Epiphany 2 C 2010

Reflecting on things past the other day,

I was struck by how insistent I can be when it comes to glory.

I pray to “glorious…God”, I seek to help you see glory in the ordinary things –

to be ready to encounter glory in the everyday –

I believe that the purpose of the church is to help people develop the skills necessary

to recognize and respond to the glory of God,

revealed in Jesus Christ (and in so many other things…)

and today seems the perfect day to justify that plan.

Jesus baptized – God’s Spirit descends –

a further revelation/another piece added to the glory puzzle.

And not only in a baptism, but in one of David’s ‘other’ psalms –

the voice of glory – a lengthy discussion of the majesty (and glory) of God –

vivid detail, all who witness this display, in fact, cry “glory”.

Here’s the problem.

Neither Luke’s gospel nor the Psalmist’s vision – seem very glorious to me.

The psalm speaks of destruction –

trees stripped bare / tempest and whirlwind / flashing flames of fire –

it begins in a sensible way,

but this overwhelming presence of God seems to unhinge things –

and in the end we find God “enthroned over the flood;   the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.”

And let’s consider our gospel account…

Jesus, of Nazareth – a man of ordinary appearance and impoverished means –

comes to see the baptizer on the edge of the wilderness.

And what does he find?

Dusty, dingy surroundings –

a wild and outspoken holy man – an invitation to repent and be baptised.

this doesn’t have any glorious overtones –

The baptizer trying to tell people that he is not the main event –

that God’s plan s hastening towards completion – that a new order is on the horizon –

but Glorious…?

I’m not convinced.

Glory is what surrounds and inhabits the Christmas story.

Angels and kings and guiding stars; dreamy visitations by the heavenly host.

Bliss and perfection – sleeping in heavenly peace, that is glory!

Glory is what our ancestors sought when they began to build churches – cathedrals – monuments of great beauty and grandeur, meant to call attention to God’s Glory…

Glory is what we try to capture with our Baptismal liturgy – rich language, special music, beautiful people in beautiful clothes…

But this

– desert baptisms – Psalms of heavenly destruction –

where is the glory of God in all this?

Maybe we are barking up the wrong tree – maybe it’s our definition of glory that is at fault…

perhaps we have our heart set on the wrong things – all that flash and glitter, maybe that’s not the point at all…

The Psalmist offers a description of the world as we know it laid to waste –

cedars breaking, wildlife scattering, the wilderness shaking, the forests stripped bare –

and the response from the faithful – from those in the temple of the Lord –

is awe and wonder (“Glory”).

Jesus comes to the river in anonymity – humility –

to take the opportunity to join others in repentance – to accept the gift of baptism –

to wait in prayer on the gift of the spirit –

Scripture seems to ask us to consider if we look beyond our own frailties, failures, and pride

and see that “the Lord sits enthroned – that God is king?

Can glory meet us in the quiet, confident assurance of God who,

no matter what happens, remains unshakable?

Can there possibly be awe and wonder for us as our world crumbles?

All of scripture – the whole of the gospel – the simple yet spectacular life of Jesus of Nazareth –

asks us to consider this glorious perspective:

The disasters that line your path will not touch you because I AM GOD (says the Lord).

I know you are troubled

I know you are threatened

I know that things look bleak – but remember God and know glory.

glory revealed in denim and dust

Glory that will not be bound by our (often spectacular) expectations.

What a refreshing way to start anew…

what a wonderful thing to consider whatever our present circumstances

what a breath of fresh air, in a world gone stale,

that in destruction we might see and know glory.

That in humility and prayerful obedience, we might discover salvation personified

That’s glory, folks – that’s worthy of our awe and wonder.

The ability, in the words of Wendell Berry,

to “…be joyful, though you have considered all the facts..”

That’s the gospel in all it’s delightful dreariness…

no blinding lights – no shimmering robes –

just God sitting secure among the wreckage –

just Jesus, composed and prayerful – that’s glory,

and thanks be to God we are drawn to it, and bound up in it and called as witnesses to it.

Live well in the presence of such glory –

that is ours, by grace, through Christ. Amen

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