Theme: The Presence of the Lord
Readings: Exodus 34:29-35 2 Corinthians 3:12 - 4:2 Luke 9:28-36
you know the disorder of our sinful lives:
set straight our crooked hearts,
and bend our wills to love your goodness
and your glory
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
One of the signs that a person is a Christian is that they are being transformed. They become more and more like Jesus in character. This does not happen all at once, and for all of us there is still a long way to go. However, the process started as soon as we were ‘born again’, when (as it were) the seed of this new life was implanted in us and we found ourselves able to believe in Jesus. As the new life grows in us we become more and more willing and able to love, trust and obey him. But the process is not finished until we receive our new, resurrection, bodies when Jesus returns to earth in all his glory and we and all creation are made perfect. This is the ‘hope’ that Paul refers to at the beginning of the first reading.
How does this process of transformation take place? The answer is given in 2 Corinthians 3:18. It does not happen automatically, without our knowledge or consent, but as we consciously spend time in God’s presence – as we ‘with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory’. For the good news is that when we turn to Christ not only do we have hope of future fulfilment in the presence of God, but we have access to God here and now, and through faith can ‘see’ God and get to know him in a way that is not otherwise possible. Previously, even for those closest to God, there was a limit to how well they could know him. God had revealed his love and his ways to his people, the Jews. But it was as if they had a thick veil over their faces and could not see what the Scriptures taught about him.
Paul is thinking of the passage in Exodus which talks about Moses having a radiant face whenever he talked with God. This scared the people, so he put a veil on. That veil had a double purpose according to Paul; not only did it protect the people from seeing his transformation but also it stopped them from seeing that the transformation was only temporary.
But those who turn to Jesus find that the veil has been taken away. We don’t have to be afraid of God’s glory – through Jesus we have a place right there in the presence of God. Through Jesus we can know God better, grow closer to him and know his presence with us through the Holy Spirit.
We cannot get to know God without being changed: his presence transforms. In human society the friends we make affect our characters, and we to some extent adapt to reflect our friends’ values and ways. We become like those we spend time with, and this is especially true with God. When we consciously spend time with God, especially in prayer and in the Bible, we pick up his values, see and imitate his character and ways. Faith removes the veil. Unlike Moses, as time goes on the transformation grows rather than fades – provided that we respond appropriately and choose to act on what we learn.
Godly transformation does not make life easy; it may get harder, as Paul goes on to say in chapter 4. Nevertheless, this life is the only life ultimately worth living – and sharing.
1) How can we use Scripture, and how can we use prayer, to ‘contemplate God’s glory’?
2) Are you growing? How do you know?