Sunday, April 02, 2017

Glory as Food for the Soul

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  (Romans 8:18)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

OK, Paul, which is it? Is the glory yet to be revealed or have we already been glorified? Actually, this is a well-known pattern of Paul’s, the juxtaposition of “already” and “not yet.” I have always taken this apposition to be, on the one hand, the promise upon which we can count (see, just a few verses later, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”), and the living into that promise day by day.

I am writing this reflection 36,000 feet in the air and glory is not entirely evident. Yes, there is the wonder of something this large hurtling through the air several miles above the ground, but I have done this nearly a hundred times and that effect has worn off. I am, however, headed for a week in paradise, the island of Kauai in Hawai’i. I am assuming glory will be at my fingertips there.

That assumption begs the question of just what is glory? Is it the awe of wonder? Is it beauty itself? Is it goodness or the miracle of something like air flight? It can be found in all of these things, yes. But it is still Lent and I am reminded that Jesus was glorified by his being lifted high upon a cross. So glory is its own thing, hard to pin down, the kissing cousin, you might say, of mystery.

Last time I quoted Irenaeus, The glory of God is the living human being. Glory, it seems, has to do with life, and more specifically, living. Anything that enables and inspires our living is glory, and that includes both the experience of paradise that I am anticipating this week, or the times I have “walked through the valley of the shadow of death,” knowing that I was accompanied by one whose way this road has trod. There actually be more glory in the latter than in the former, because living in paradise can lead to all kinds of delusions.

That’s why I do not trust how Irenaeus’ quote is often translated:  “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” Adding that word “fully” (and it is an addition, the original Latin does not contain the word), seems like an attempt to say that only positive experiences reveal God’s glory working in and through us. Yes, Jesus said he wanted us to have life abundant, but this is from John’s Gospel where Jesus’ glory is revealed in his death.

I am thinking and praying about glory this Lent and, more and more, I have been led to the phrase “food for the soul.” Glory, whatever its source, and whatever its end, is the food we need for a living soul, the life force behind our living, our inward and spiritual grace that enables our outward and visible sign, to put the Prayer Book definition of sacrament in reverse.

Glory is something I can look for intently or it is something I can willfully ignore, or, from God’s side it is something with which I can be confronted or it is something with which I can be comforted. The interplay of these divine and human possibilities in my own experience constitutes what “living” is for me.

Well, at least these are my thoughts hurtling through the air miles above the ground.

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