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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shining with the Radiance of Christ's Glory

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

At first glance today’s readings seem like a motley bunch, almost as though the creators of the lectionary were getting tired so they threw in three of their favorite passages with little regard for how they mesh.

But then we pray the Collect and suddenly the pieces come together and make sense! “Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.”

The writer of the gospel of John focused on Christ’s glory. The wedding at Cana is the first time that Christ’s glory was seen in his adult ministry – according to John the first act of Jesus’ ministry – the first sign of his glorious power - was when he turned water into wine. Living as we do in wine country, we know a little of what it takes to make a great wine, and so this is an especially appealing miracle to us. 180 gallons of excellent wine, just like that!

I suspect that John had more in mind than letting us know that Jesus liked a good party. In the Eucharist we use wine as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us – the giving of his life – and our participation in his death and resurrection and the new covenant with God. So here, at the beginning of his ministry, we see the water that the Jewish people used for purification being turned into the wine which represents the blood that purifies us. It hints at the coming Covenant, and where better to do so than at a wedding?

Marriage is a covenant between two people - a covenant of love and fidelity. It has long been used as a metaphor to describe the relationship between God and humanity. Just as it is in the first reading, that beautiful prophecy from Third Isaiah,
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Let’s savor those words for a moment. Yes they were written about Israel but we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham so they apply to us too - and not just to us as a group but to each one of us individually as God’s beloved, ‘as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.’ Wow! God rejoices over each of us as young lovers rejoice in their beloved.

But wait, there’s more. “you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” Each one of us is so intimately known by God that She gives us a new name, a spiritual name, a name that reflects who we truly are, and we are like jewels in her hands. That’s something to remember next time you feel down. You are a jewel in God’s hands. You are God’s beloved.


Let’s hear that collect again - “Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.”

We are to shine, like jewels, like brides in the first blush of young love, with the radiance of Christ’s glory. That shining comes to us and through us as we are illumined by God’s Word and Sacraments – as we are transformed and transfigured – into the Christ-like beings that we were created to be.

Last week I talked about Jesus’ submission to God’s will as he chose to be baptized even though he was God. Today we see two more examples – Jesus does what his mother says even though initially he thinks it’s premature to show his power, and the servants do what he says even though it probably seemed foolish. I’ve been thinking more about submission to God this week. The examples we have are ones that we can see – times when Jesus is obedient to his calling – but what I am talking about is much more an inner attitude. It is an attitude of surrender to the divine. That attitude will show up in your outer life, but it doesn’t start there. So you don’t have to wait until you are sure that God is telling you to do something – the idea is to be surrendered to Spirit at all times.

Perhaps that inner surrender was what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Corinthians when he said that no-one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Obviously anyone can say Jesus is Lord and not mean it, but to say “Jesus is Lord” from the heart requires inner submission to Jesus’ lordship.

Having surrendered to Christ we get to shine with the radiance of God’s Glory – but there are as many different ways of doing that as there are people. Each one of us is given our own manifestation of the Spirit. Jesus manifested the Spirit in the miracle of water turned into wine – we manifest it in our loving care of others, in our social activism, in prayer and in active service.

The whole point of our shining with the radiance of Christ’s glory is that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth. This is not about us. The path of discipleship is not a feel-good solution to the anxieties of everyday living. Hope, joy, peace and blessing are side effects. The goal is that Christ may be glorified, that God may be known by all people. The Prayer Book talks about reconciliation with God. That is our goal.

We surrender to Christ, just as Christ is surrendered to God the Creator and the Holy Spirit in a mutual dance of submission and obedience. By our own inner surrender we become part of the dance of the divine and as we are transformed by that dance so we begin to shine with the light of Christ - not our own light, but Christ’s light – and as we shine so others are drawn in to the reign of God and the light increases.

Isn’t that an amazing vision? We are not only deeply beloved of God but we are an integral part of his plan to bring the whole of the cosmos into intentional relationship with Godself.
So let’s close by praying together the Collect for today:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



1 Comments:

  • I wish I could be at St. Ben's this morning to hear this sermon--which has the majesty of this morning's sunrise. I'm staying home to be with Ellen, Caro, but will be with you in spirit. Peace, Jim


    By Blogger writeasy, at 7:32 AM  

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