Sermon, Lent 5B
Sunday March 25, 2012.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
“Glory”? As i thought about Jesus’ and his prayer to “glorify” God’s name, i started to thing about how we use that word, glory”. It struck me that we use it quite a lot. I guess we use the word when it comes to the weather – “what a glorious day” we say as we step out into the sunshine.
“Glory” can be used of lots of things we value. I catch myself singing, “O, what a glorious morning” riding along on my motorbike through the hills on a warm, calm summer morning”. “What a glorious piece of art that is”, we might say. ‘Food, glorious food!” the phrase goes.
I guess the word “glory” is about experiencing something great or even “other-worldly”. It is about something being revealed “in all its glory”. Like a flower unfolding in the sun and brightly displaying its full glory once hidden.; like a middle aged man wearing his tight black t-short driving his convertible red sport car down the main street and feeling 20 again; like a young mum of three little kids getting dressed up the nines for a lovely night out without the kids or the husband but with her old best girl friends, and also feeling 20 again!; like unwrapping your brand new iPhone and setting up your apps and social media!.
But what about God’s “glory”? We often pray about glory and sing about God’s glory too. “Glory be to God”, we sometimes sing with the help of Ludwig von Beethoven. What is God’s glory like? Can a human being see God’s glory?
Moses asked to see God’s glory once (Exodus 33:18). God said, “No”, and “Yes”. “Yes Moses, I will show you my glory because I want to be with you, but I won’t show you my glory in an uncovered way. You can see my back but you can’t see my face”. Why? “Because if I revealed my glory in a complete way, without some veil it would kill you”.
God’s glory unveiled is unable to be seen successfully by limited, incomplete sinful human beings.
“God, the blessed ruler, King of kings….who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, To him be honour and might forever…..” says Paul in 1 Timothy (1Timothy 6:16).
This is a problem for us human because we want to see and experience glorious things. From conquering our “Everest”, whatever that may be, to achieving a breakthrough in understanding and how good that feels, to the delight in pondering a masterpiece, to being lifted into the glory of God by a favourite song, we seek the glory of things – and even God’s glory in these things.
This is not surprising. Life has its inglorious days. There are dreary days, troubling days, painful days; grieving days. We human beings have our inglorious experience – aging, loss, sickness, conflict, worry, limitations, bad hair, no hair, bad skin ….. There is enough trouble without wallowing even more in these things by not seeking some glory to lighten our day. So we seek the glory of things, and we Christians who know God seek God’s glory in many things.
The problem with seeking the glory of things or even the glory of God in things is two-fold.
1. It is all us.
2. God has chosen to reveal his glory to us, but in only one way.
Glory seeking is all us. We are the ones seeking, doing, looking, trying to find God and glorious things on our own terms. When we find a glorious moment or thing, we so quickly consumed by it – and more to the point, trust in ourselves (at the expense of others too) for experiencing this glory.
All of us are capable of being like this little frog I read about….
The story is told of two ducks and a frog who lived happily together in a farm pond. The best of friends, the three would amuse themselves and play together in their waterhole. When the hot summer days came, however, the pond began to dry up, and soon it was evident they would have to move. This was no problem for the ducks, who could easily fly to another pond.
But the frog was stuck. So it was decided that they would put a stick in the bill of each duck that the frog could hang onto with his mouth as they flew to another pond. The plan worked well–so well, in fact, that as they were flying along a farmer looked up in admiration and mused, “Well, isn’t that a clever idea! I wonder who thought of it?” The frog said, “I did…”
Was it really his idea? Was he really right in claiming full credit for this clever and communal achievement and never mentioning his two duck friends, without whom he could not achieve a thing? Was the frog just seeking glory for himself at the expense of others? Probably.
We glory seekers need to be jarred out of our glory seeking by the king of glory. God has chosen to revealed to us his glorious kindness, acceptance, peace and power in one way – a veiled way.
God, in his magnificent mercy chooses to still reveal his glory, even more fully than he did to Moses. He reveals his glory in a covered way though – not for his sake, but for our sake.
Jesus is the glory of God in a way we can grasp and love and taste and see and be captured by often – by faith, not our endless seeking of glory. As Jesus finally says in our text, “the hour has come” for God’s Son to be “glorified” or fully revealed in all his love and compassion and power, he in the same breath speaks of his death, his being “lifted up” so that all people may live in God’s glorious love.
“Lifted up”. That means being lifted up on a dreadful instrument of oppression and pain – a wooden cross. This seems too inglorious to the person without faith in Jesus.
This is Jesus Way of glory. The cross is the throne room. The cross is the King’s high seat of glory! The cross is God’s veiled way of enabling us to share in his glory. None of us can stand on our own two feet before God’s glory. So God veils his glory in Jesus suffering and death AND in our suffering and dying.
Jesus’ glory is fully revealed only in the way of the cross AND in the crosses we have to bear, the suffering we have to go through. That is the stark message from Jesus as he prays that his Father would indeed glorify him – not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of those who are listening.
Jesus prays that we fully know him and understand him and grasp his love and compassion and strength and honour and power – not by endlessly relying on our own intellect or moral purity or wealth or influence over others or anything else we can manufacture, but only by simply marvelling and passively receiving his amazing grace to us both in the cross of Jesus and in the crosses we bear in his name.
What a gift this is – this glory hidden in human weakness. If God reveals his power and glory and might in my weakness and my painful days, then I am strong in him and I taste and see his glory in these things. I no longer need to escape his suffering or mine or yours, or avoiding the conflict up ahead or bypassing the hard stuff for the shiny tinsel kind of Hollywood glory, but simply receive the day as it comes and enter into my life and yours voluntarily and with complete trust in our heavenly Father to reveal the glory of his grace and love for me in these “weak, ordinary or foolish looking things.
This is unflinching Christianity, courageous Christianity. This is not success Christianity, Cross-less Christianity, painless Christianity. This is not Glory seeking Christianity, but glory receiving, faith-filled Christianity. It is real Christianity.
The magnificent grace and light and love of God are revealed fully and most accessibly in the seemingly ordinary. If it wasn’t we would be that little frog and take all the glory for ourselves. That is our way. That is our human problem.
Tell me where else you will find such life? Where will we find such undeserved and pure, glorious compassion in the places where we most need it? What other god enters your pain that you bear and in it, not despite it, shows you his true character of love and compassion and peace?
By faith in this divine man, we don’t shun his cross as we take stock of our life this Lent, but we glory in this man and this cross, as he is lifted up on it for us on our journey of faith and life with him. AMEN.