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3 & 4 September 2022 (Pastoral Page) MASK OFF

By Mr Timothy Lee

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

2 Corinthians 3:16

This weekend marks the first time since April 2020 that we are not required to wear a mask in church.

It has been a long 28 months. We restarted our services a few weeks after the end of the circuit breaker measures with the Holy Communion Services. Each service then had a capacity cap of 50 people. Singing was not allowed, and we needed to sit one meter apart even if we were with our family members. We needed to leave immediately after service and no mingling was allowed among worshippers. There were designated entry and exit points, and the disinfection of the Sanctuary was needed before and after each service. Do you still remember those times?

In a service held on 6 September 2020, I shared from 2 Cor. 3:12-18. In this passage, Paul mentions a different form of mask: a veil (2 Cor. 3:16). After Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was radiant and the Israelites were afraid to come near him (Exod. 34:30). He thus put a veil over his face after speaking to the Israelites (Exod. 34:33). Paul explains that the real purpose of this veil was not to cover the radiance on Moses’ face, but to hide the diminishing glory on his face. Moses' radiance came from his time with God and would gradually fade as Moses left His presence. The veil prevented the Israelites from seeing this fading brightness (2 Cor. 3:7, 13). The glory was temporary.

Paul contrasted the fleeting glory revealed by the Old Covenant with Israel with the far greater glory of the New Covenant revealed by Christ (2 Cor. 3:8-11). The Old Covenant reveals the sinfulness of man and inability to do what is right before God, and it acts as a veil (barrier) to those who read it (2 Cor. 3:14a) and a hindrance to those who do not believe. (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

While some of us may still wish to leave our physical masks on in church, this passage reminds us that we are all mask-off (veil removed) in Christ. Just like the curtain in the temple that separated the priests from God’s holy presence was “torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38) on Good Friday, symbolizing our direct access to God through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, in Christ, the veil over our hearts that prevents us from experiencing God’s love is removed (2 Cor. 3:14b) for anyone who turns in faith to Him (2 Cor. 3:16). And through the Holy Spirit, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).

As 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Because we come to God in Christ, who is perfect and sinless, we can be bold (2 Cor. 3:12). Christ removed the veil that conceals God’s transformative glory. We can come into God’s presence and experience Him as our true, living personal God. We, who are in Christ, now have unveiled hearts that are open to God’s glory. And in contemplating the Lord’s glory, He will transform us into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18). We reflect the glory of God when we behold Jesus. Moses’ radiance was a fading glory, but our glow is everlasting!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I believe we would not want to go back to those days of living with restrictions and in isolation. Likewise, we would not want to go back to the days where we living in isolation from God. So let us “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

What is isolating you from God and restricting you from becoming more like our Lord Jesus Christ and being transformed into His image?

Let us spend more time in God’s presence, contemplate Him through the reading of His Word which reveals His glory in Christ. May your life reflect Christ and His Spirit transform you into His image with ever-increasing glory!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

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