In the Gospel lesson for today, Jesus prays for God to glorify God’s name.
Most people in both Jesus’ day and in our day, associate glory with some kind of victory. In Roman times, if you won a race, you would receive a crown made of laurel leaves and you would get a parade. Or if you won a victory in war, you would have a parade through the streets of Rome and people would stand at the sides and cheer for you. You would get glory.
Recently in January, we saw the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, and whenever anyone won and event like snow-boarding or alpine skiing, people would cheer and hug them. They would get to stand on the podium with their gold medal and listen to their national anthem played. Glory.
Today, by the way, is the last day of the Paralympics in PyeongChang. Same thing, media announcements of victories and big smiles.
When the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, they had been waiting sixty years. Sixty years. The town went wild. There were people dancing in the streets. There were parties everywhere. People got rowdy. It was glory.
That can be a good thing, to honor people’s perseverance and skill and energy and heart. It is not a bad thing to identify with a team, to let a little of their victory sink in to us, to feel a little of their glory.
In the Gospel of John, glory is associated with the abundance of God: the huge outpouring of God’s life. So, for example, one day early in the Gospel of John, Jesus and his disciples and his mom go to a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee, where Jesus grew up. Then as now, a wedding was a celebration of connection and family and new intimacy.
But a disaster happens. The wedding host runs out of wine. Jesus’ mom sidles up to him and says, “Hey, they’ve run out of wine.” Jesus says, “Lady, what is that to you and me, my hour has not yet come?” (Notice, his hour has come in the Gospel lesson for today, but not yet at the wedding in Cana.) Anyway, sounds like a “No.” Except then Jesus’ mom tells the servants, “Just do what he says.” And evidently Jesus changes his mind. He caves in to his mom. He turns this huge amount of water in these big stone jars into rich, sweet, potent wine. An abundance of wine.
Why does he do this? Is it because he loves a party? Is it because he loves the bride and groom and want them to have a good wedding? Because he loves his mom?
Then at the end of the story, it says that in this sign, Jesus “revealed his glory.” An abundance of wine, an abundance of celebration of relationship, of family of connection, of intimacy, of new life.
Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, dies. It says that Jesus loved his friend Lazarus. So they put Lazarus’s body in a tomb, a small cave carved in the rock. And they sealed the mouth of the cave with a stone. Jesus comes to the tomb and says, “Open it up.” Martha, Lazarus’s sister, who is also a friend of Jesus’ says, “Lord, already it stinks.” “He’s already started to rot,” in other words. Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God.
So Martha has her people move the stone away from the entrance to the cave. Jesus calls, “Lazarus, come out,” and Lazarus comes out. Risen from the dead. Glory associated with an abundance of God’s life.
Now, in the Gospel lesson for today, God’s glory is associated with Jesus’s death. It’s time. It is Jesus’s hour.
Jesus enemies are so terrified by the raising of Lazarus from the dead. They are afraid that Jesus is going to raise an army from the folks who have come after him from hearing about this miracle. Hey are afraid that Jesus will start a revolution and that the Romans will come and put down the revolution and destroy everything. They can’t see the abundance of God’s life because they are afraid of death.
But Jesus says that this is glory. “Glorify your name,” says Jesus to God. Jesus says there is glory in the cross.
In the cross? Glory in death? Really?
Yes, really. Because this is about love. Remember what Jesus said last week? “For God so loved the world. . .” So loved.
This is where God remakes us into God’s family again. This is where God brings us back into intimacy and celebration again. This is where we meet God’s life, in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. In the ultimate expression of God’s love. Because love is glory.
Jesus gave us an illustration of this. At his last meal with his disciples, he took a towel and girded himself, and washed his disciples’ feet. We are going to do that on Maunday Thursday. It’s a very old part of the worship service. And you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. But it’s intimate, and humble, and gentle. Someone pours some water on your feet. They touch your feet briefly with their fingers and then dry with a towel. That’s God’s glory.
Another example: We were speaking of parades before. This would be glorious: to have a parade every year for all the people who work with children. The school teachers. The child care workers at the daycare centers, the stay at home moms and dads, the social workers who help families take care of children. The custodians who mop the floors.
Yes, and along with them we should have a parade every year for everyone who works with elderly people. The folks who help us in the nursing home while we are recovering, who work in memory care facilities. The doctors and nurses, and especially the people who clean the toilets in our bathrooms. We should include the people who cook at assisted living facilities, and the people who help you to take a shower in your own home.
All of those folks, we need to make a parade for them. Let there be marching bands and people dancing in the streets. Let there be jazz bands and rock bands and swing dancing in the streets. Put the childcare workers and the custodians at nursing homes on the floats. Set them on a float with a fairy castle or the rainbow float, or among the petals of a gigantic rose. Give the champagne and cake and let them wave at the crowds, seven deep along the sidewalks who are cheering and clapping and throwing ticker tape.
Let us throw a parade for them, and especially those who do it with love. Because that is glory. That is God’s glory. Intimate, humble human, servant hood-filled love. Whenever we do anything with that kind of love, whether we are in the business office or the doctor’s office, in the living room or the board room. We have been made a part of the unimaginable abundance of God, the glory of God. It’s about love. The glory of God is love.