On the Wings of Glory

A bulletin/order of worship for this sermon can be found here: Bulletin-05-21-2023 Easter 7 YA

Scripture References: John 17: 1-11

Once again adapting the poetic prose of Ted Loder, let us pray:

“[Divine Love], we believe our lives are touched by you; that you want something for us and of us. Please give us ears to hear you, eyes to see the tracing of your finger, and a heart quickened by the motions of your Spirit.”[1] May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

“On this last Sunday of the Easter season, we look both backward and forward.”[2] While we didn’t follow the revised common lectionary too closely through our “Emerge!” Easter season curriculum, if we had, we would have heard more stories about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples as well as,

“…received hints of the coming of the promised Paraclete. Next week, we will celebrate the birth of the new church, exploding into mission with the gifts of the Spirit. Today, we pause for a moment to [reflect on] the prayer Jesus prayed for his disciples, a prayer we claim as his prayer for us.”[3]

Glory – what exactly does it mean to understand divine glory?  The word used here, doxason in Greek, is the verb form of the word, doxa, meaning glory – so as a verb it means ascribe glory to.  Jesus prays out loud, “glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you….”  We are usually more familiar with the other noun form of this word, signifying a song we sing to some form of the Trinity after every offering – the Doxology; “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” What, exactly, is glory?  How is glory ascribed? Let me try to bring it down to earth.

We might catch glimpses of glory now and again: when a newly emerged butterfly rests while fanning its wings into form.  When the full wings are unfolded, their new-found colors sparkle with new life and that is a moment of glory.

We might understand glory when we walk along the beach and watch the waves roll in with the sunset lowering into its horizon, painting color across the wide expanse of the sky.  That can be a moment of glory.

We may return home after a business trip or absence from family and be embraced into arms that have missed us and love us with an incredible aching love – that may feel like a moment of glory.

But how much beyond our own imaginings is this glory that Jesus is speaking of?  The Greek word, doxa, has almost the same meanings as the Hebrew word, kabod.  It can mean weight, repute, fame.  It can be transactional, for example when people and performer or leader together engender the phenomenon of heightened unity and mutual empowerment.  Glory can be signified more stately with ceremonies, vestments, forms of utterances – but all of these group experiences are also identified through the science of sociology as moments of “social effervescence.”[4]

None of that makes much sense to me when placed in context of this prayer and what is about to happen to Jesus.  In John’s gospel, if we attempt to put its events in time-line order, this prayer physically takes place before he ever gets to Jerusalem and his Passion, death, and resurrection.  So is Jesus speaking about “glory” as embodying all of those elements, too?  His rejection? His suffering?  His physical death on the cross?  The silence of the tomb?

One commentator put it this way:

“Glory…must be understood within the cruciform logic of “God is Love. …All relations, actions, and meditations find their norm and full extent in love.”[5]

Now for a pastoral confession: today’s passage in the Gospel of John has troubled me just a bit because of its placement.  Jesus says, in verse 11, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Abba, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (17:11), seems to me as if it would fit better as the blessing we find mentioned in Luke chapter 24, verses 50-53, just before Jesus’ Ascension, which says,

“Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:50-53).

The question of glory – and glorification – in this context is about a major transition in the life of the early followers of Jesus. It marks the end of Jesus as they knew him and the beginning of what they will become as Christ’s hands and feet in the world without him.

Let us not forget that for this congregation, our contemporary context is also currently a time of transition; a time of discernment for who and what you are as a community of worship and practice. It is a time between pastors and a time to discern your future direction for ministry efforts in this specific community and identifying the pastoral leadership you want to come along side you as you move forward. Commentator Linda Lee Clader writes,

“When Jesus prays that his followers may be one as he and the Father are one, he is praying all of us into this mystery too. Not just that we should each become one with God, or one with Christ, but that we should become one with each other in the way Jesus and the Father are one.

In some ways, the first part of that mystery is the easy part. We all have our ways to grow in our oneness with God. We may ground our own growth in corporate worship. We may follow a spiritual discipline of private prayer, study, and service in God’s name. We may dedicate ourselves to a particular ministry in a cause of justice, or healing, or pastoral presence. No matter which path we follow toward oneness with God, the Holy Spirit can act in our lives to draw us closer, and to reveal to us the presence of God that is already nearer to us than our own heartbeats. We have only to open our eyes and our ears, and remain willing to receive and respond” (emphasis added).[6]

“It is just possible that this is what Christian unity looks like—a body, as Paul said, with many parts, a dance with many dancers, a song with many voices. … Yes, there is struggle, but there is also glory.”[7]

In this time of transition, it really is up to us to open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear, unfurl our wings to fly, and lift up the needs of this community as well as the community in which we live, becoming the hands and feet of Christ. How can we not? After all, Christ has already included us in his prayer.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ.  Amen?  May it be so.

[1] Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace (Philadelphia, Innisfree Press,1984) p. 29; quoted from Ruth Haley Barton’s third chapter closing prayer in Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice For Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012).

[2] Linda Lee Clader, “Homiletical Perspective, John 17:1-11” in Feasting on the Word, Year A (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Larry D. Bouchard, “Theological Perspective, John 17:1-11” in Feasting on the Word, Year A (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Linda Lee Clader, “Homiletical Perspective, John 17:1-11” in Feasting on the Word, Year A (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[7] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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