Sermon Notes 2/18/2007
“Behind the Veil”
I want to tell you a story this morning. Back in the Santa Barbara Springtime, when the flowers were in full bloom, and the coastal air had the warm smell of ocean breezes and flowers, God did something truly amazing. Standing inside that church building with the Bishop waiting on Anna to come down the aisle God set me up to learn a future lesson of scripture.
You see Anna did not wear a veil that day as she came down the aisle, but there was a veil of secrecy surrounding her dress. She had purchased it months before, had gotten it tailored since then, closer to the wedding and was really excited that she had found “THE DRESS”. I couldn’t see it or look for it, or even go in the store where it had been purchased (since it was a chain store I was asked not to go in any of them), or even to look for it online. This was a big veil of secrecy.
Walking down the aisle Anna was radiant. I was absolutely stunned. I was enthralled with how beautiful she looked. The dress was indeed “THE DRESS” and pulled all of the things she loves so artfully together. Absolutely amazing. I had to wonder if this beauty was too much for me. Fortunately, there was at least an entire service ahead where I could let my head wrap around it all. The Bishop stood up front and gathered our attention and I quickly turned my gaze to her. I was stopped dead in my tracks, I had no idea what came next or what to do, thankfully the Bishop walked us through the wedding vows and gave her sermon, allowing me the chance to wait a little more on God’s assurance that I indeed was worthy of such grandeur found in Anna.
We had a prayer, and then another, and the blessing from the Bishop on behalf of God. We were given the gift of praying it through at the very beginning. And yet I was still stunned. As usual when I get knocked out of kilter I try to find something to do. There was nothing to do in the chancel of FUMC Santa Barbara while the Bishop presided over our wedding. I had no ring to twist, and my necklace was buried in my tux shirt and bowtie. Anna held my hands and I was just to wait it out.
We completed the service and I still had to wait to do anything. I couldn’t direct anything, I couldn’t get on with my life with Anna. I was given the simple grace of being able to kiss her and hold her hand as we left the sanctuary, only to return for a host of pictures. We got the families and we got the rings, and we got the minister, and we then started wandering around the main building in Santa Barbara with all kinds of pictures being taken. I had to be patient.
We then left for the reception, right next door, with food, fruits, cake, some music and a lot of people to say hello to and visit. There was much to do. I got sidetracked with whether we were going to throw the garter or not do that stuff, and whether or not to have a first dance, and how everyone was faring at the food tables. Did we have enough? I was focused on when we were gonna leave and what we might HAVE to do before leaving.
We cut the cake, we had a dance, we threw the garter and the bouquet, and we went out for a ride off to the local hotel where we were going to spend our first night together before flying off to Tennessee, Alabama and Florida for our honeymoon. When that was all done, we finally got the chance to do what we were created to do in being with each other and beginning the rest of our married lives together. But we had to wait on the Lord first.
We had been given all these instructions about how to do the wedding, and what had to happen at the reception, how the honeymoon should be, and warnings about this or that contingency. God had a plan, and needed us to sit tight before it could be enacted. We had to prepare ourselves, we had to wait, we had to pray, and then we could go ahead with what it was God was ready for us to do.
Moses and Jesus have the same experience with the people of Israel, James and John and Peter as God did with me in that wedding. Let me break it down.
Moses and Jesus were that vision of grandeur that could not be comprehended by the people at the time. So they sat behind the veil. Moses behind the literal veil that covered his face, and Jesus behind the veil of death from which Moses and Elijah returned. The vision of such things was overwhelming and stunned the people. The people of Israel cowered in fear, while the Disciples were just so stunned they went right back to sleep. While the Disciples slept and Israel feared Moses and Jesus prayed, giving them communion with God and the Holy Spirit, preparing themselves for the hard work ahead. The people waited anxiously, fearfully, sleepily and they waited. Then like so many of are wont to do the Disciples tried to build something to preserve the moment, they got sidetracked about their real purpose in being in on the moment of greatness. Jesus redirects their energies and tells them to go ahead and sit down and be quiet for a while longer. They went right down the mountain and began to heal and exorcise demons. Immediately after this account of Moses and the veil Moses gives the people of Israel something to do as they are asked to gather and prepare the materials for the building of the tabernacle, and then to build it.
Later after God’s glory is seen in the community, and the people have been given time to digest the grandeur of God (in the form of the seat of God on the Ark of the Covenant, and God’s meeting place in the Tabernacle set up for the people of Israel, and the resurrected Christ visiting the Disciples) then the people are to get back to real life, going about their work, with a new commitment to the teachings given before, the Law and the Prophets, which we have been given again in Jesus Christ “To Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul strength and mind; and the second which is like it to love your neighbor as yourself”.
We as a church have been given the ultimate instructions, words that lead to greatness and grandeur beyond imagination. Words and events and acts that we can and will do because we are powerful beyond measure. But we need to be willing to take the same path as Israel and the Disciples. We need to be awed by the prospect, stunned to sleep because it seems so simple, fearful that actual change would come. We need to take the time to wait upon the Lord. And while we are waiting we need to pray. We need to take time for self examination. We need to continue doing what we did before, always holding the instructions in the back of our minds, allowing God to work in us and through us to moment of transformation. And then we need to get on with our new life in Christ. For now, let us wait upon the Lord in prayer.