Sermon at All Saints Coddington for Sunday before Lent 2016
Exodus 34.29–35; Luke 9.28–36
Well, glory, glory - what to make of all this glory? We C of E types are a bit reserved when it comes to glory aren’t we? But just this once, let’s let ourselves go a bit and think glory.
What does it put you in mind of? Glory? The gardeners among us are maybe thinking Morning Glory, climbing prettily over a trellis. The more musically minded might have a rousing hymn tune in mind - Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken or Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, borrowed of course by every football team who can make the words fit - Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur springs to mind, I don’t know why.
But me? For me it’s a Bruce Springsteen rock classic, Glory Days. The temptation to play it is almost overwhelming but it’s not Christmas so I’ll settle for one verse of the lyrics and the refrain, just to give the flavour.
I had a friend was a big baseball player
Back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
But all he kept talking about was
Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days
It reads quite well actually and as so often with Springsteen it’s not about what the title would lead you to believe. It’s more faded glory than glory days. Faded glory is an American clothing brand, by the way - would you buy faded glory? Maybe? Better than no glory at all I suppose.
Faded glory - did it strike you that Moses seemed a bit bothered about that in our OT reading? He’d been up the mountain to fetch a new set of commandment tablets, having, for some reason that needn’t bother us, smashed the first set. And he was quite happy to shine like billy-o as he came off the mountain after speaking with God but as the glory faded he hid his face with a veil. What was that about? I know you can make some theological point that goes something like this ... he was demonstrating that this agreement he was brokering between God and the chosen people wasn’t the final word; no, the real deal, the glory that wouldn’t fade was still to come in the person of Jesus. So by hiding his not-quite-so glowing face he was indicating that fading glory wasn’t part of God’s ultimate plan.
It is all a bit odd though - as I said, it seems to me that even faded glory is better than no glory at all.
The NT reading is a bit thought provoking too I think - especially when you look at it from Peter’s point of view. There he is at this sensational event, present, we are told, at a moment of unparalleled gloriousness and all he wants to do is commemorate the moment. If it happened today, we’d have the mobile phones out in a flash and get our snaps and videos up on our Facebook pages in no time wouldn’t we? Where’s the harm in that? Well, there must have been some harm it seems, because the instant he’d spoken he got a proper slap on the wrist as the glory immediately turned to dark and cold, and he’s told in no uncertain terms to listen to Jesus rather than wasting his efforts trying to preserve the moment.
Peter at that point seemed to want to keep the glory to himself, so presumably what he was being told was that he couldn’t do that, such glory would rapidly fade. In time he was to learn that the glory he had seen was to be shared in the lives of other people. But there was a long way to go and much to be endured before he would understand that.
So what’s in this for us? That theology I was mentioning earlier would indicate that we can now understand that what Jesus accomplished shows the true unfading glory of God’s plan for us and that he shares his glory with us. So perhaps we shouldn’t be too reserved about glory - such glory as we have is of course God’s glory reflected, and perhaps fi we’re honest, a little faded at times, but it may be the only glory of God that some of the individuals we meet will ever see. Let’s not veil it, let’s hear it for glory. Hallelujah!