They were overwhelmed by the very presence of Jesus whose countenance shone like the sun and they immediately began talking silly ideas of a building project.
Maybe it was an old grandmother or grandfather you had who spent time on their knees at the bedside in prayer for you. You get around them and you knew that there was something different about them.
Maybe it’s a colleague at your office that you know that you can go see in the midst of a swirly mess of a day and know she will bring an other-worldly peacefulness to you and you just know it’s going to be okay.
Maybe it’s someone from church with whom you feel the safety, freedom and conviction to be totally and solely your true self with them because they love you deeply from God’s wellspring and love you for who you are.
Let’s burrow a little deeper. Let’s personally reflect upon what others in your faith, work, school or social community see when they peek under your veil or mine? Does the spiritual tenor of our lives even require us to even wear a vail because we have been in the presence of God and have soaked up the Lord’s glory?
The glow of God’s glory that others see in us can only come if we spend time alone with God. We may not feel as though we are glowing the glory of God but others will see it in us regardless. But are we even displaying the radiance of God to the world as Moses did with the Hebrews?
Friends, as we come to the Table today and dine with Christ and saints of God, we are being asked to contemplate how often are we spending time with the Lord in devotion, scripture reading and prayer? You see, it’s not about how pious you or I act; our devotion, scripture reading and time in prayer is for our quality of relationship with the Lord God. Do we value God enough to spend devoted time with him face to face? Are we allowing ourselves to sit in the presence of God’s glory for the benefit of others around us as they glean the warmth of the rays of hope and resurrection only you and I can provide?
Come, beloved, to the Table of Glory and Grace. Come, be fed by the hand of the Christ himself the very bread of heaven which is His body. As we eat this bread and drink from the cup, let us be fed and nourished so that as we leave this place, we, like Wesley said, will carry Jesus’ credentials into the world through our very countenance. And all of God’s people said, Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
See John Wesley, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes.ii.iii.xxxv.ii.html. Accessed 2/27/19.
Thomas W. Currie, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1: Advent Through the Transfiguration.