Midweek 6 – 2019 LSB #’s 437, 606
Text – 1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
The purpose of a veil is to hide or to obscure, so that what’s behind the veil can be seen only dimly or not at all. In Scripture, the veil symbolizes that many things in life cannot & will not be fully understood. During Lent we stand before the great atoning act of Christ on the cross, but we can never fully understand what He did for us there.
All we can do this side of eternity is receive His salvation with faith & gratitude. The Lenten veil symbolizes this, & has its scriptural basis in the book of Exodus. There, Moses has been on top of Mount Sinai & the Bible says his face was radiant after being in the presence of God. The people of Israel had to be shielded from that radiance, so Moses wore a veil.
For the same reason, in the temple at Jerusalem a veil was placed between the sanctuary & the Holy of Holies. Only the Chief priest could enter, & only one day a year, on the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. The Holy of Holies was too sacred for others even to look at.
In the Medieval church, a common practice during Lent was to put up a veil between the chancel & the nave. It was to symbolize the enormity of our sin separating us from the holy God, just like the veil in the temple. Today some churches place a veil or a drape over the cross during Lent to symbolize that Christ’s sacrifice is also too glorious for others to look at.
We traditionally place a veil over the vessels for Holy Communion while they are on the altar. The glory of that cup of blessing is shielded from our eyes. In humility, we recognize that there are mysteries of God we can view only dimly. Thus, the veil expresses the whole spirit of the Lenten season. We humbly stand before the great mystery of our redemption, reduced to silence. The atmosphere of Lent used to be somber. Traditionally, Christians would not take part in frivolous celebrations. There’d be no weddings & no drinking. The liturgy would be more spoken than sung. The subdued, somber colors of purple or black were in the chancel.
The veil symbolizes that there’s a proper sense of humility, reticence & awe in our Christian life. We are not God. We’re not in paradise, & there’s still much that is a mystery. In the sermon text St. Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
No doubt St. Paul used the illustration of a mirror, because Corinth was well known in that day for making them. Perhaps we can use the illustration of a one-way mirror. It’s the kind that used to be in the meat section of the grocery store. Someone could see you, but you only saw a reflection. That’s how some veils work.
From behind the veil a woman can see everything, but from the outer side all is dark or dim. That’s what the veil expresses to us. Now we live by faith; we’re on the outside of the veil. Life is somber here, compared to heaven. We can’t imagine “the glory that’ll be revealed in us.” Now we can’t understand why things happen the way they do, but we don’t need to.
God fully understands. Our Father sees where we’re going & is guiding the future, even our future. He sees the ploys of Satan to lead us astray, but Jesus has already written our names in the book of life. There’s no need to be afraid. Problems arise when we look into that one-way mirror & think we see God.
In truth, we see our own reflection. We think God is like us – that He thinks & feels & reacts like we do. That’s why the Scriptures plead with us: “Let the wicked turn to the Lord, & He will have mercy on him, & to our God, for He will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways & My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7-9 NIV) We are not able to forgive & forget as God does. That’s why He’s given us the cross to look at. There, we see the Savior’s love in all its clarity. He went there for you. You can trust His love & forgiveness.
Yet, some people think that because they can’t forgive themselves, God can’t either. But Jesus died for you, whether or not you feel forgiven. Your sins are gone. Forgiveness is an act of God from His goodness & mercy in Jesus Christ. That act of God is finished; it’s completed.
A young mother, who’d had an abortion as a teenager, once came to her pastor. She said she knew God had promised to forgive her, but she didn’t feel forgiven. The Pastor told her that her feelings had nothing to do with the reality. For example, a married person is married whether they feel that way or not.
Whether you feel God has forgiven you or not, He has. His Son has died. Your sins are erased. We see & feel only this side of the veil. We see only our own reflection. From the other side, God sees us holy, pure & spotless, washed clean in the blood of His Son.
That’s how you really are. Your heavenly Father has heard your plea for mercy & has freely pardoned you because of Christ. God promised through His prophet Jeremiah: “I will forgive their wickedness & will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah was looking ahead to a day when God would put His teaching into the minds of His people & write it upon their hearts.
We are now living in that day albeit dimly, & when heaven arrives we will be living it fully. So what is the worry on your heart right now? Is it your guilt? Is it your children, your marriage, your future, your health, your work? Lent calls you to look at the cross &, in humility, trust in your Lord’s love & in His promises for your life.
From this side of the veil everything may appear dim & dark, somber & uncertain.
The Devil reaches down to hurt God by hurting us, as he did to Eve, to Job, & to Judas. We see the chaos of the cosmic battle going on between God & Satan, & we ask why is this happening? Where will it lead? What good can possibly come from it? But there is the other side of the veil, the one that God sees & knows. From there He sends you His certain promises.
One day we’ll get to that side, & there we’ll see how it all fit together. Now we see only the underside of the weaving. So we need to be reminded, “…our struggle is not against flesh & blood, but… against the powers of this dark world & against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
We’re like the little child who can’t understand why his father suddenly yanks him by the arm. We have no idea of the danger we’re in. We just shout in anger & hurt & ignorance while on the other side of the woven cloth, the pattern & purpose are clear.
Through the cross, God is working to clothe us with His full armor so that we may be able to withstand the battle. Through the death of His only begotten Son, our heavenly Father is working to protect & guide & save us.
During Lent we celebrate in faith, even on this side of the veil as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Declares the Lord, “I will be your God & you shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33b) The day is coming when we will fully understand the love that our Lord & Savior has for us. May our heavenly Father speed the coming of that day. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet