Glory and the Veil

It’s Monday Morning. We pray that you were encouraged and strengthened in worship yesterday. You’ve been in the presence of the Living God and you’ve sung His praises. When you walked out of the sanctuary you were aglow with God’s love and glory…

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)

O God, who before the passion of your only begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.

SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthinans 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]

This week’s Lectionary Scriptures have one strong and common theme: God’s glory. They reveal some key characteristics that we are well-advised to remember:

1. If we draw near enough to God, we will radiate His glory (Ex. 34:29).
2. God’s glory is more awesome than we can handle (Ex. 34:30, Ps. 99:1, Lk. 9:34).
3. As long as we intentionally press in and contemplate God’s glory, we will be increasingly transformed into His image (Ex. 34:30, 2 Cor. 3:18).

QUOTES:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” —General George C. Patton

Sic transit gloria mundi —A Latin expression meaning “Thus passes the glory of the world” (or, more loosely, “All glory is fleeting”).

PRAYER FOCUS: God’s Glory and our Veils

How sad it must have been for Moses!

Moses had been in the presence of the Living God. He had been conversing directly with El Elyon, the Almighty, the Ancient of Days, with the familiarity of a beloved and trusted child. He had become God’s friend. Moses was the first man since the Garden of Eden to behold God’s Own Glory at a nearness that would have consumed another human (Exodus 33:12-23). When Moses came down from the mountain, his face shone with the radiance of God’s glory. People were amazed.

And then it faded.

With God’s glory fading, Moses put on a veil to hide his face from the Israelites. But he didn’t wear it to protect them–he wore it to hide the fact that with the passage of time God’s glory was fading from him.

How very much like Moses we are.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Moses continued to climb the mountain of God, continued to meet with the LORD face-to-face, until God sent him out on the next phase of his journey. The radiance of God’s glory waxed and waned on Moses in proportion to the time Moses spent with the LORD. It has ever been thus.

This week’s Lectionary Epistle is taken from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, using a Bible translation called The Message (2 Cor. 3:12-18):

(But) unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the glory was fading away—and they didn’t notice. They didn’t notice it then and they don’t notice it now…only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing there.

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit…we’re free! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

The New King James (and the King James) Bible translates verse 3:18 as, “changed [transformed] into the same image [God’s likeness] from glory to glory.” This is clearly a process and not an event. It suggests the presence—not the absence—of struggles, temptations and trials.

No matter how hard we may try in our own strength, unless we regularly turn to face our Father-God, His glory in us will fade with time. As triumphant victors have noted for thousands of years, all earthly glory is fleeting. Such is the nature not of God’s glory, but of our tragic human condition.

How long does it take before we begin to put on our veils, our masks, to conceal the fading of God’s glory?

Once the veils come up and the masks go on, we become the caricature that too many non-believers are happy to point to. How sad for us. The Ancient Greek word for “an actor on stage playing a role behind a mask” was hypokrites. In the lyrics of a recent song by the Christian music group Casting Crowns, we hear the cry of one who wears the mask…

So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay,
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Moses wore a veil. We wear masks. With walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain.

But what if the whole purpose of your current inglorious situation is so that someone else can see how God, in His glory, is working to transform you? Would you deny them that view?

The most powerful breakthroughs in Christian community often come through the removal of these cloaking devices. The authors of TMP recently received a letter from a missionary, who after serving well and faithfully in the field for many years was returning home seeking healing, and asking her community for prayer. A pastor we know recently dropped all pretense and solicited prayer for himself and his family. Both events triggered amazing ripples of mask-dropping response. Healing love flowed from generous hearts as others unmasked and stepped up to minister God’s love, and to testify to God’s work in them. With the masks down, all involved were blessed—not just the one. And God’s glory shone through the exchange.

Before we submit community prayer requests, perhaps we should begin with, “pray for me…I’m struggling with…”

Whatever our circumstances—in spite of our circumstances—if we continue to meet the LORD face-to-face, on the mountain, i.e., in prayer and reflection, we will continue to radiate His glory. There we begin the transformation that leads us from victory to victory. The prophet Isaiah declares, “[If you do this] then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard (Is. 58:8).

The Monday Prayer grew out of an effort to encourage an individual and community discipline for regular prayer and Bible study, to build the habit of turning to face the LORD who showed His glory to Moses. Our prayer is that we, and you, “may be strengthened…and be changed into His likeness, from glory to glory”.

It’s Monday Morning. Spend a moment with the LORD being strengthened and changed. Don’t let Sunday’s afterglow fade behind the veil.

Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God (2 Cor. 4:1-2, The Message).

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One Response to Glory and the Veil

  1. “I don’t think it bothers people that we sin. I think it bothers them that we act like we don’t. There are times that instead of being myself and exposing my own weakness and hurt, I portray a character of the person that I know I should be. But when I expose myself as weak and frail at times, it frees the Body of Christ to restore me as it should and invites others to unmask as well.”

    –Mark Hall, of Casting Crowns

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