Sunday Sermon: The Last Sunday after Epiphany
Boldness: In the Presence of the Glory of God…
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I think it was when I was in the fourth or fifth grade that during a history lesson we read a hand out the talked about the holocaust of the Jews and others whom the Nazi’s called “untermensch” that is “subhuman”. This one hand out which we had talked about the worst of all the crimes that occurred during that time period of the war: the apathy and indifference of those who knew of and were aware of the atrocities being carried out by the Nazis yet did nothing to stop the horrible crimes.
As I consider our lessons today one theme jumps out at me, appearing, I think, in each one of the lessons. That theme is the boldness that you and I can and should have in, with, and for Christ.
Our lessons today show that there is in Christianity, a new boldness, a boldness and confidence of God’s people which was not seen in the Old Testament.
When Moses came down from the Mountain, after meeting with God, something powerful had happened to him. The skin of his face was shining, because he had been talking to God.
But when the Israelites saw him, and his face shining, they were afraid to go near him. They were afraid to approach Moses, and they made him veil his face after each time his was done speaking to them what God had told him to say.
Why were they afraid to approach Moses? Why did they make moses veil his face. Notice, it wasn’t that Moses said to them that he must veil his face to hide it from them, as though it was something they were not worthy of seeing. No they made him veil his face. Why?
I want to suggest to you that it was because they knew two things. First, they knew what they were seeing in the face of Moses was a reflection of God’s Glory: His awesomeness, his holiness.
Have you ever been in a holy place? A place where you could feel the tangible presence of God? The kind of place that when you walk in you know that God has been powerfully present there. God’s presence changes everything it encounters. God’s presence transforms ordinary places of this world into Holy Places. That’s why, for instance, we don’t use this space for anything except that which honors and glorifies God. For the most part, that means our worshipping and our praying.
But God’s presence doesn’t just change places. Perhaps more importantly, it changes people. So much did Moses change through his encounters with God, his face was shining with a reflection of the Glory of God.
So they knew God’s Holiness, they knew his perfection, and they knew that what they saw in the face of Moses, was something connected to that.
The second thing they knew was their own sinfulness: their littleness, impureness, and imperfectness. And in their mind, if their imperfectness, their impurity, their un-holiness came in contact with God’s perfect holiness they would be utterly destroyed.
In one sense, they asked Moses to veil his face because they were afraid of God’s holiness in the face of their own sinfulness. Even the reminder of God’s holiness, like the skin on Moses’ face, was a fearful thing to them. In another sense, perhaps, it was because in their sinfulness, they knew they were unworthy to approach God’s Glory.
Regardless of the reason, what we can say is what Paul tells us. You and I as Christians can now act boldly in relation to God’s Glory. When we approach God, when we encounter God, we no longer need to be timid. We can approach him in his Glory because we are the Body of Christ. We can approach the throne of Grace. We have been made by the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, worthy to stand before God. And when we stand before God, we are transformed. We are changed by his Grace. His grace soaks into us, changes us, refreshes us, and makes us new, so that we can move forward in this life without fear or anxiety. “Behold I make all thing new” says our Lord. Indeed when we come before the glorious presence of God, we will be made new, each and every time.
How? By receiving by faith, the free gift of salvation offered to you and to me in Christ. By repenting of our sins, ignorances, and negligences. By turning our hearts and mind, our whole lives over to the grace and glory of God.
That Glory that Peter, James, and John saw on the holy mountain. That wonderful, magnificent vision of Jesus in Glory, speaking with Moses and Elijah. And we can boldly say with Peter “Lord – it is good for us to be here!”, “It is good for us to be in your glorified presence, let’s build three dwellings, so we can stay here like this forever!”
Peter always opened his mouth before thinking. He boldly spoke and boldly desired that he could be there in that glorious presences and never leave it. That’s the kind of Boldness that Christians can have. Not the timidity of the Israelites who wanted Moses to veil his face, but the boldness of Peter who wanted to hold on to the vision of Glory. He wanted to stay in the vision of Glory and to be transformed by the Glory.
You and I, brothers and sisters, can stand before God with that same boldness, we can and so very often are in the presence of God’s glorious presence. But, so often, indeed too often, we miss it. We don’t see it. It’s as though we put a veil over our faces.
How do we veil our faces to the glory of God? Indifference and apathy. We don’t take the time and the effort to see it, to look for it. It’s all around us. Its in the walls of the church. It’s in the blessed sacrament of the Altar. It’s in the Gospel proclaimed for all the world to hear. And it’s in the hearts of his faithful people.
Too often, we are indifferent to the Glory of the living God, especially in our fellow Christians, because we are too focused on the negative things. We are too focused on their faults, their shortcomings, and their sins.
That glory of God dwells in each of us in a special way through our baptism. But each and every human being that ever was and ever will be, was created in the image of God. And although that glory of their creator is veiled by sin and ignorance, it’s nonetheless there, for us to see. Now, I’m not talking about some new age religion “divine spark” in everyone kind of thing. Please don’t get me wrong on this. But what I am saying is that each and every man and woman is created in the image of God, and in that image, God’s glory can be seen, even if they don’t see it for themselves.
Indifference, though, veils our faces to the glory of God in our neighbors. Indifference, it has been said, was the greatest of all the atrocities carried out in Nazi Germany during World War Two. Why? Because indifference and apathy veiled the eyes of so many to the glory of God in their neighbor, that eleven million human beings to be executed – found not worthy of the life given to them by their creator.
May we open the eyes of our hearts to the glory of God – in this place, in the blessed sacrament, in the proclamation of the Gospel, in our Christian Brothers and sisters, and in every neighbor we meet created in the image of God. And may we approach that glory of God, knowing that we can dwell in it boldly because we have been redeemed and made worthy to stand before God through the sacrifice of Christ and his rising to new life again on the third day.
To him be the Glory now and forever. Amen!