New Creation: Removing The Veil

Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Corinthians 3:7-18

On December 23, 2013 Andrew and I celebrated 7 years of marriage.  Our wedding day was incredible…and quite damp as I remember it.  Surrounded by family and friends…over 400 family and friends…we worshipped and we married.  Truly, it was and remains one of the happiest days of my life.

On our wedding day I wore a veil as most brides do.  My veil did not come from a store.  Andrew’s Aunt Vivian made my custom veil.  It was six head-to-knee length layers of tulle and bead and crystal detailing.  It had six combs to attach it to my head…which may in fact speak to the size of my head BUT ALSO the weight of this veil.  Oh my…it was heavy.  But it was worth it.  Everyone complimented me on it…including the guys in the local burger drive-thru I visited on my way to the church…and the kind customers at the supermarket that allowed me to go ahead of them in the checkout line to purchase hairspray that would replace all my friend’s hairspray that my locks consumed.

I had a lot going on that day.

My veil was just a veil.  There was no blusher in the front – it was all veil down my back.  Aunt Vivian asked me if I wanted a blusher and I declined.  I never really liked the idea of a blusher – a piece of fabric that would obscure a part of me from Andrew until some predetermined moment.  No.  He would see me and all of me.  We were entering into a solemn covenant together.  I could see without obscurity who I was committing to and I wanted Andrew to have the same opportunity.

Bonus for each of us – we liked what we saw.

Greater bonus for each of us – we still do.

In our Scripture passage for this week Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians and urges them to remove the veils in their lives that obscure them from wholly and completely being in the presence of Christ.  Veils have a dual function – they obscure vision as I have already mentioned but they are also a barrier.  They cause separation.  Why would we desire such a separation from our Savior who invites us into solemn covenant as well – the covenant of eternal life?

I think sometimes we want to separate ourselves from Christ.  We want to hoist up that veil because we don’t want Christ to see us for who we really are – flawed, self-absorbed, ashamed, broken.  If we remove the veil and step into the light of Christ’s glory we will be exposed.  We will be truly known.

I believe that God knows who we truly are without stepping into the light of Christ’s glory.  But I also believe that God wants us – each individual – each daughter or son of the Most High – to be the one to share who we are with God.  It’s okay if it takes time for us to share all of who we are with God.  God has the time.  God is not going to rip down our veils like a band-aid off chapped skin – in one fell swoop.  God will remove the veil, but it will be in good measure and response to where we are.  As faith grows and doubt recedes the veil will fall.  When that happens we will be in the place that Paul describes in his first correspondence with the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).

I was so happy to remove my veil at the end of my wedding day.  Andrew had to help; it was anchored to my head by six dozen bobbypins.  I felt relief.  I literally felt a weight lifted.  I had freedom to move my head and walk where I wanted without having to be mindful of the veil being caught on someone or something.

A greater freedom is our gift when we remove the veils that separate us and obscure us from our God.

Let the veils fall down.

Prayer: “Finish, then thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be.  Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee; changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”* Amen.

*”Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 384.

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Plot From The Plain: Known

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 6:43-45

This past week I had the privilege to attend a conference on clergy finances. I know – exhilarating topic – but it turned into a conference on clergy health as a whole – personal health, financial health, and spiritual health. Some of the information was new, some of the information was an expansion on knowledge garnered at other times, and some of the information was reiterations of previous lessons.

I admit – in one of the reiterations of previous lessons sessions I initially checked out. What was the subject of that session? Boundaries. I’ve been hearing about boundaries it seems like forever. Boundaries are not walls between myself and others. Boundaries are the means by which I am responsible for myself and accountable to others with whom I am in relationship. Boundaries keep me safe; they state was is acceptable behavior and what is not. Boundaries enable me to stay true and in awareness of my feelings, choices, limits, gifts, loves, and values. I am by no means perfect with boundaries, but as a Wesleyan I believe that I am going onto perfection. I am learning, I am growing, I am holding myself accountable, and I am being held accountable.

As I sat in the session on boundaries I felt the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit settle on my heart as the speaker shared from hers. The lessons that convicted me are these:

1. Setting boundaries and then letting them slip to the back of my mind or out of my mind completely is not acceptable. My boundaries must stay current and fresh in my mind. I must be aware of them at all times so that if my behavior walks too closely to the line or crosses the line I will know in that moment rather than in hindsight.

2. The specific aim of the session was to explore boundaries as it relates to technology – emails, text messages, tweets, status updates, picture uploads, pins, blogs and whatever else is out there as far as social media. The convicting question was this – is the self that you are portraying in and through these media your true self?

Wow.

And as that relates to our Scripture passage this week – is the self you are portraying in and through these media who you want to be known as? Is this self how you want to be known? I believe those are two different but correlative questions.

And again I say…wow.

There is so much that is lost in translation when we connect through technology – context, tone, inflection, sarcasm, emotion, and more. And then there is also so much that can be gained – boldness, passive aggression, outright anger, and more.

There are some things we say via technology that we would never say in person…there are somethings I have said via these electronic means that I would never say in person. I am not perfect, but I am going onto perfection.

When I say these things – is that how I want to be known? Do I want what I say through these forums to conflict with how I am known in person? Or do I want it to be a seamless transition from one to the other?

I don’t want to be a good tree in the flesh that produces rancid fruit experienced in electronic life.

The facilitator joked, “This is my boundary: if whatever I am about to post I would not say in person to my mother or to Jesus, then I will not post it.” The room laughed. I laughed. And then that Spirit of conviction became a Spirit of peace. Jesus knows all my thoughts – Jesus knows my heart on my brightest and on my gloomiest days. Jesus knows and Jesus redeems so that others will know and experience my heart, my true self, as Jesus does.

After this experience I don’t think I’ll be scoffing at reiterations of previous lessons anymore. God knew that I needed this lesson. It went straight to my heart. It led me to take a good long look in the mirror – some of it I liked and some of it God is continuing to work on, work in, and work out. God’s grace is in the boundaries. God’s redemption is in the boundaries.

I’ll be in the boundaries.

Prayer: “Come, all of you, come, bearers of burden, come forward, I will give you rest; don’t wait for long; all of you who are weary, come to me, the Christ Jesus The Lord of all, the Savior, King of humankind. Come, all of you, come trouble-minded, come forward, I will give you peace, the peaceful mind; all of you who are hungry, come to me, receive bread and the water of life, provided by Jesus your Lord.”* Amen.

*”Come, All of You,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 350.