Sunday, January 19, 2020

Epiphany 2, 2020-A: Glorifying God

Lectionary: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.

One of the basic tenets of our faith is that we have been reconciled to God in Jesus, who is the Christ, the Anointed One. In Jesus, we have been reunited, returned to God from whatever has separated us. The harmony of our relationship has been restored.

The good news of this seems to have lost some of its luster in modern time. Thankfully, our lectionary offers us the opportunity to choose to restore this luster to its gleaming brightness to reflect the radiance of Christ’s glory.

Please allow me to paraphrase this declaration of Isaiah for our modern ears: Listen! Pay attention! Each one of us has been created by God for one purpose: to glorify God. Before we were born, God made intentional choices about us: what we would look like, how tall we were, whether or not we’d like cilantro. Not a single thing about us is an accident. God made us exactly as we are so that we could glorify God.

What does that mean? How do we, as individuals and as a community of faith, glorify God? Our readings show us the way.

God said to Isaiah, “You are my servant…in whom I will be glorified.” You will bring back those who have been separated from me and restore us to our wholeness. The world may despise and abhor you, but I love you. I choose you and in you I will be made known.

But it is too small a thing that you should be my servant for just a small group. I created every person on earth and I love every one of them. I want you to be a light that radiates my love until it reaches everyone, until the ends of the earth are illumined by it.

The vulnerability of God’s stated desire for us kind of blows me away; and not just me. I’ve previously shared with you Teresa of Avila’s prayer “I desire you” so I won’t repeat that today (but if you want it again, just let me know). Instead, I’ll share a prayer from another mystic, Mechthild of Magdeburg called, God Speaks to the Soul:

“And God said to the soul:
…I desired you before the world began.
I desire you now
As you desire me.
And when the desires of two come together
There love is perfected.”

It is God’s choice that love (who is God) is perfected in the wholeness of the unity of God and us. When any one of us is separated from the wholeness of God, which means from God and from one another, then love (who is God) chooses to be incomplete until that wholneness is restored. This is what Jesus was talking about when he taught that the shepherd would leave the 99 to find the lost one.

I’ve heard some people wonder why God wants glory. Does God need our affirmation, our adoration? No glorifying God isn’t about appeasing an egotistical divine being; it’s about revealing the truth about God: who God is, how God is, why God is… and when we do that we are lights of hope to the whole world.

Our psalm today is a perfect example of how a person glorifies God. The writer of this hymn feels like they are in a desolate pit. Has anyone here ever felt like that? I have.

Describing what it feels like when there seems no escape from a darkness that spreads inside and all around us, snuffing out hope like a flame, the psalmist glorifies God by revealing how God is in response to our need: God lifts us out of our desolate pit, sets us up on high ground and steadies us there, the way we steady a toddler whose ability to balance is still uncertain.

Then the psalmist shows us why God is: God puts a new song in our mouths. Whatever our narrative was, before we found ourselves in the pit, we have a new one now. Our story has been changed.

Then the psalmist describes how all of this affects us saying, I stand in awe of God who saved me. I want to do something to mark the wonder of it all. I want to tell everyone that if life outside the pit is possible for me, it’s possible for them too. Happy are we who trust in the Lord!

When we glorify God we are doing as the psalmist did: we are making known to the world
the truth that God is love, God is loving, and God loves us; and that it why we glorify God -
not to appease God but to reveal God to share the good news we know about God.

So then, how do we glorify God? We tell our stories of redemption. We do not restrain our lips.

That’s exactly what John the Baptist did. First, he told his story to Jesus as Jesus approached him on the road: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This is the one I was created to reveal as the Son of God. Before I was knit together in my mother’s womb, this is who I was made to be.

A couple of days later, John tells his story again to two of his disciples as Jesus came near them. By that proclamation of John’s story, Jesus was connected with his first two disciples: Andrew and his brother, Simon, whom Jesus renamed Peter.

John glorified God by telling his story, revealing the truth about God in Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.

Do you know who else glorified God by telling his story? The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and it cost him - just as it cost John, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and so many others who have gone before us to show us the way. We have the blessing of being able to see their stories in a larger context than they could see themselves, and so we can see how God was made known through them.

We glorify God by telling our stories. Each of us has a story, and together we share a communal story. At St. David’s, we happen to have a book describing much of that story, but only the part of the story that has already happened; the part that led us to where we are today.

How will our lives and the life of our church reflect the truth about God (who is love) from here on out?

Everything we do as individuals and as a church community can glorify God, making God known in the world. The easiest, most obvious, and available to us is when we live with one another in unity and harmony. Those aren’t just pious words - they’re a hard reality, especially when stress happens.

Every time we open our lips and tell our story about God’s love in our experience, we glorify God.

Every time we respond to a hateful, disrespectful online post with the truth about God ‘s overtly stated love for every human being, we glorify God. Every time we respond to our call to be lights of Christ’s love to all nations and languages, all tribes and peoples, until God’s love reaches the ends of the earth, we glorify God.

At the end of our service today we will tell our story of the many ways we have been faithful servants in whom God has been glorified in 2019. That story, captured in our Annual Report will be posted on our website so that everyone can see and hear our good news. We have much to celebrate and even more to look forward to in 2020 as the new life God is forming in us comes into its fullness.

God and us. Love perfected.

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