Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"No Barriers" a sermon based on Luke 9:28-43, II Cor. 3:7-4:6 given on Feb. 14

Jim and I have a saying in our house, “No Barriers.” We use it in many different contexts. Neither of us like barriers, but they are there. And after a lifetime of building up barriers, some of them are hard to remove. Some barriers are stubborn, and we keep running into them. Fear erects barriers. We put barriers into place because we think we are protecting ourselves. Adam and Eve made coverings for themselves and hid from God because they were afraid. But the barriers didn’t help. They weren’t protected. And yet we still do the same thing.
It takes commitment, trust, honesty, and hard work to remove barriers. It takes love. Love overcomes barriers. Love removes barriers. Why? Because as the apostle John says, perfect love casts out fear. God’s is perfect love. When we can tap into that love, and love becomes stronger than our fears, barriers are removed.
In the children’s message, I shared that Jesus is the best Valentine. Jesus is the Valentine sent by the Father to show us his great love for us. And Jesus’s sacrifice of love for us removes the barriers erected between ourselves and God. In our Corinthians passage today, we have the removal of barriers. Jesus removes the barrier of sin. Jesus removed the barrier of curses that were erected because of the failure to keep the Law. To keep God’s commandments brings blessing, but to break God’s commandments brings curses—negative consequences. The Israelites couldn’t free themselves from the curse of the Law, but elsewhere Paul says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” In removing the curse of the law, Jesus opens us up to the blessings that were promised to Abraham.
We read in Corinthians that the barrier between us and God’s glory has been removed in Christ Jesus. We are familiar with the fact that when Christ was crucified, the curtain in the temple that divided the inner court from the holy of holies was torn in two. With that barrier removed, everyone could see into the most holy place. It symbolized the direct access that anyone has to God through Christ Jesus. When the people saw God’s glory on Moses’s face when he came down from Mt. Sinai, they were afraid because they had broken God’s laws. The presence of God meant God’s judgment. They were afraid and would not come near the tent of meeting when God’s glory filled it. They couldn’t stand in God’s holy presence like we talked about last week. For Moses to veil himself was an act of mercy. But when we repent, when we turn to the Lord, we can witness God’s glory because of Christ. Now, God’s glory doesn’t mean judgment for us but redemption. God’s presence means our salvation.
Paul says that another barrier that is removed in Christ is in our understanding of the Scriptures. Because of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us who brings clarity to hearing of the Word and applies it to our hearts. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. I’m sure, like me, you’ve had the experience of reading a passage of Scripture, and it just didn’t make sense, and then you reread it later, maybe even years later, and it couldn’t be any clearer. That’s the Holy Spirit illuminating God’s Word.
In addition to being Valentine’s Day, today is Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday, and our gospel reading was that incident of Jesus being glorified on the mountaintop in the presence of Peter, James, and John. Paul writes “Now all of us with unveiled faces, seeing as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit not only illuminates the Scriptures to us, but transfigures us with the same glory as Jesus into the image of Jesus. The Holy Spirit makes us more Christlike.
When Moses reflected God’s glory, he had to put a veil over his face because the people were afraid. Now we are called to reflect God’s glory boldly. We aren’t supposed to cover it up. There will be people who don’t get it because their eyes have been blinded, but as we go out into the world, we are to shine brightly, reflecting and revealing Jesus to those around us. And we must live in such a way that we do not erect barriers between God and others, for those barriers have been removed in Christ. Instead we are called to help others see that those barriers are removed, and continue working on tearing down the barriers between each other that we have rebuilt. May the love of Christ in us be greater than our fears.

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