15 February 20242 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (v. 17)
When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the tablets of stone with the commandments, his face was shining, because he had been in the presence of God. The solution was to wear a veil. The veil was apparently not to protect the people from the glow of his face, but to preserve Moses’ dignity as the glow faded. You can read more about this curious incident in Exodus 34.
Veils came to take a prominent role in the developing story of faith. The Ark of the Covenant, which contained those commandment stones, was hidden behind a veil in the Temple. Later, when the Temple was rebuilt following the exile in Babylon, the Ark had gone, but the veil protecting the empty Holy of Holies remained.
In Paul’s mind a veil is a pivotal incident in the crucifixion story. Matthew’s gospel tells us (Matthew 27:51) that at the moment Jesus died, the Temple veil split in two. For Paul, this is deeply symbolic. Whereas previously, only a single privileged man was ever able to enter the presence of God, and only once a year with the right sacrifice, now access to God is available for all because Jesus’ crucifixion somehow made it possible. What’s more, the Holy Spirit of God is now with us and among us – the glory of God is not contained in a Temple, but is found wherever God’s people are. No wonder Paul can’t contain himself, and no wonder he gets frustrated with the Corinthians when they start to bicker over the details of what Christians are allowed, or not allowed to do!
Now there is freedom – God’s freedom – and we live in that freedom. It’s the freedom of the Spirit – not the sort of freedom where anything goes, but the freedom to live as God intended us to live from the beginning. It's the sort of freedom where God’s grace flourishes. Expect to find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And when a church lives in that sort of freedom, don’t be surprised that it grows – people find it irresistible.
- Jesus Christ has set us free. Many of us feel anything but free as we struggle daily with all kinds of pressures. What is the biggest worry on your mind now? Bring it to God in prayer, knowing that the Holy Spirit is with you, guiding, strengthening and encouraging you.
- For many Christians worldwide, the freedom they know in Christ is matched by oppression and persecution. Their lives are anything but free. Spend a little time finding out about the persecuted church and pray for them, perhaps each day of Lent.
God of freedom, we worship you. In a world where freedom means so many different things, and so many are deprived of freedom, we thank you for the freedom your Holy Spirit brings. As we pray for those who lack basic freedoms, we pray that those of us who are privileged to enjoy freedom may do all we can to seek justice and peace. Amen.