Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 3 March 2019.
There is something of the Groundhog in today’s lessons as we had them last week and to be honest the layout of lessons for this part of the year is confusing.
I am therefore presented with having to offer something today that I did not offer last week, which is a little disconcerting.
Needless to say the responsibility for selecting these lessons is mine alone.
But then there is that sense in which anyone who is engaged in any aspect of selecting or reading lessons, or in preaching on them is under the same kind of Christian service – that is in coming under the service of the Scriptures as the Word of God.
For some the scriptures contain the Word of God, much as this church contains the buttons on my shirt. It is seen as vague and inaccessible and open to every kind of doubt and discovery. In the end however it submits the scriptures to human reasoning and to the human intellectual and academic fashions of the time.
And it leads to some profound doubts as to what the scriptures to say and how they lead us in our lives and faith.
But there is another way of looking at it, which is to say that the scriptures do indeed contain the Word of God, not in the way this church contains the buttons on my shirt but in the way that a battery contains electricity – but in an everlasting supply. Better still, it contains the Word of God in the same way that an electricity socket contains electricity. You only have to plug in and switch on, and the power comes.
In the lessons for today, Moses was more in touch with reality when he was in the presence of God and when God was speaking to him than when he came off the mountain and spoke to the people. Here he was in touch with the creator and the centre of the universe and of the heavens and the earth.
Everything else was the creation that He brought into being, including everything that could grow or reproduce itself in line with God’s gift of life and its ability to transmit itself to succeeding generations.
Here also was a clarity and a focus which was liable to lose its power when confronted by the business and the awkward details of everyday life, with all its confusions and compromises. Hence the need for periodic renewal of that sense of the presence of God.
But just as Moses was being physically lit up by the radiating glory of God, so as set out in the lessons for Saint David’s day, which the Guild of Servers observed yesterday in Bishopbriggs, we are also drawn into that ministry and service of being salt of the earth and light of the world.
If we are serving the Lord, then we are automatically drafted into this kind of service – and so we are obliged to continue to allow ourselves to give taste and light to the world, even when we do not feel qualified or on any particular day, inclined.
I digress however.
In the same way Jesus’ experience on the mount of the Transfiguration was also to reconnect with a profounder reality than He was ever going to find in the wisdom of the land and its people, no matter how devoted or learned they may be.
Here He was being renewed in His commitment to the salvation of mankind on the cross at Calvary. Moses and Elijah might have pointed to it but it was for Jesus to tread that path without turning back.
But here also Jesus was personally reaffirmed by the presence and the spoken voice of God. Here He was acclaimed in who and what He was at a time when in His ministry the prevailing unbelief in Him may have been liable to make Him waver. The miracles were one thing, for they were expected of any holy man – but to be the Son of God, with all that it involved, was something else.
But his leads me into Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where he also thinks about Moses’ veil. The veil was there to protect the people of Israel as he moved among them and spoke to them. They already had barriers which hardened their hearts, doubts which clouded their minds and confusions in their lives.
Yet Paul was saying that for the church this veil was to be set aside and the people were to look to the Lord with lives and hearts and minds unveiled.
They were to receive the Word and Sacraments of the Lord with a freedom borne of the Holy Spirit. Where the Holy Spirit was able to move within their personal lives and their life as a congregation then there was a special kind of freedom.
They would enter the presence of God and sit at His feet as they learned together and then they would approach His table as they shared the bread and wine together, renewing their communion both with the Lord and with one another.
They would share a freedom as they learned to share together their insights into the things of God and as they supported eachother in prayer and in practical help.
Above all they would learn to love one-another without personal agenda or mixed motives for this is a kind of love that is of God rather than any kind of romantic or social motive.
Here as they entered the presence of God in the scriptures and in the life and love of the body of Christ they would indeed find that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Freedom to be themselves, freedom to find themselves and above all freedom to lose themselves in the service of their Lord. It comes from the heart and it is communicated heart to heart.
And yes, it starts in the heart of the Lord and it comes in the Holy Spirit.