August 19, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“So all of us who have had the veil removed from our eyes can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord- who is the Spirit- makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3.18)
The Books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians are actually a compilation of four letters in total which were sent to the Christian community of faith in Corinth. There is little wonder, then, why they share similar themes. Not only do they share such themes as love and the image of God as well as refining “early church practices of worship and service,” they expand and deepen the original reflection. So, too, should our lives be in the same vein of understanding. In the “love” chapter found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, we read Paul’s illustration of “looking into a dim mirror daily until that one day when everything becomes perfectly clear and in full focus.” That day is when we actually see “the Jesus in us.” Hopefully that day will happen during our journey of life and ministry before our departure from the earth or His return; which ever comes first when we will see Him face to face. The hope, I hope, is that we will be able to look Him straight in the eye and never take our eye off of Him. We so don’t do that in the world today. We so don’t even give great effort to seeing Jesus in others, especially those others with whom we have no agreement, no affinity, no love, no respect and no desire. Jesus is in them, too, you know. They may not know it, but He is because He died for them, too. It is by our reflection of Him in and through our lives that they may come to know that they are not so much asking Jesus to come into their lives but asking Him to be released out of the prison of their self-will having chosen self over Him. It is when the “self will” surrender to God in Jesus’ name that the image of who and whose they are becomes clearer and clearer to them. So, too, will their reflection of His glory and grace become clearer, more focused and thus far more powerful in the world as they live for Him and minister to others. That is what Paul understood as “true love.”
Now, here in the book called 2 Corinthians, we see the expanded version of that teaching or the going deeper reflection of that original teaching of Paul to the faithful. His intention is to call them into greater accountability and a more defined identity as to who and what they are intended to reflect and reflect upon. Paul uses language that is based on his experience as an educated Jew under the guidance of Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a famous Jewish scholar and teacher. His knowledge of the wisdom, purpose and presence of God in the history of Israel was virtually without question. We see Paul’s Jewishness as he teaches both Jews and Gentiles in the Corinthian church with words such as “veil,” “glorious” and Spirit. Capture the image Paul is projecting in his reflection on God’s word and will:
The veil refers to the curtain in the Temple which separated the “holy” from the “less holy.” Behind the curtain, which was massive in height, breadth and depth, was where the full presence of God was revealed to the Chief High Priest and the rest of the world. Read Isaiah 6 for a description of such an encounter. The Chief High Priest, then, was meant to be God’s reflection in all its fullness to the people he served for God. We read of the transformation in appearance between when Moses entered “the Tent of the Presence” and when he departed it. He had a countenance on him and about him that spoke of “the glory of God.” He literally radiated God. (This is why the priest wore the Urim and Thummim as protectors of the heart and mind from the “radiating” effect of God’s glory as well as to “keep it in his heart and mind” so that it would not be forgotten nor given to the people as “fall out.” Nuclear power has nothing on the power of God’s glory!) But, when Jesus died on the cross after surrendering His Spirit into God’s safe keeping and exhaling the fullness of life from His body, the veil was torn and brought down. The message was of the full exposure of God’s presence in His glory (both angst and love) to all the world. It bypassed and surpassed that of the High Priests, all priests and even the Holy of Holies. God’s full image was revealed that day in sorrow, grief and repentance. Sadly, it didn’t take long for the temple attendants to “put poor Humpty together again.” Before Pentecost came fifty days later, the curtain was restored, rehung and the attempt to keep God to themselves was just that- an attempt. Too late. The veil had been rent, God was “out of the box” and His Spirit was among the people falling on the just and the unjust so that His will, not man’s, be done.
The glory of God, i.e. His glorious image, refers to the fullness of God in presence, purpose and passion. The creation story is told by the priests (Genesis 1) with the order and structure that reflects the glory of God in all of its earthly manifestations as works of the Spirit of God. We must read in our mind, heart and spirit, the understanding of “holy” when we see the phrase “Spirit of God.” God is holy and so, too, then His Spirit. His Spirit is a reflection of His glory because they are one in the same. Just as Jesus of Nazareth prayed that His commitment to glorify His Father in Heaven would cause Him to be glorified as well. That word “glory” is not intended to only mean “justified or set above all others.” The word is fully intended to mean “be at one with God in His will, purpose and presence.” Jesus knew that His decision would return Him to the image in which He was at first before coming to earth in the form of a flesh and blood man. But, Jesus would never stop being a “glory man” of two worlds- heaven and earth. He was changed, transformed, renewed and a full reflection of what God envisioned when He created us. By our commitment to follow Jesus, we are being given the opportunity to “reflect His glory as that of the One True God.” We are given the opportunity not to return to Eden but to return to God in spirit and in truth.
The Spirit is the glue that binds us together. Paul says that the members of the body of Christ, the Church, are like building stones put together. In order to keep building stones together there is a need for mortar. The Holy Spirit is that mortar which solidifies us at one people with One God and nothing can separate us then from the love of God which has forgiven and reconciled us. It is the “tie that binds.” We are thus in one “a-cord,” if you will. The Spirit of God which was breathed into us and changed us from matter to what matters, from dust to flesh, from a collection of cells into a human being and thus filled us with the wonder of God is amplified when God pours out His Spirit on us with an anointing of mission and purpose. We, as believers are inwardly and outwardly the reflection of God in whose image we have been created. We need to be recreated into His Image, thus filled with His Spirit, because there is another spirit at work in the world that full well proposes a far different and malevolent image.
It is with these identifiers and themes that our own lives have a sense of being and becoming. Think upon them this weekend as you pause to worship, reflect on His word and recommit to be who you are meant to be as followers of the Way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son, our Savior and Lord and “brother” in the faith of this spiritual truth intended for all people but recognized by not nearly enough.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
You have revealed Yourself to us, O Lord, and we are forever changed. Your act of love becomes an accountability of Spirit and truth in and through our lives. We commit ourselves to be a renewed people reflecting more and more of who You are as we become more and more of who You intend for us to be- Your sons and daughters by faith, hope and love. Your will be done, in Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.