Posted by: dacalu | 11 February 2018

The Glory of God

This morning, I had the pleasure of worshiping with the people of St. Stephen’s, Laurelhurst for the last Sunday in Epiphany – celebrating Transfiguration.  Here is the sermon I shared.

 

Prayer for the Day

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Readings

2 Kings 2:1-12 (Elisha watches Elijah carried to heaven in a chariot of fire)

Psalm 50:1-6 (“Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.”)

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”)

Mark 9:2-9 (The Transfiguration)

 

Sermon


What should we do when we see God?
We have this person Jesus,
	beloved Son of God,
	God from God, light from light, true God from true God.
Jesus is both God and approachable.

And yet there are moments, rare moments, when we see the glory of God.
The Old Testament is somewhat ambivalent about this.
In places we hear that no-one can survive seeing God face to face.
	The fullness of God's glory is too much for us to handle.
Other passages suggest that Moses saw God face to face on Mount Sinai,
	and returned glowing so brightly he had to wear a veil.
Apparently, God is radioactive,
	and so are those who come too close to God's glory.

So, Jesus was something quite remarkable,
	both fully God and fully human.
Jesus is approachable.
And yet here we have this moment,
	this strange interlude on another mountaintop,
	when the glory of God is visible,
	in the face of Jesus.
For the first time, the disciples see Jesus in context,
	shining like the Sun,
	with Moses on one side and Elijah on the other.
Moses and Elijah, the two people
	who had seen God close up.
Moses and Elijah had power.
The context of Jesus is this intense power
	flowing from God into the world.


We face a strange dilemma as humans.
We want knowledge and power,
	but we resist learning and empowerment.
In the abstract, it sounds nice to know.
	In practice, it requires learning that we were wrong.
	Knowledge cannot be simply passed from one person to another.
	We must fight for it.
	We must seek out knowledge and find it.
	We must find a place within ourselves to keep it.
	And often that means replacing something else.
	Knowledge is hard.

In the abstract it sounds nice to have power.
	We want control over our surroundings, 
over our neighbors, 
over ourselves.
	We want our wills to work in the world
		and, we hope, to make it a better place.
	In practice, power comes from power.
	It is true in faith as it is in physics.
		Nothing comes from nothing.
	We cannot gain power without getting it from somewhere.
	We must encounter power in others,
		before we can have it ourselves.
	We must become empty,
		so that God's power can flow through us.

And so, we face this choice.
Do we seek out God, knowing that God will empower us?
	Or do we hide?

Elisha makes this incredibly brave choice 
when he follows his teacher
into the presence of God.
"Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!"
I'm not sure, but I think he's swearing.
How many of us have been brave enough 
to sit vigil with someone who is dying,
to walk with them to the very edge of life?
It is a profound experience.
It comes with knowledge and power.
Elisha walks to the very edge of life with his father and mentor,
	and watches God take him up.
Elisha makes this incredibly brave choice 
when he asks for a double share of Elijah's spirit.
 
To be filled with God's glory is a difficult thing.
The last line from today's epistle 
is just the beginning of an admonition about power and glory.
'For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," 
who has shone in our hearts 
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ.'
	It continues.
 'But we have this treasure in clay jars, 
so that it may be made clear 
that this extraordinary power belongs to God 
and does not come from us.'

To ask for knowledge
is to ask for a task in the world.
To ask for power
	is to ask for responsibility.
To ask for spirit and glory
	is to ask to represent God in the world.

Don't get me wrong,
	it is the best thing we can do with our time.
It is light and life and joy.
It is also trouble, with a capital T.
It means changing ourselves
	and changing others.
It means work.
 
And so we have this interlude.
On the last Sunday before Lent,
	we recall the glory of God,
	manifest in Jesus.
We recall our strange and wonderful ability 
to see God face to face in Jesus.
We recall the glory we are called to and the hope that is ours,
	that under the dirt and over the water and through the fire,
	the world is glorious.
God loves us:
	In Jesus,
	In water and wine,
	In wind and storm,
	In church and society.
God makes us glorious and wonderful and filled with light.

We are the ones that veil our faces.
We are the ones that shy away from the mountain.
We are the ones who refuse to look
	deeply into the face of God,
	shining from one another.

God wants more for us.

In Lent we prepare for the great unveiling,
	the vision of God,
	which we cannot yet bring ourselves to ask for,
	yet desperately need.

The church year gives us a signpost
"Transfiguration. No glory for the next 48 days."
	We will fast from Alleluias, take on disciplines, give up treats,
	all so that we can be closer to God.
All so that we will be ready to see him face to face,
	when he rises from the grave.


For now, take stock.
In the last few days before Ash Wednesday,
	I invite you to do the hard work of looking for God's glory.
Where do you see God breaking into the world?
Who's face shines with the radiance of grace?
And, perhaps most importantly, 
what can we do stop ourselves from covering it up?


It's easy to let glory pass us by.
It's easy to say that it was just emotion,
	or imagination,
	or a trick of the light.
It's easy to pretend that glory doesn't matter -
	the true glory of seeing someone face to face,
	the true glory of being seen,
	the glory of God.
It's easy to pretend that we only encounter God
	rarely, on the mountain top.

But the message of Christ is that the glory of God is everywhere.
It hides behind human faces.
It lurks in the wilderness.
It abides in the city.
It rests in our hearts.

There will come a time to share that glory.
There is a time to speak,
	indeed to sing about the love of God.
There is a time to shine forth,
	but first there is a time to see, 
	to look and listen,
	to hear the voice of God.

In the words of the psalm,
	"Be still, and know that I am God."
We want to know and do and change,
	but first this,
	this moment of contemplation.
We want to go forth,
	we want to fix,
	we want to make,
	but first this.

Close your eyes for a moment and listen.

(wait 30 seconds)
 
That is the Transfiguration:
	the still in the storm,
	the eternal now that precedes every future.
We do not need to wait for God;
	God already is.
We need to wait for ourselves.
We need to give ourselves a chance,
	to truly absorb the glory of God.

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