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What Is a Veil Anyway? Reflections on Transfiguration Sunday

What has all this to do with 21st century folk? Allow me to play amateur psychologist for a moment; I realize the danger but I plunge ahead anyway. It is Moses' decision to employ the mask/veil after he has delivered YHWH's word to the people. They all hear God's word, but only then does Moses start to play his game with the mask. Once he realizes that his face is shining (remember he did not know that at first, vs. 29), he distances himself from the people, setting himself apart from them, taking for himself the power only he has received from YHWH. No longer will they be allowed to witness the physical manifestation of the power of YHWH in the glow of Moses' face; he will never again reveal that to them. Only when he alone speaks with YHWH will his mask come off. In short, Moses has become more than prophet to the people, far more than one of their leaders; he has become cult master, chief wizard, Israelite guru. He is unique, alone, singular, veiled in power, the sole arbitrator with the God of Israel.

And what about us, we pastors? Is this not a temptation for us? Do we too often set ourselves apart as cult master, as guru? When we come before our people, do we don our masks, hiding our real selves behind a supposed power only we possess, our unique and singular calls from God? And only when we are alone with God can our masks be removed, can we be who we really are. Remember that Moses will not be allowed entry into the land of promise with the people he has tried to lead.

We are told later that his leadership has been a flawed one in several ways. Might it be that this hiding behind his mask has removed him from genuine leadership, making him an elite one with God rather than a leader risen from those he leads?

There may be much to ponder here for those of us who have heard the call of our God to leadership. Where are our masks and when do we wear them?

2/3/2016 5:00:00 AM
John Holbert
About John Holbert
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.