Pastor Sherry’s message for 2/27/2022 Scriptures: Ex 34:29-35; Ps 99; 2 Cor 3:12-4:2; Lk 9:28-43

Have you ever noticed that a lot of fictional stories, novels, and movies are based on the premise of mistaken perceptions? I just finished reading a delightful, humorous novel about a young woman who is a modern day match-maker (a yenta). Despite all of the computer match-making sites, it seems some still prefer to have a human vet dating candidates. The novel’s protagonist contracts to help a workaholic, hot-shot, highly successful sports agent locate a bride. The guy is 35 years old, ready to get married but too busy being successful to look for a potential spouse on his own. He has risen from the wrong side of the tracks and thinks he wants his concept of a Proverbs 31 woman: someone graceful in social settings; a woman who is successful in her own right; someone attractive, well-dressed, well-read; and a person who, unlike him, is from an affluent and pedigreed background. Really, he’s seeking his idea of perfection.

To the match-maker’s distress, he runs through match after match that she provides him, finding fault with them all. Meanwhile, he fights against his increasing attraction to the match-maker. He enjoys her spunk and her intellect, but she doesn’t appear to meet the “attractive, well-dressed, affluent and pedigreed” characteristics on his list. He finally decides she’s the one for him after he sees her all dressed up and meets her over-achieving, influential, old-moneyed family. Thinking he wants to be with her only due to what he’s just discovered about her social pedigree and connections—which she has kept hidden—she turns down his marriage proposal. She thinks he likes her for the wrong reasons. Each has misperceived the other, like in the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice.

Just as with that novel, the remainder of the story focuses on them each overcoming their mistaken perceptions and discovering “they were made for each other.”

Like the people in these kinds of stories, many of us trust our perceptions and act as if they are true, even when we discover they are not. Modern psychological research tells us that we are very reluctant to change our perceptions. We tend to go to great lengths to hold onto our mistaken perceptions, justifying them to ourselves—even if someone has been able to demonstrate how wrong we are.

Three of our Scriptures today touch on this issue of mistaken perceptions. Let’s examine them together.

1. In Exodus 34:29-35, we encounter an interesting phenomenon: Moses’ face shines following his having been in the presence of God the Father. Let’s consider first the backstory to this event: 3 months after crossing the Red Sea, Israel is encamped at the base of Mt. Sinai. They have violated their brand new covenant with God by worshipping a golden calf. They had already broken the 1st and 2nd commandments, the punishment for which was to have been death! In anger and grief—and to protect them from the death sentence–Moses breaks the original tablets containing the 10 Commandments. God then commands that Levites faithful to Him go throughout the camp, killing those who had been caught up in idolatry, or what God considers “spiritual adultery.” The guilty parties die, but how does the rest of the community get back into God’s good graces?

So Moses goes back up to meet with God, a 2nd time, to beg the Lord to forgive His people; to try to repair the broken covenant; and to request a new set of stone tablets. God, in response, identifies Himself as patient, loving, faithful, forgiving, and just. He also says He forgives or punishes sinners, as is appropriate, and He always knows who they are. The Lord thus demonstrates that His covenant promises depend more upon His unchanging nature than on Israel’s (or our) indifferent responses. He has compassion on those who repent. And He writes, a 2nd time, His Law on stone tablets.

As a result of this extraordinary encounter, Moses’ face shines!

He has experienced, he has personally witnessed, God’s glory and it is reflected on his countenance. At first, he appeared not to have been aware. But in verse 30, we are told🡪When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.

The glow from or the light on his face frightened them. He had to call them to himself to convince them it was still Moses that they saw, and that he was all right.

Interestingly, he then veiled himself as the glow wore off. He spoke to God and to the people bare-faced; but he “masked up” afterward, to prevent anyone from seeing the glow diminish. He was trying to manage their perceptions of him. He probably wanted their respect. He may have wanted them to remember he spoke frequently with the Lord.

2. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 that Moses veiled himself not because the people were afraid of him—at least not after the 1st time; but because Moses was embarrassed that the effect of having stood in God’s presence dimmed—returned to normal—after a time. Paul also wants us to understand that this veiling-of-the-face-business is a metaphor. The veil represents the Old Covenant, the Law. Paul would assert that the Jews still see Jesus correctly as a good teacher; but, incorrectly, they do not accept that Jesus is God. Because they do not perceive Jesus clearly, they miss that He totally fulfills the Law. Their “minds made dull” by their rejection of Christ (i.e., their mistaken perception) keeps them from participating in the New Covenant.

When we turn our hearts to Christ, the veil is removed. Rather than having to do, do, do the Law daily to avoid punishment for our sins, the Gospel tells us It is done! Jesus Christ has taken our punishment upon Himself. Our sins are paid for. We’ve been set free!

3. In our Gospel lesson, Luke 9:28-43, we see that Jesus too, in His glorified form, shines brightly! The Greek word for transfiguration is metamorphoom or we would say, metamorphosis. Paul tells us that we too will undergo this kind of transformation when we enter heaven. We too will shine in the reflection of the Lord’s presence.

Peter, James, and John are with Jesus and experience His transfiguration on the mountain. They see for themselves that His whole body radiates light—not a light pulsing upon Him but a bright light coming out from within Him. They think they have correctly perceived Him—like the guy in the novel who does not know his matchmaker comes from a background of privilege. They have only seen Jesus as the itinerant rabbi from a humble, rural background. They have seen Him do miracles, but they have not, heretofore, been exposed to Him in all His heavenly glory. He undergoes a metamorphosis before them into the God He really is. Unlike Moses, Jesus shines from within and the light emanating from Him is blazing!

Seeing Him this way should have convinced them that He truly is the Son of God. They saw Him with Elijah and Moses (and realized who they were)! They heard God the Father say (v.35) This is My Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to Him. A week earlier they had heard Jesus say (9:27) I tell you the truth, some who are standing here [including Peter, James and John] will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. Jesus was foretelling this event, His transfiguration.

Both it and His resurrection confirm that He is God.

Their perceptions of Jesus were mistaken, too narrow, too limited. They had placed Him in a small cognitive box they had constructed around their mistaken perceptions of who Messiah would be and how he would act. The Transfiguration of Jesus should have helped them to enlarge that box and deepen their understanding of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. The two figures with Him were both divinely favored heroes of Israel: Moses, like Jesus, had led God’s people out of bondage foreshadowed Jesus as savior and redeemer. Elijah was a great prophet who, like Jesus, held power over nature, and performed wonderful miracles. Nevertheless, the Father indicates Jesus is superior to them both.

You know by now I love to ask, “So what’s this mean to us?” I mean no disrespect as I ask us to consider what these Scriptures mean to us today, in our modern context.

First, I think it means we need to examine ourselves for our own mistaken perceptions about Jesus—and expand them where we are in error. I was leading an adult Bible study some years ago, and one of the members—in response to one of the “hard sayings” of Jesus—said his mother would not have been able to conceive of a Jesus like that. Her belief was that Jesus was only “meek and mild.” But we don’t want a veil to cover our eyes so we do not see Him correctly. This means remaining open to allowing the Scriptures to reveal Him in all His dimensions, in all of His glory, whether such passages “comfort the afflicted or afflict the comfortable.”

Second, I believe it also means we are safe in His arms. Russia may invade the Ukraine, but Jesus Christ is still Lord. He and the Father are not unaware of what is happening in our world. They are sovereign over all things. They hold our future (and that of the Ukrainians) in their capable hands.

It appears that God is allowing a shaking up our world. This is a time to turn to Him in prayer. This is a time to trust in Him and in His extraordinary power. This is a time for us to confidently reflect His love and grace. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew (5:16) In the same way, let your light [the light of Christ] shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Amen and amen.

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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