Veils- Rev. Deborah Dail
The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge.
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In 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. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In case you think I’ve forgotten, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Many people are celebrating this holiday today. When I got my biscuit from Hardees this morning, it was in the shape of a heart. How cool is that? Yesterday at the vaccination clinic here at church, there were several people already decked out in their Valentine’s outfits, including Valentine’s masks. While I mentioned a few things about the COVID vaccination clinic in the announcements, I want to share with all of you the immense gratitude that people expressed for being able to receive their first vaccines. One woman, who has worked every day during the pandemic, broke down and cried with gratitude and relief at getting her first shot. Others joked that they had never been so excited to get an injection in their lives! As always, I feel grateful that we are a congregation that shares our facility and our volunteers to serve the community.
While on the world’s calendar it is Valentine’s Day the church calendar tells us that today is Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday. We’ve just heard from the Gospel According to Mark, the unusual story of the transfiguration of Jesus. In Mark’s account, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain. Little did they know that they were soon to have a supernatural experience. “Jesus’ appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them.” (The Message) If that wasn’t strange enough, two dead guys – Moses and Elijah – also appear. Like some of us when we get nervous or overwhelmed, Peter just starts talking. He blurts out “Let’s build three memorials – one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” Mark tells us “Peter did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” Now things get really spooky: a cloud overshadows them. (I imagine it to be like when a thick fog descends and lingers close to the ground, and you can’t see what’s in front of you.) God speaks in a way reminiscent of how he spoke when Jesus was baptized: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Then, “poof”, only Jesus was left with the terrified disciples atop the mountain. You can’t make this stuff up!
The same God we read about in Psalm 50, the same God who “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting” speaks on the Mount of Transfiguration and the disciples are called to listen. The same God whom the Psalmist says “shines forth,” chooses to shine forth upon and through his son, the Beloved, Jesus.
So, we are to both watch for the light of Jesus and listen to the voice of Jesus. Watch and listen. Watch and listen. Watch and listen. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Sometimes our eyes are veiled. Sometimes our ears are deafened.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians speaks about the gospel being veiled. Here he speaks of unbelievers whose minds have been “blinded by the god of this world who keeps them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” I think believers in God can also be blinded by the god of this world and miss out on the fullness of Christ’s light. I think believers – Christians – can also be deaf to what Jesus says to us sometimes. Sometimes we wear veils over our eyes. Sometimes we wear earphones that aren’t tuned into Jesus, but that are tuned in to other voices.
There are different kinds of veils. In our culture, we probably first think of wedding veils that one can usually see through pretty well. You can still see the light; you can still others and they can see you through a thin veil. Now, I didn’t wear a wedding veil over my face at our wedding in part because I didn’t want to trip going down the aisle. Being a bit “clutzy,” I didn’t want to take any chances with any kind of veil over my face. So, depending on the fabric, we know that even some wedding veils can disrupt your vision, but you can still see light. But imagine a different kind of veil. Imagine an opaque veil – one that is not transparent, one that you can’t see through. Imagine that covering your eyes. No light shines in or out.
As Christians, I do not believe we wear the opaque veil, but I do believe we sometimes still wear veils that limit the light of Jesus coming into us and also limit the light of Jesus shining out of us. I also believe there are times when we’ve got our earphones, our Air pods, our radio stations, our TVs, our Bluetooth devices tuned to a channels that have messages that drown out Jesus. Over time, they can even deafen us to Jesus.
What are some of the veils in our lives? What are some of the voices that are louder in our ears than the voice of Jesus – the one God to whom God tells the disciples and us to listen?
Veils of prejudice against other human beings blind us to fully seeing Jesus, who is the image of God. Veils of prejudice also keep us from seeing other humans, who are created in the image of God. Veils of prejudice keep us from letting light in and shining light out. Veils of prejudice keep us from seeing and showing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. We must pray for this veil to be removed.
Anne Lamott, quoting her priest friend Tom, says: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” (Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship, page 319; quoting Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird: Instruction on Writing and Life)
What other veils get in the way of our seeing the light of Jesus and shining the light of Jesus? I encourage us to ponder that question this week. Let’s try to identify any veils over our eyes.
And what keeps us from listening to Jesus? On the Mount of Transfiguration God said: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Many of us are very “plugged in.” We listen to TV, to the radio, to podcasts, to talk radio, to the voices of many people we know and don’t know. And we should listen to a variety of voices because God teaches us through many people and sources. However, if we are never, listening to Christ’s voice through reading scripture, then we will not have any reference point to check out those other voices. We will not know how to discern what voices are in keeping with Christ’s will and way and which ones are not. Some voices we hear around us are good voices, but many, in both subtle and direct ways, speak messages that are not in line with Christ. So, we must give ear to Christ, too, and sometimes instead of the other voices, to get ourselves hearing what’s most important, what is most in keeping with Jesus. His voice matters most.
Again, as Father Tom said, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” You can safely assume you’re not hearing Jesus. So we must change the station. We must listen to the Gospels to hear Jesus again.
This week, I’d like for us to ponder what voices may be dominating our thoughts and beliefs. Let’s listen for the voice of Jesus. After all, God said: “Listen to him.”
To both see and hear Jesus, we may need to be still. We may need to be silent. And neither is easy for many of us. For, in the stillness and the silence, we see and hear more clearly ourselves – our veils and the voices we’ve allowed to take over our thoughts and even our behaviors.
But it is also in the stillness and the silence that our veils can be removed and the ear phones turned off. It is in the stillness and silence that we can see Christ shining and hear God speaking.
Watch and listen. Watch and listen. Watch and listen.
Our Closing Hymn “Open My Eyes, That I May See” #451 in Glory to God
Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes; illumine me, Spirit divine!
Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear.
And while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see,
Open my ears; illumine me, Spirit divine!
Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere.
Open my heart, and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share,
Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart; illumine me, Spirit divine!