Under the old system of religion, religious leaders were called reverend (as if they were to be revered for their higher degree of holiness), those who prayed or spoke with God were thought to have halos or skin that glowed, and keeping track of all the petty laws and rituals of orthodox belief was a full time job. Moses represents the old religion when he veils his face. Many of us represent old religion when we expect people to treat us as holy people just because we spend an inordinate amount of time in church. Hear the good news; in Jesus Christ we are all equal inheritors of holiness. The old divisions of lay verses clergy, secular verses holy, are falling away.
Paul writes, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, [see] the glory of the Lord…” (II Corinthians 3:17-18). This is part of the democratic spirit that runs through all of the apostle’s letters. Having left behind the self-righteous practice of religion as a Pharisee, he embraces the fact that the spirit of God can touch anyone’s life. The new religion doesn’t send Moses to speak to God for us. It encourages everyone to go and kneel before the holy one. When we clergy, who are expected to be more holy than others, find ourselves emeshed in the stuff of our world, we don’t veil our faces like Moses so that people don’t see us becoming worldly. We instead admit our human-ness. We repent and admit the hold sin has on our lives. It is in being honest, that Paul finds freedom.
This is transfiguration Sunday and we see Jesus going up on the mountain and having a transformative experience. Please note that Jesus didn’t go alone. And, I don’t think he took Peter and John because they were going to be future clergy. I see Jesus sharing the thrill of God’s grace with these two who were ready for it. Then he takes them down the mountain and throws them into the messiness of the world. He doesn’t allow them time to veil their faces. Do as much as you can, he seems to be saying. Then go back for more. Don’t veil your face this Lent. Let the world know that it gets to you and that you, like everyone else, needs to retreat to a place where you can find a sweet hour of prayer. Going up the mountain is a practice that we want to share.