Seventh Sunday of Easter, 5.24.20

How do you understand glory? We have a phrase, “covered in glory” and it describes someone’s achievements. We look at a hero of a basketball court like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and we know their achievements in scoring and spectacular plays. They make plays on the basketball court that seem impossible. When they score, they are covered in glory and their teams share and reflect in that glory.

We can also cover ourselves in glory when we hit our goals. There have been a lot of graduations lately, and though they are celebrated differently this year, still the graduates are covered In glory, and rightly so. They have achieved their goals: they have written the essays, turned in the assignments, passed their tests, came to classes, had good attendance, didn’t pull any pranks, and they got to graduate. Maybe not walk across the stage this year, but they too are covered in glory.

So how do we understand Jesus when he says,“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you”; and “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.” What kind of glory is Jesus talking about?

It’s different from the kinds of glory that we desire. Jesus’ kind of glory turns on doing God’s will. The Father and the Son are united in presenting God’s holy love to suffering humanity within a human setting. The previous chapters of John show what God’s love look like: God’s love looks like healing demon-infested people. Giving sight to the blind man. It looks like feeding 5000. It looks like raising the dead Lazarus to life.

What kind of glory have you experienced?

What sort of awards or recognition have you received?

Years ago, I once got a big deal award for something I had designed. It was thrilling to receive it. It just showed up on my work desk, I hadn’t applied for it. It was good for my portfolio, but after a while, I found myself asking myself, am I supposed to keep working for these awards? There was no pressure from the company to keep getting this award, but I had to wonder if I am supposed to be content only when I have a shelf full of awards? Then there is the question, how many awards are enough? At that point, winning awards felt like bondage.

The questions kept coming, am I only as good as my last award? Uh oh.  Hmmmm . . . this kind of glory is not an unmitigated joy.

Now in this gospel passage, the final act of Jesus’ love is about to occur –  when Jesus shows his love for us on the cross. We wonder – how can this be glory? It is certainly not glory as we understand it, when our egos get a tremendous boost, like when I won my award. Or when YOU receive the glory of getting an award, and you hang it on the wall or put on a shelf.

That’s the kind of glory we understand. We understand glory as triumph, as applause, even adulation. We yearn for this kind of glory to have the spotlight is on us. Yet it can even be a burden.

God’s glory is different. Jesus is speaking these words to his apostles at the Last Supper.  He is just hours away from when he will be betrayed, handed over to his torturers, and then the shame and brutality of the cross where he will die set between two criminals. The kind of glory Jesus is talking about here combines the ferocity and terror of the cross with God’s mercy, where God actively and fiercely loves us from the cross. In a matter of hours, after they leave the Passover supper, Jesus’ humanity will soon be on display in all its loneliness and isolation, to the point where he finally cries out in pain, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me.”

God-made-man agrees to take on all the tribulations that comes with being human: sorrowing, suffering, bleeding, dying, and loving us with his last bits of strength, NEVER defeated. He goes down loving us. He defeats evil and death by the counter-intuitive means of loving us. THAT is the glory he speaks of. This kind of glory combines God’s judgment AND mercy which comes to us through Christ’s cross. Jesus enters our human state, for keeps, beginning as a baby in a manger, and as God made man, Immanuel he goes into the River Jordan for baptism. When Satan appears in the desert, he asserts and retains a hold of his humanity against the temptations of Satan. Jesus doesn’t resort to changing stones into bread. He doesn’t call on angels to help him do magic tricks. Jesus has a firm grip on his humanity throughout, SHARING with us our pains and humiliations. This identification with suffering humanity has continued to this moment when he feels the hot breath of the Enemy on his neck. Jesus knows the forces of evil are gathering, and about to take him captive.

Yet he still calls this moment his glory. He stands firm against the tactics of Evil. God’s LOVE is going to be shown on the cross. I’m not even talking about the resurrection; Jesus’ glory is centered here on the cross. How far does his love go? As far as it will take him.It doesn’t LOOK like glory. It in fact looks like defeat. Jesus dying on the cross looks a lot like the forces of evil have won. That death is the ultimate winner. Again.

Yet on the cross we see Jesus embracing us, GOD embracing all of humanity in a passionate embrace once and for all and into eternity. This GLORY is Jesus saying a constant yes to God the Father to continue to embrace us suffering humans.

As it says in Philippians, Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,  did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.” This is the glory Jesus talks about and which he takes on OUR behalf.

David Lose the theologian says, “Jesus’ cross and resurrection testify not merely to human weakness and divine sovereignty but to God’s complete embrace of our weakness out of love. In Christ . . . God chooses to give up divine sovereignty in order to privilege empathy, identification, and solidarity, all out of love. This is the “sacrifice” Jesus makes – not a blood offering to an angry and just God – but the sacrifice of divine right and power in order to communicate God’s profound, limitless, and life-giving love for God’s children.”[1]

There is an OCEAN of Love that Jesus and the Father and the Spirit have set in motion from the cross, the resurrection and ascension and all to catch us up and to EMBRACE us, RENEW us and RESTORE us. By EMBRACING our weakness out of love, Jesus outsmarts, and outwits and defeats evil. You can count on that the Evil One would never wrap its head around GOD, the Supreme Being, Creator of heaven and earth, embracing our humanity – and going all the way – taking it all the way to the cross.

After all – look at us –we’re made of dirt! We’re earth creatures, made by hand in the Garden of Eden. Why would the Almighty God STOOP to become a dirt creature? And embrace the fate of dirt creatures that comes to all of us – to return to dirt?

EVIL cannot penetrate LOVE. EVIL can NEVER understand LOVE. Remember the first chapter of John, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The darkness could not GRASP it.

What in your life gives God glory?

We may want to ponder the words of the hymn, “What kind of love is this, O my soul, O my soul? What kind of love is this, O my soul?”

Where is God’s glory in the midst of a pandemic? Can we see it? Can we find it? David Lose says: “ – [some] Christian leaders assert their rights to gather; there is a divide over who wears a mask, we’re guarding the larger community against a resurgence of the virus and the physical, economic, and psychological toll that would take. We might remember that Jesus urged us to seek glory not through self-assertion but through sacrifice . . . We find freedom in making sacrifices for others” [2]

When we put on our mask, we make a sacrifice to wear our mask for others, to keep them safe.

In this time of pandemic, what other ways can we seek glory through sacrifice?

I thank you Lord that you continue to live among us, to give us a share in your glory. Let us not squander the time we’ve been given, so that we may surrender to your holy will and have eternal life, NOW. Let us be mindful of others when we go out, to put on our masks as a way to show we care and give God glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[1] David Lose.

[2] Ibid.