Glorifying God, by Pastor Noel

May 18 & 19,2019    5 Easter, C


“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

      Imagine how Peter felt hearing those words!     

      At first they seemed to be about food, but then he realized that everything was being called clean. Food, animals, plants, people!

      What about all those laws that said what was in and what was out? Those laws are out, says this vision from God.

      For Peter, suddenly everything is changed! This story is often called “Peter’s conversion,” and it is not unlike the story we read two weeks ago called “Paul’s conversion.”

      Both men had visions showing them that God’s mercy and loving kindness are for much more than they had thought.

      For Paul it meant seeing Jesus as Savior and not as the destroyer of religion.

      For Peter it meant that all creation was declared clean and right with God.

      This should not have been shocking news for them. If they had really paid attention to Jesus, they would have seen in him this same mercy and loving kindness.

      Unfortunately, this is still shocking news to some folks. They work hard to make sure it is not a reality. For them it isn’t really true. Can’t be!

      They want rules and regulations that confirm what they think is right. They condemn and criminalize ideas and actions they don’t like.

      They are doing what they think is right so they will get credit with God toward their ticket to heaven.

      But they are misreading and misliving the call we have from Jesus.

      We call this “works righteousness.” It is a cultural idea that says we need to work, strive, and push others out of the way to get what we want.

      This is not a Jewish idea, and not an idea that Jesus would have lived or taught. God’s laws were not a ladder to heaven, but a gift from God whose love is not based on merit but on grace.

      Richard Rohr says, “Jesus tried to change the world through loving and healing. His harshest words were for those who perpetuated systems of inequality and oppression, and who, through religion itself, thought they were sinless and untouchable.”

      Like them, the folks today who condemn and exclude forget the words Peter heard about all things being created clean, and good, by God.

      The other day a friend said that in God’s eyes everyone is innocent. Someone else said that in God’s eyes everyone is redeemable. My friend said she meant that in God’s eyes everyone is born innocent. But then we encounter evil in all its enticing ways.

      Judas would have been born innocent. (In fact, the idea of our being born in sin is an idea from the early church. Judaism does not believe that.)

      The gospel reading we have today takes place at John’s version of the last supper. Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet.

      He has shared a meal with them, and warned them that one of them will betray him. As they all ponder this, Judas leaves.

      Then John gives us such a telling line. “Judas went out. And it was night.”

      He went out from the company of the light of the world into the darkness of anger, fear, and betrayal.

      But John has also told us that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

      When Judas leaves, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.”

      Judas is about to betray him and hand him over to the ones who will kill him.

      How is this glory?

      We think of glory as being something good or lovely—a glorious sunset, we might say.

      Glory does mean “unusually fine” or “deserving honor,” according to Brian Stoffregen. To glorify means to “influence one’s opinion about another to enhance their reputation.”

      Jesus’ glory is really to honor the Father. He tells the disciples, and us, “My Father is glorified if you bear much fruit and become my disciples. Jesus’ glory comes because he trusts God and doesn’t back away from the hardest part—dying on the Cross.

      This death glorifies God because it shows that God is forgiving, a God of peace, not violence and anger and fear. Jesus bears much fruit by trusting in God’s goodness and loving kindness.

      Jesus also gives what he calls a “new” commandment to his disciples. “Just as I have loved you, you are to love each other.”

      We’ve heard that commandment before—what makes this new? It is new because it is about being a new community through this love.

      Gail O’Day says that this calls us to life shaped through love that has no limits, so it is a new idea of community.

      That new idea includes Peter’s revelation that God made everything, everyone, clean, and worthy to be in our community.

      Jesus also says, as we heard in the Collect, that he is the “way, the truth, and the life.” He is not the end of the journey, but the journey itself.

      He shows us the way to God—how to glorify God by trusting God’s goodness and living in a loving community. He is the truth of God because he has care and compassion for everyone, especially those others ignore and turn from.

He is the life with God because it is only through loving and building a loving community that we glorify God.

      In the Prayers of the People we pray for grace so that “God’s Name may be glorified by all people.”

      How can we live to glorify God?  We do that here in worship, but there are six other days every week, too. How can we be loving and caring and trusting God so that we honor God and follow Jesus on the way to God?

      Here’s how my friend Bishop Steven Charleston glorifies God. There are many other ways. Which ways for us?

      (He writes) I gave at least three sermons yesterday. One at the drugstore checkout. One on the sidewalk in front of the bank. One in my front yard. In the drugstore, where the young woman seemed frustrated that her register was acting up, I said not to worry I was in no rush at all. On the sidewalk I saw some litter which I picked up and tossed into a recycle container. In my yard I listened to my elderly neighbor tell me about her trip to see her grandchildren. All three moments were “sermons” because they each demonstrated what I believe in a spiritual way. In two of these messages I said a few words and in one I was silent, but they each embodied a witness to faith. Being aware that life is a sermon keeps us mindful of what we are preaching, even if we never say a word.”

      May our lives be sermons that bear good fruit.

     May God be glorified in our every word and action.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details