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Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 27, 1986 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island, New York

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 27, 1986 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island, New York

Text: John 13:31-35

What is striking about the use of the word “glory” here is the fact that it seems to be anything but glory, when Judas walks out on Jesus and sets about to seal his fate, to betray him, and have his death sentence move into action. But John calls this “glory” and what he sees is the greatest love that has ever been experienced on earth. What he sees is the incredible goodness of God. What he sees is the act of God’s salvation reaching in to set our hearts right where they are the most wrong of all. In that cross we were being set upright. And in all the pain pinned by all those nails, hanged the one in whom God had visited us. And the hope goes deep and wide and so high that it overwhelms whatever evil, sinful, hateful or violent opposition it might confront.

That is the power of the resurrection. Not just life, but life that overcomes death. Not just goodness, but that goodness which overcomes evil. Not just love, but that love that wins the day over hatred. Not just food, but that food that feeds the millions who starve in the world today.

This kind of love can put us into some suffering. It can make us feel a lot of pain, see stretches of hopelessness – go into tunnels with some people, before any light is visible down by the end of them. But this love bears suffering. It looks unflinchingly at the stretches of hopelessness and goes into the darkness, into the night – and the glory of the Lord shines, because God’s love is burning brightly, love is winning all.

Just before Judas left, Jesus had put on an apron and had begun to wash the disciples’ feet. He was showing them the service which God requires. The double burden of working and coming home and serving as well, and only then finally thinking of one’s own needs – and not thinking only of ourselves as I am often used to doing.

Sure, to step into the world of the half-crazed homeless person, into the plight of the children in the welfare hotels, into the despair of the young man with aids, or the loneliness of a gay person who has never come out of the closet, is this kind of love. But this love is also shown at home. Do you take your life and also wrap it around the people you live with – with attention, concern, discussing where they are at, and seeing their needs and trying to be with them?

The very dramatic story is fine, but there is the everyday life, the routines, the situation at home where everyone escapes into the TV and real life slips by, the real low intimate talk, the touching does not happen. People live outside of one another. People live like they are absent emotionally, absent, empty, and just not being there. And here in the family pocket of our life, Jesus wants us to enter and show the same love… the love that is willing to suffer, to reach out, to see the stretch of hopelessness, the darkness before the light breaks in, so that God’s glory will shine in the family, so that light from the cross will also reach our everyday life in our family.

No, it’s not dramatic. But it is real. It is also the place to begin. Otherwise the dramatic thing can be an escape from the real thing and we find ourselves acting rather than living.

When we go down in Christ, we are going up. Because there is no down that the love of God can’t raise up to the glory of God the Father.

How locked up can our hearts be? No matter, because there is a way for us to pick the lock and get in.

Often we find ourselves saying such superficial things. “You have to have hope.” The fact is they don’t. “You have to be positive.” The fact is they can’t be.

You see, Jesus spoke with his disciples knowing his hours were numbered. And that knowledge wakes us up out of a thick cover of all the unimportant and irrelevant things that smother us. When parents used to get ready to die and know that their hour was coming, they would gather their children around them and speak to them, because this would be the last time when they would be able to say a word to those in suffering and how suffering can bring life and not only destroy it, to those facing the stretches of hopelessness, to those who don’t yet see the light. When you speak, know that your days are numbered and things are not what they seem and love has to be ventured. You have to make the stand. You have to fight the process of destruction that is afoot in this world. You have to become bloody and soiled by the battle, the struggle that needs to be waged.

But the battle is not only out there. Righteousness needs to be a family righteousness too. Righteousness needs to be what bats our church into line. Righteousness needs to be what we require of our government. But not self-righteousness, mind you; but that righteousness that issues into the love of others, that sacrifices all, and the love that understands that our self-righteousness is the worst form of unrighteousness and does not understand the glory, the strange glory of God.

We can’t know we are good. We can’t know we are righteousness. Only God knows it. That cross, that betrayal, torture, and death did not look like glory. God, however, pronounced it as glory.

What does suffering do? It adds to the music of your witness! So it is in the cross of Christ I glory. And that will be glory for you and glory for me.

In the lovely lyrics of Charles H. Gabriel’s hymn:

When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

O, that will be glory for me,
Glory for [you], glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

Yes, that will be glory for you and glory for me. Considering the glory of the cross, won’t we sing and tell the story? The cross will be glory for you and glory for me. “In the cross of Christ I glory towering o’er all the wrecks of time.” You can be sure I’m going to cherish mine. That’s the story, because it’s in the cross of Christ I glory. Amen.


Written by peterkrey

April 6, 2010 at 7:25 am

Posted in Selected Sermons

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