The Hope of Glory
THE HOPE OF GLORY
The Glory of God is all around us but I am convinced that we take God’s Glory for granted. I was reminded of this dynamic of not seeing God’s Glory when I was Camp Counselor at Camp Massanetta in the early 2000’s. If you have ever been a Camp Counselor you know that often you have international counselors who spend the summer working in the states. I remember one summer we had a counselor from Australia. And she was always excited when she saw a deer in the woods. The first time she saw a deer she was like, “crikey that’s a deer!!!” And I sort of thought to myself, “what is all the excitement about it’s just a deer.” But in Australia they don’t have deer. So I guess if you only saw pictures of deer in books you would be excited to see a live deer. The deer was glorious to her because she didn’t take it for granted. Likewise, Australians take the glory of Kangaroos for granted, even though tourist think they are pretty amazing, because Australians see Kangaroos all the time. But to God both the deer and the Kangaroo are glorious because he made them both. He made all the creatures of the Earth and placed human beings as stewards over the Earth.
As Psalm 24, our call to worship today declares, “ The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. “ The good news today is the Glory of God, God’s handiwork, is all around us. But there is even better, amazing, astounding, mysterious, glorious news today. The Glorious news today is this.
When we behold the LORD’s Glory we will rejoice in our sufferings.
God’s Glory is essentially when God makes known to us the wonderous nature of himself, His all sufficient and perfect Character. Now that we have a working definition of Glory how do we see God’s glory at work in our lives? God reveals His Glory to us in four primary ways.
- In Creation
- In Scripture
- In His revealed or manifest presence
- In Rejoicing in our Suffering.
First, the most obvious way God reveals his Glory is in his Creation which surrounds us. We just tend not to see this everyday Glory because we have become so used to it. In reflecting on God’s Glorious provision Jesus compares the lilies of the field to Solomon’s Temple, one of the Greatest structures ever built in Israel. Jesus tells us in Matthew, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” ( Matthew 6:38-30). There is a greater Glory in the grass under our feet than in Solomon’s magnificent Temple. We just take it for granted.
Second, while creation gives us some intuition that there might be a creator, we as Christians believe that God gave us the Bible to reveal to us the character of the One Triune God. As 2 Timothy 3:16-19 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a]may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” However, believing that the Bible is God’s revealed Word doesn’t relieve us of the problem of how we interpret the Bible for our everyday lives. One passage that I find helpful is Romans 12:1-8 which reads, “ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
What this scripture suggests to us is the importance of study and asking questions. The importance of using our reasoning, informed by knowledge of the Bible, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to work out how to apply the scriptures and know God’s Will for our lives. This is more than just playing Bible roulette where you turn to a random page of the Bible, place your finger on a particular verse, and decide that is God’s answer for the pressing questions in your life. That is a bad idea by the way. Instead, it is coming to the Bible genuinely wanting to know God’s Will, wanting to know His Glory, being open to learn new things, being willing to be led by the Spirit that hovered over the face of the deep. More than just memorization of the Bible this requires falling in love with the Word of God. And I am glad to say, that here at Calvin, we have three Adult Sunday School’s that are in love with exploring the Word of God. Each has a different character. But all are a good ways to get deeper into the Word of God. Previous experience in the Bible is not required. Only a hunger to know the depths of the Glory of His Word. If you are interested in learning more please come talk to me at some point.
Sometimes God reveals His Glory in more obvious ways. This is what we would called the revealed or manifest presence of God. We see this happening in 1 Kings 8:11 and 2 Chronicles 5:14. In the version of Chronicles the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments, is brought into Solomon’s Temple, which Jesus tells us is less glorious than a flower. All of God’s people, despite their divisions, lift up their voices in praises. The people declared with one voice that the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” They sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they could not be numbered. And the scriptures tell us that the Glory of the Lord descended like a dark cloud, and the priests were unable to minister in the Temple because of the Cloud.
For a long time I thought the priests couldn’t minister because the cloud was dark and they couldn’t see. But the 1 Kings version of this text is a little more clear as to the reason. The text tells us that it wasn’t that the priests couldn’t see, it was because they could not stand, they could not get out of their seats, because of the Glory of the Lord. Indeed, the Hebrew Word for Glory most literally translates as weight. God made himself so real that people were weighed down in their seats and could not get up.
While this story may sound strange and unbelievable to us, the Apostle Paul tells us we have a greater Glory in Christ. That as much Glory he filled in the Temple he filled his fullness in Jesus Christ, and when we come to believe in Him His Glory lives in us. There is more Glory in a blade of grass than in an aircraft carrier. But there is more Glory in us then there is in all of the universe because the one who’s Spirit hovered over the face of the deep lives in us.
Finally, when we behold the LORD’s Glory, in creation, in the scriptures, and in ourselves, we will come to rejoice in our sufferings. In our verse from Colossians today Paul says something rather strange, that he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings. Commentators suggests, that this is not because Christ’s work on the cross was not sufficient for our salvation. Instead, what is lacking in Christ’s suffering is that not everyone knows about the Glory in Christ’s sufferings. Jesus was crucified and was raised from the dead in one of the most isolated and backwater places on Earth so people had to spread Word that the King of Glory had Risen! And in the process of witnessing to the Hope of Glory Jesus says that we will face trials and tribulations. But as the Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians we do not suffer as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Perhaps you have family members today, perhaps you have family members today, who are suffering without hope, where your spirit is being crushed by what you are going through. But we believe our hope got up out of the tomb. We believe that because Christ is Risen our hope is real, and that one day our Lord will use our suffering to give others hope. Christians rejoice in suffering, not because we like suffering, but because God gives us the strength to suffer with hope, that others may know the weight of our hope, the reality of our hope. The crazy thing is that God doesn’t want a sacrifice of animals. He wants a living sacrifice. And the thing about a living sacrifice is it can climb off the Altar. God doesn’t want our time, talent, and treasure. God wants our hearts, our Will, to behold and remain in His Glory. And when we see the Glory of the Lord we will give our time, talent, and treasure.
I was reminded of beholding the LORD’s glory in creation, scripture, and in us, by the passing of my friend, and the friend of many of you, Irene Irdei.
Irene Irdei went to see the LORD in Glory on February 5th, 2018 of this year. I did her funeral recently. When I visited Irene it was always a pleasure. Her apartment was full of arts and crafts, quilts that she knit together in love, and of course candy. Though I went to encourage her I left encouraged in my Spirit.
I have never met someone who suffered so much with such a genuine smile as Irene did. In her life and ministry Irene faced her fair share of storms and tragedies. In 1982 she lost her beloved husband Edward to a wave that washed him overboard while he was away at sea. Then she lost her twin sister Arlene to cancer. Finally, Irene herself was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She fought the cancer for ten years, far longer than any of the Doctors expected she would.
Irene’s Son, called me on Friday, February 2nd to let me know that Irene had taken a turn for the worst on Wednesday of that week and that her time was short. I was surprised because I had talked with her by phone the week before and she still seemed as cheerful as always. I went over to her apartment and just sat next to her and held her hand as I prayed. Then the Lord spoke into my Spirit and he said, “All is Not Lost.”
I was reminded of Paul’s journey in Acts 27 Paul is on a ship at sea that caught in an awful storm that went on for days on end. After many days in this tempest the crew came to believe that all was lost. But Paul declared that All was Not Lost and that they would be saved. And they were.
I believe that the LORD’s Glory is everywhere, if we don’t take it for granted, if we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the hearts to believe. It is my practice, when someone dies, to interview the families and try to form a message specific to them, a message that will honor them, and Glorify God. Because Jesus is the author of Life, I believe there is Glory in all our lives we just have to look for it.
As Irene’s children told me about their mother who they loved so deeply I discerned by the renewal of my mind how the events of Irene’s life connected to the Word of God. Hearing the loss of her husband, reminded me of Paul’s journey. The family requested that the Bruce Springsteen Classic, “Mary Don’t you weep,” be played at the end of the funeral. The tells the realization of Mary Magdeline’s realization that grave robbers had not robbed the tomb of her beloved teacher Jesus, but in fact he was Risen. He came to her and she recognized Jesus when he called her by her name, Mary!
It also tells the story of Miriam, Moses’ sister, as she rejoiced as Pharoh’s army, being washed away in the Red sea as they tried to pursue God’s people into the promised land. The song is about God’s Glorious defeat of death itself. The family also showed me a picture of Irene in her wheel chair, holding an AR-15. I have never seen someone look so welcoming holding a deadly weapon, but Irene made it work. I saw in these common, earthly, created objects, the Glory of the Lord. And I felt a vision of Glory for Irene rising up in my Spirit through these created things. And this is what I said,
“While today is a loss for us it is not a loss for Irene. The waters have parted and the storm has ceased and she stands on the rock that cannot be moved on the further shore. She stands with Edward, she stands with Arlene, she stands with her Lord on a further shore with her AR-15 in her hand laughing and celebrating with her Lord in victory as all her sorrows are drowned in the sea. And she declares those ancient words, “Oh Death where is your victory, Oh Death where is your sting!” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
And as I said those words it was as if I saw Irene, in My Spirit, in Glory, Standing on the Rock of Christ on the further shore, the waves breaking around her, raising her rifle in the air, shouting with all her might, in victory, for death had lost its sting. The image is forever burned into my mind, my spirit, my soul. It is the most wonderful thing the LORD has ever shown me. I saw Irene’s hope made manifest. Christ within her, the hope of Glory, in her everyday life. When I saw how my friend Irene suffered with hope it convicted me to endure my struggles with hope.
Lord show us your Glory!His Glory is all around us, within us, flowing through us, to redeem this broken world, and our hearts, cry out, you are worthy, worthy, of praise, King of Glory, we open our gates and welcome you in. Who shall ascend the Hill of the LORD? We shall, we who have Christ within us. We declare in faith that even in our suffering God is not silent. And even if he were silent, our lives would bear witness to him. Our lives would bear witness to our hope, the Hope of Glory.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.