Sermon Archives

Sunday, May 28, 2017
The 7th Sunday of Easter
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
The Glorification of God

O God, because without you we are not able to please you,
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today’s is an oddly timed lesson from John’s Gospel.

Here in the waning days of Eastertide, just after we marked the exaltation of Jesus on the Ascension, we hear a lesson from John that seems a bit out of place.  Whereas for first six weeks of Easter we heard accounts of Jesus’ resurrection life with and amongst his disciples – stories from the upper room, of Thomas and his questions, of travelers along the Road to Emmaus, and even the great story of the Jesus the Good Shepherd who goes ahead of his sheep – and, similarly, as we just hear last Thursday the account of Jesus’ final encounter with this disciples as he is taken up to the right hand of God, today’s passage takes us back to before the resurrection, before even the cross and death, all the way back to Jesus’ final meal with his disciples.  On that night, as Jesus sat with his disciples, the meal complete and the disciples’ feet tenderly washed, Jesus speaks not of his exaltation, but of the glorification of God and his glorification in return.  So, what is the glorification that Jesus reveals in this prayer?  It is not the miracle of the Resurrection nor is it the wonder of the Ascension – you see, neither is what makes God “God” or Jesus “the revelation of God.”  No, the mutual glorification of God and Jesus that Jesus prays for in this passage is nothing other, nor anything more, than the Cross and his crucifixion.

Here in this passage, as Jesus prays for himself and his disciples, he unites the glory of God which he reveals to the fulfillment of the work he has was given, work that will be complete when he takes up his cross in humble obedience to God and merciful forgiveness of the world.

On the one hand, the story of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and death couldn’t be more different than the story of his Ascension to the right hand of God – one roots Jesus in humility the other seems to cloud him in divine power and exaltation.  And yet, we mustn’t overlook their unity.  Whereas the Ascension clearly depicts Jesus’ place beside God, and makes evident in story what Jesus himself proclaimed to his disciples – that to see him, to see Jesus, is to see God – we must be sure to see in the Good Friday, the first account of Jesus being lifted high for all to see; we must surely see in the Crucifixion an even greater truth about God.  And so, while it is tempting to look at his miracles and signs of power as the sign of God’s presence, Jesus points us instead to Good Friday, back to his submission to God, back to his suffering on account of his great love, back to his greatest and most complete expression of divine mercy.  There, he says, that is where you shall see God.

There, as Jesus was placed upon the hard wood of the Cross, we see fully who God is.  There upon the Cross, we see fully how God responds to the desolation of the human spirit – with eternal mercy and forgiveness.  There within the passion and death of Jesus, we see the depths to which God will descend, even unto death, death upon a cross, to draw again to himself all the people of the earth.  There, in contrast to all that drove Judas to betray him, in contrast to the fear that leads Peter to abandon him, and in contrast to the pursuit and preservation of power that drive the Chief Priests and Pilate to condemn him, we see the love that drives Jesus to give himself up unto the cross and unto death, for you and for me as truly as he acted for Judas, Peter, the Chief Priests and Pilate and all the others who stood by along the way.

This, the compassion of God in response to human sin, Jesus proclaims, is the glory of God.  This is the miracle of God at work.  This, he says, is the way, the truth, and the life.

If the Ascension reveals anything essential that Good Friday does not, it is must be this – the work of Good Friday is now ours to accomplish.  It is now our responsibility to glorify God in the same way that Jesus glorified the Father, by taking up our own cross in mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for one another and the world.  To be a Christian community, and to be a Christian disciple, is to commit ourselves to this way of life, that is, the way of Jesus.  It should not be lost on us that the first Christians called themselves “followers of the way,” that is, “followers of the way of Jesus” because that is our on-going call as well.  We are not called to recreate the miracles of Jesus or the signs of his power; rather we are called to re-create in our lives the mercy, compassion, and forgiveness which Jesus revealed upon the holy cross; we are called to re-create in our lives the very mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of God.

Now, such a life is not merely challenging, it is exceedingly difficult; so difficult, in fact, that, when taken seriously, this will become the most difficult thing we undertake in our lives.  You see, it is one thing to offer compassion and mercy and forgiveness to those whom we naturally love – our spouses and partners, our parents and children, and even our dearest friends.  In fact, for them, for those near and dear to us, such compassion and mercy and forgiveness come so easily that they almost become natural to those relationships.

It is another thing altogether to have compassion and mercy and forgiveness for those whom we don’t know, and even more for those who anger us, for those who fail us, for those who hurt us.  And yet, it is for them – for Judas who certainly angered Jesus, for Peter who thrice failed him, and for Pilate, the Christ Priests, the soldiers and the crowds who inflicted upon him countless wounds of body and of spirit – it was for them that Jesus proclaimed, “forgive them father for they know not what they do”  (Luke 23:34).

Yet, it wasn’t only for them. 

We are invited today, and each week and each day, to remember that such forgiveness wasn’t merely for “the worst of the worst,” but for you and me, as well.  As we offer our confession this morning, we are encouraged to remember with humble honesty the ways in which we have failed to love God with all our heart and mind and strength, and how we failed to loved our neighbors even half-as-well as ourselves.  And then, remembering the ways we failed God and the ways we have injured one another, as we recall the myriad ways that we turn our back on God and our neighbor, then, let us here God’s eternal Word to us, “you are forgiven.”

So, too, as you come to the altar rail to share the Eucharistic feast, you are invited to remember that the body which was broken for Judas and Peter and Pilate, was broken also for you, and the blood that Jesus poured out for love of the world, he poured out for you and for you alone.

To you who once was far off he says again, “Take, eat this is my Body given for you.” And to you who have pierced his heart, he invites again, “Drink this.  This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you.”

Friends, it is only there, at the foot of the Cross, beholding and receiving the compassion and mercy and forgiveness of God for us that we can begin to live with Godly compassion and mercy and forgiveness for one another and for the world.

And when we do that, when we follow the way of Jesus; that is when we, like Jesus before us, glorify God as well.