Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport RI
Sunday August 6 2017
The Reverend Alan Neale
Oh you gotta get a glory in the work you do;
A hallelujah chorus in the heart of you.
Paint, or tell a story, sing, or shovel coal,
But you gotta get a glory or the job lacks soul.
Oh Lord, give me a glory, is it much to give?
For you gotta get a glory or you just don’t live.
The great whose shining labors make our pulses throb,
Were the men who got a glory in their daily job.
The battle might be gory and the odds unfair,
But the men who got a glory never knew despair.
Oh Lord, give me a glory when all else is gone,
If you’ve only got a glory you can still go on.
It’s all about “glory”… Moses ascends the mount and, upon his descent amongst the people, discovers his face is so radiant with the glory of God that the people beseech him, “Put on a mask”. I do not expect that to happen as I descend from this particular mount this morning.
It’s all about “glory” – as Peter writes his letter he reminisces about the “Majestic Glory” observed by him on the mount. He omits the part about blurting out inappropriate comments; thank God Peter didn’t have access to a Twitter account!
It’s all about “glory” – such is the glorious effulgence of Jesus in his transforming transfiguration that even great figures of Jewish tradition can be made more glorious by contact.
Each one of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) includes this transfiguration story (with some fascinating differences).
Matthew declines to mention Peter’s outburst (but then Matthew is concerned about the establishment of the church and probably thinks it best to leave its founder as pristine as possible).
Mark, practical as ever, adds a note that there is no cleaning agent that could possibly have made the garments of Jesus so white.
And Luke, ever sensitive to signs of humanity, is the sole Gospel to record the disciples were, at worst, sleeping or, at best, very very weary – “since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory…”
And though John’s Gospel does not include this story, it is absolutely crammed with references to, expressions of, glory. Doxa/glory is one of the great Johannine themes.
I believe our hearts yearn, our minds desire, our souls ache to experience glory in our lives, in our relationships, in our tasks, in all our days – the glory that transforms the mundane into the eternal, the prosaic into the lyrical, the common into the profound.
Just two observations about “glory” from our readings for today.
Glory is Reflective. Exodus 34 “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” Luke 9 “Moses and Elijah were with Jesus… and they appeared in glory.” If you and I spend time with God, we will never comprehend the impact; there will be a difference… it just has to be.
Thank God there is no need for heavenly beauticians to work on our faces nor divine apparel stores to bedeck our bodies. This work of glorification (such a boring word for such an exciting process!) is done by God and by God alone and this, I hope, relieve our stress a little.
And Glory is Evanescent. Maybe it is part of the religious psyche that experiences are forced to become traditions, that spontaneity is transfigured into history. Our dear friend Peter wanted to take the spontaneous, unexpected experience and establish it forever – “Master, it is good that we are here… let us make three booths.” Peter the fisherman decides to become Peter the builder. But no, this incredible experience would soon fade and the descent from the mount would soon be enjoined. Glory is not to be captured and categorized, filed away for future reference; glory is of and for the moment and there will always, by the goodness of God, be more than enough for all the coming moments of our lives.
Friends, we should be praying more often and with more vigor for glory in our lives… sitting by the bedside of a man who is dying (Lord, show me glory here), coping with financial challenges (Lord, show me glory here), living life on life’s terms (Lord, show me glory here).
The poem I quoted at the beginning of this sermon ends with these words
To those who get a glory it is like the sun,
And you can see it glowing through the work they’ve done.
Oh Lord, give the glory, and a workman’s pride,
For you gotta get a glory or you’re dead inside.
“Dead inside” – how wretched and, in the hands and economy of God, how unnecessary.
Thanks be to God, Amen.