Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"In His Glory"--Sermon for Easter 7

“All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.”  St. John 17:10

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

“She was in her glory today.”  That’s what my father would say when he was describing my grandmother at a family reunion, carrying out the groaning platters, a baby cradled in one arm, beaming for all the world to see.  It’s how he described my brother that time the bases were loaded and he sent the ball over the left field wall.  I remember him teasing my mother, returning home from a day shopping with her friends.  There were a few more bags in the back seat than he had been expecting, and that’s what he said—“well, I can see you were in your glory today.”   I think it’s a rather old-fashioned expression these days, but we still know what it means.

To be one’s glory means to feel deep happiness, a sense of fulfillment.  We are in our glory when we are doing that thing we are truly made to do, when our distinctive talents are put to use, and others respond to us with respect and admiration.  We smile when we are in our glory.  A kind of light seems to shine from our faces. 

Our English phrase, “to be in one’s glory” probably has its roots in the Biblical concept of God’s glory, which His people come to share through grace.  The Old Testament speaks often of God’s glory, literally in Hebrew, “the weight” of His majesty and holiness.  The beauty of creation and God’s mighty acts of salvation proclaim His glory, showing just how great God is, how no other wisdom and power can be compared with His.  His glory filled the temple, and when His people rejoice in His goodness and love, they are giving glory to Him. 

 In the New Testament, Jesus talks often of glorifying the Father and being glorified by Him, especially in St. John’s Gospel.  This language is especially associated with His death, as He goes to the Cross confident in God’s will and certain that His great act of love will bear fruit.  Today’s Gospel reading is part of the great prayer at the Last Supper when He consecrates Himself for that work.  “Father, the hour has come;” He begins, “glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee.”  May what I do, He means, reveal your loving purpose for the world.  May it show your majesty and goodness.  May it be a source of joy, imparting eternal life. 

But as the prayer unfolds, Jesus asks that His followers would be included in His great act of glorifying God.  He says, “All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.”  Because we have fellowship with Jesus, and are bound together in one body with Him, we also give glory to Him.  We have a share in His joy and in His work that brings new life to the world and reveals God’s power, wisdom and love.  Jesus is in His glory through us, the Church. 

 But how do we do that?  It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t talk here about us doing things that the world would recognize as glorious and majestic.  He doesn’t say “I will be glorified in them when they build for me great towers that touch the heavens,” or when they number kings and billionaires among their company.  He doesn’t say that we will glorify Him in the thunderous sounds of organs and in ten foot canvases painted in brilliant color.  Of course, in the long story of the church we have shared in that kind of glory and in much more.  I think God has used many of the world’s great things for His purposes through the Church’s ministry.

 Here, though, Jesus speaks of much humbler things, things that are even more important.  They will give glory to me above all, He says, when they are one as the Father and the Son are one.  The unity and mutual love within the church is where God’s purposes are revealed.  When we break down the barriers the world uses to keep people apart and come to love and care deeply for each other, Christ is in His glory.  When we are patient with the difficult, and comfort the afflicted, then we reveal that God is doing something new and glorious among us. 

 His glory is also reflected, He says, in our steadfast faith, when we receive His word and confess it to be the truth.  Our Epistle lesson treats this at greater length, calling on the Church to believe in God’s testimony, that there is eternal life through His Son.  Jesus also speaks further of us being sent out as He was sent out.  We are sent, as He was sent to announce God’s kingdom in word and deed.  God is in His glory when we do His will, and reveal His truth to those who do not know Him.

 Today we gather for our annual parish meeting, and as I look over the past year, I see a time of growth in love and faithfulness.  This year has brought many changes to us.  We welcomed Father Matt and his family into our congregation.  We bade our organist, Craig Morrow, farewell, and after nearly six months of faithful service by Ron Johnson, we welcomed John Cannon as our new musician.   We have welcomed many new worshippers, and our Sunday attendance and giving have grown to reflect that change.  Father Matt’s arrival has allowed us to offer many new classes and fellowship programs.  We have especially expanded our outreach ministry, something I’ve prayed about for many years.  It’s been wonderful to share with so many of you in being sent out to do God’s will in ministering to prisoners at the jail, to the hungry at the Lord’s Table, and to our friends at Saint Timothy’s in Westford. 

All that change, all those new things, can easily create rivalry and disagreement in a well-established congregation like ours.  But I have seen very little of that.  What I’ve seen are people who are gracious in welcoming newcomers.  “This is the friendliest congregation I’ve ever been part of,” one of our new people told me.  Some of you who’ve been here for a few decades know that this wasn’t something people could always say about Christ Church.  We’ve become a more diverse congregation over the past year as well, and one that is more responsive to those in need.  We’ve pulled together to work at common tasks like repairing the Curate’s House, reorganizing the Flower Guild and Fellowship ministries, and improving our newcomer follow-up system.  We’re beginning to see so many different people assuming positions of leadership and responsibility, hearing a call from God and taking action.  That’s deeply encouraging, and it points to even more opportunities in the days ahead.

 I see us becoming one in new and exciting ways, deepening in our respect and love for each other.  I also see us many of us growing stronger in faith and in our ability to share the truth with about Christ with others.  It was great to have nearly fifty of you come and listen to Dr. Edgar’s words about apologetics last weekend, and most of the newcomers who have joined us have been invited by one of you.   I also see us being sent out as Christ was sent out, to heal, comfort and share what we have received. 

 There are certainly challenges ahead of us. I think we need to spend some time this summer reorganizing our ministries with family and children and to gather a larger team of leaders to help expand our youth program.  We want to continue to support our wonderful musicians, as John brings new ideas and skills to our program. 

But God has been very good to us, and it’s appropriate on this day, to give Him thanks and to celebrate what we have been together, through His grace.  I believe that Christ is truly in His glory in this life we share at Christ Church.  I pray that His glory will be revealed in new and exciting ways in the days to come.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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