The Readings (New Revised Standard Version) and Psalm (ELW) for the Day:
Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31
Psalm 8 Your glory is chanted above the heavens. (Ps. 8:2)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus says to his disciples,
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (John 16:12)
If we stick to the gospel story as told by John, we can safely assume that Jesus is preparing to face tremendous suffering. He cannot make this plain to his disciples because they are simply not ready for it. Jesus is not in despair over his situation. He is, in fact, full of hope, for he is the one who remains faithful to God, his heavenly Father.
“All that the Father has is mine,” says Jesus, this after last week when he said, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:11a) And the week before that he says, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:22)
Here we have the earliest church’s confession that in Jesus humanity encounters the presence of God. But it is a presence—it is a glory—that we humans do not expect to find. This glory will be recognizable to human perception when the Holy Spirit comes to speak the truth about God.
You see, there are three players in this new relationship to God. And these three together give us a picture of the glory of God that no longer resides above the heavens where the majestic name is chanted. Now the name is known in all its glory among us.
The name of God for all the baptized is now “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I admit that is one funny name. But “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” evokes the story of God with creation, a story we confess not only at baptism but every time we confess the creed in remembrance of baptism. The creed is not a list of propositions, but it is the outline of God’s engagement with us and all of creation. We can no longer speak of God without referring to the whole story of creation, redemption, and making holy all things. God has created and redeemed and renewed us in a holiness that belongs only to God who is not remote or distant. This God has moved deeply into the flesh in order to claim all things. This God creates and this God knows suffering and death. This God knows renewal and the fulfillment of purpose. This God has a name, and that name is “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
I know it is a strange name, but if you were watching a movie about American Indians and heard that one of the Indian braves was named “he who jumps over the bear.” You would think that’s fine. You would also know that there is a story there!
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, there is a story there. It is the story of God creating, God setting free what has fallen into bondage, and setting apart that which has been liberated for God’s glory. For this reason we baptize in the name of God. We pray in the name of God. We bless in the name of God.
God’s story is one in which we may participate. The apostle Paul tells it this way:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
If we have any hope for glory it will be in solidarity with the God who demonstrated solidarity with us. No longer running from suffering, we are now empowered to run–not to achieve our own glory–but share in the glory that is revealed in Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.
Our story can conform now to the story of God. We were created. We are redeemed. We are set apart for good works, not that we may justify ourselves but that we may discover ourselves doing God’s will through the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.