2019 03 03 Sara Holland Sermon
Scripture: Exodus 34: 29 – 35, 2nd Cor. 3:12 – 4:2
Title: “There is Freedom”
GRACE: where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Thank you, Rich.
I invite you all to pray with me: May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts and minds be acceptable to You, oh God, my rock and redeemer. Amen.
SHOW, NOT TELL
Themes – transfiguration, turning point, unexpected, “astounding glory”
I wonder if you realize your face shines after you see God or when God shines through you. And for those who may be really into cosmetology or make up, I do not mean shine in the negative sense – I am not saying you have an oily face after you speak to God!
Your face shines after you speak to God, our faces shine when we talk to God. God shines through us.
We each have activities in life that help us shine, or people in life that help us shine. Some things we do bring out our best selves or center us. What makes you shine?
Some of us connect more or less with the story of Moses (and Jesus in the New Testament) meeting God on the side of a mountain. For me, it is an easy connection. As an adult I have always said I have felt closest to God in many natural settings, often on the sides of majestic mountains. One time I felt closest to God was in the Olympic National Forest on Hurricane Ridge. On this awe-inspiring ridge, flowers came out from below the snow, deer walked next to my parents and me on the paths and the birds chirped seamlessly at high altitudes – about 5,000 feet high.
Last summer, as I finished my descent off of Mt. Greylock in Western Massachusetts near the Appalachian Trail where I spent one of the best restless nights of my life, I wanted nothing more than to stay and go – to continue holding the love of God in the air of the Appalachian mountains but also spread this news of majesty and wonder that the woods had showed me.
In that case, I was indeed glowing from the oils on my face but I also think God shined through my face.
When do you shine?
In our reading from Exodus, we hear about the way God’s glory shines through Moses. This is similar to how God shines through Jesus in the gospel. Paul discusses how God’s glory should come through all of us – with authenticity.
We read and hear that Moses covered himself as a cloud had covered Mt. Sinai which had been surrounded in God’s glory in the 24th chapter of Exodus.
The people who saw Moses were afraid because he looked like a God. Moses did his best to be palpable for his audience. The veil is more a metaphor for understanding than something that is literal, scholars tell us. Moses wants to be heard. Moses wants to help people understand God’s love and light. It’s like he is dressing for the meeting – you always want to wear the best outfit you are able, right? Present yourself in a way that is somewhat desirable but also authentic.
How might we shine?
The author of 2nd Corinthians is giving us a clear message of authenticity. We hear in this letter that as we are transformed, God’s glory is revealed, as the Spirit becomes more and more clear. The letter reminds us of the mercy holding us as we work to carry love out into the world. The letter makes it clear that we should not hold ourselves from each other – that we should be authentic – that we should allow each other to be authentic.
What ways are we keeping each other from being authentic? We could very easily go on and on today about how those United Methodists have said no to out LGBTQ people working to be ordained or those who want to get married. While we can of course pray for this part of our Church Universal, I want us to go inward today, too. We each have ways we prevent ourselves from shining, from being authentic.
We need to address the dissonance between the reading from Exodus and from 2nd Corinthians, of course. You may or may have not picked up on this, but the author of 2nd Corinthians – Paul – aggressively shamed Moses’ action of placing a veil over his face. We can see now, thanks to scholarship and also our experiences of reviewing all of Paul’s work that he had an aggressive and argumentative style that left little space for cultural sensitivity, something our church values very much. Paul was speaking from his Hellenistic world view with a specific and argumentative agenda. Let’s thread the needle between he and Moses, with God’s grace this is possible!
Both the Hebrew Bible and the reading from the letter today speak of God’s light coming through humans – in real and moving ways.
But again, we each have ways we prevent ourselves from shining, from being authentic.
We answer a question in a way that too diplomatic.
We fudge the truth on a report to make ourselves look better and our neighbors or co-workers look less than wonderful.
We cover up truths about our struggles with food, with alcohol, with medications.
We hide our struggles with family members for fear of being judged and our desire to look appealing to people we meet.
We avoid conflict.
While some of us are, of course, more or less authentic, we all struggle with this.
In part, the issue of us not seeing that we are constantly being transformed. We forget that God is constantly offering us life-changing grace, giving us space to be imperfect. I wonder about the ways we might be able to give each other such space?
Some of us will easily shine on our own that will automatically liberate other people but some of us will be far more successful at framing this approach by placing others before ourselves.
Y’all may not know it – but this week is UCC women’s week. We may all be thinking that we are a church that does a darn good job with empowering women and I do think that is true in this region. However, we are part of a bigger picture. And there is yet work to do. Even in New England we still work towards equal compensation.
I am able to shine as a woman, today, because women before me have shined. We have to keep asking what we can do to help one another shine.
When we shine, other people are given space to be their full selves. Either shine on, as you are, in your full authentic self, or be brave enough to help someone else.
My favorite holiday movie is called The Family Stone – it has a star struck cast including Sarah Jessica Parker and Luke Wilson. There is a scene in the movie when SJP and Luke Wilson sit across from one another and one character says to the other: “Look – you have a freak flag, you just don’t wave it as high as my family.” People can tell when we run from our authenticity – when we hide who we are.
The radiance that was imparted on Moses is imparted on us.
The radiance that was imparted on Jesus is the radiance that is imposed on you! Your radiance is another person’s radiance.
This radiance is the Holy Spirit. We have read: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, 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!”
There is freedom in your radiance, in who you are. Do not expect this struggle of shining to end with this sermon or worship, God is already but not yet by our side, we must keep looking, keep pushing freedom. As Lent is about to start, Black History Month has ended. Has the fight for freedom ended? NO. We must all keep moving to this Spirit, for in that space, we find freedom! We must all keep moving to this Spirit, as the people we are, and in that space, we find freedom. Amen.