Family Values: Glory of God
Rev. Dr. Donna Giver-Johnston
Reformation Sunday October 29, 2017
It’s been 20 years now, but still I remember the day like it was yesterday. The day I gave birth to my first baby. Brian and I had gone to Lemans classes to learn about the pain of labor and how to breathe through the groans. We were also taught that to bring to the hospital a focal point: a meaningful object that I could look at to focus beyond the pain. In the hospital room, the pains were coming fast and furious. As Brian tried to find the focal object, the nurse said, “put that bag in the closet, you need to start pushing.” Even without the object, there was much to focus on: the trees outside the window, Brian’s hand holding mine, and soon enough, our newborn baby girl. As I looked into her face, I felt as if I was seeing the face of God. Glorious!
In today’s Scripture, we read part of a letter Paul wrote to the house churches in Rome:
“The whole creation, we ourselves have been groaning in labor pains, as we wait”…”we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
· Paul’s word spoke to the 1st c. church in Rome, a fractured community, in which there was division between the Jewish and Gentile believers, who were groaning as they felt the pains of God birthing a church through them.
· Paul’s word spoke to the 16th c. church in Germany, a fractured community, in which there was division between the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant Reformers, who were groaning as they felt the pains of God birthing a new church through them.
· Paul’s word speaks to the 21st c. world today, a fractured community, in which there is division between black and white, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, CNN and Fox News, National Anthem standers and kneelers, guns and no guns, Christian and Muslim, privileged and refugee, etc. We groan through the pain of natural disasters and man-made conflicts and divisions, wondering what God could possibly be birthing and bringing to life in our mixed-up, muddled-up world.
Paul encourages us to wait with hope and patience and confidence, but how?
I think we need a focal point to help us focus beyond the pain, to help us wait patiently and confidently for God to give new life to something good. The focal point is the glory of God. And it is found all around us.
You see, in the beginning, God put a little glory in all of creation. That’s why God called it good. Glory is the essence of God—that is, beauty and goodness, wonder and awe, purity and power.
The glory of God is like a silver thread running through all of creation and all creatures, great and small. Created in God’s image, we were given this silver thread. God put a little glory in us—it is in our soul. In gratitude for this precious gift, our purpose is to reflect back the glory of God in our lives, so that others may be able to focus beyond the sufferings of this world and see the glory of God.
In effort to unite the divisions in the Church of England and the Church of Scotland, the Westminster Shorter Catechism was written, with the first question being the most important question:
Q: What is the chief end of humanity? A: To glorify God and to enjoy God forever.
This was part of the Protestant Reformers slogan: the fifth and final sola: Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone.
Today, as we wait and groan, this is the key to unlocking our hope: We live to the glory of God alone.
God’s glory is the radiance of the worth, beauty and greatness of God—to be seen and savored and shown by God’s created and beloved people. The glory of God is to be seen, savored, and shown by us.
The glory of God is to be seen…
In the book The Color Purple, author Alice Walker writes this: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see (God) always trying to please us back.”
God wants to be seen and so the glory of God is visible all around us: in fields of purple, in a tree’s radiant red leaves, in a dark sky twinkling with stars, in snow-capped mountains, in waves crashing on the shore, in a dog greeting you at the door, in the eyes of your beloved, in the face of a new-born baby, in a beautiful work of art, in the communion bread and cup,
in the ten thousand other things that for those with eyes to see—the invisible glory of God’s presence is more than visible—it is glaring and inescapable.
The glory of God is to be savored…
God did not just want us to just see glory in the world around us, but to take delight in it, to enjoy and savor it.
Ann Voskamp in her One Thousand Gifts Devotional writes,
“A well-known pastor, when asked what his most profound regret in life was, said, “Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully enjoying the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But, a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of rushing. Through all that haste, I thought I was ‘making up time,’ It turns out, I was ‘throwing it away.’”
To savor something is to taste it. To enjoy it completely. To dwell on it. Savoring involves delight. Pleasure. Relishing. There is no hint of duty in savoring. To dwell on anything, I have to be willing to stay for a while.
Not be in a hurry to do the next thing. You can’t savor when you’re in a hurry.
If you, in your busy life, have forgotten how to savor. Just spend some time with a little child. They do it well.
One Christmas, I will never forget watching Rebecca and Christian teach me what it meant to savor a gift. We told them that first we would open up the stockings and then the presents under the tree. They sat down, with their stocking in front of them. They took their time in opening up each little gift. They enjoyed each gift, showing it to us and each other. We tried to hurry them up…showing them the bigger presents that awaited them under the tree. But, they continued to sit there and meticulously opened up each little gift and played with it before going on to the next one. They savored their Christmas gifts, as if one little gift was enough, more than enough. When was the last time you truly savored something?
The glory of God is to be shown…
When we say soli Deo Gloria — to God alone be glory — we mean: Whatever we do, it is not to call attention to ourselves, but to transfer the credit ultimately to the source and end of all things: the glory of God alone. Our job is to glorify God in our lives in such a way that we make the invisible God visible by what we do and how we do it.
As Edith Wharton says: “There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” God is the candle—the light bearer—the glory giver. We are the mirror to reflect the glory of God in our lives.
Even though the Duke gave Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach the freedom to write what he wanted, Bach never forgot that it was God who made the music through him. Whenever he began a new piece, before writing even one note, at the top of the page, Bach carefully formed the letters JJ, an abbreviation for “Jesu Juva,” translated into English means, “Jesus, help me.” Then, he bowed his head and prayed. "Jesus, help me show your glory through the music I write. May it bring you joy even as it brings joy to your people." With that, the music began to pour from his soul and onto the page. When he was finally satisfied, at the bottom of the page, he wrote the letters SDG- Soli Deo Gloria - For the Glory of God Alone. “The main purpose of my music is to glorify God.” Bach hoped that when the music was played, it would point toward God and draw people closer to God.
As we wait to see what good God will birth today—in the world, in the church, and in our own lives, let us focus on this: Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone. God’s glory is all around us. It is to be seen, savored, and shown by us. Open your eyes and see the beauty. Open your hearts and savor the joy. Open your lives and show God’s glory, so that others may see and draw closer to God. Glory, glory, glory be to God!