Sunday, May 20, 2007

Easter 7 - Year C

October 23rd, 1993. It was the 9th inning, two outs, game six of the 1993 World Series, Mitch Williams was pitching for Philadelphia, and Joe Carter stepped to the plate for the Blue Jays. The pitch came, and from the sound of the crack of the bat, everyone knew that Carter had hit a home-run. The Blue Jays had made history being the first Canadian team to win back-to-back World Series’. For Carter, it was his moment of glory.

She had laboured in the back woods of Minnesota for 30 years, honing her craft as a poet. Finally, after 30 years of writing, she published her first poem. Then she published a book of poems that became a national bestseller in the poetry world. Then in June, her college summoned her for an honorary degree. And this once quiet, unknown English major at the college, stood on stage and received a standing ovation from the assembly. She wept with tears of joy to finally have her work validated. It was her moment of glory.

The culmination of five years of work waited for me just behind the door. The lights dimmed. I entered to polite applause. I raised my baton. And for the next eight and a half minutes the orchestra navigated my scribbles and gestures to bring to life the music that was to decide whether or not I graduated.

The music ended. I let the moment dangle at the tip of my baton. Then my arms came down. And the audience rose with thunderous applause. Then the orchestra stood clapping, offering their appreciation. It was my moment of glory.

In a garden, a lonely man is praying, crying out to God for his friends. “The glory that you have given me,” he says, “I have given them.”

For Jesus, this kind of talk was nothing new. Throughout John’s gospel Jesus kept talking about glory – his glory, God’s glory. Right at the beginning Jesus and his buddies go to a wedding and the bar runs out. Jesus’ mom drags him by the ear and demands that he roll up his sleeves and supply libations for folks who didn’t order enough wine.

Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars to the top. Then wonder of wonders, ordinary tap water is turned into a brilliant Niagara merlot. And right there in Cana of Galilee, John says that Jesus’ disciples saw his glory.

They saw his moment to shine.

Last Saturday’s Globe and Mail had their yearly “Top 40 under 40” and, once again, I couldn’t find my name on the list. The Globe says that they get a cross section of people from every field of human endeavor, but 38 out of 40 of these people came from the realms of big money. Not that money, on its own, is a bad thing. But the criteria for being the best of their generation seemed to be their ability to amass great amounts of it.

Maybe I’ve got the wrong gig. If moments of glory come from vast sums of cash then I better get used to picking up the scraps of well-heeled entrepreneurs or powerful executives. They are the ones - we are told - who shine with glory.

Don’t you just lust after that kind of glory? Don’t you daydream about it? Wish for it? Maybe even plan for it?

We plod along in our comfortable ruts, victims of the ordinary and the everyday. Hoping that, in some shining moment, an outbreak of glory will overwhelm us. The dark veil of a hum-drum existence will be pulled back, light will shine in, and everything will sing with golden hues, and we will see glory.

Jesus asks that we share in his glory. What could be better than that? If earthly glory shines with joyous light, imagine what heavenly glory looks like!

Preacher Will Willimon tells a story about a deeply Christian man who worked in the loan department of a bank. This man became aware of a systemic, though completely quiet and unstated practice of denying loans to persons of ethnic minorities. Of course, there are laws against such discrimination. But he became convinced that, through subtle pressures and a corporate culture of non-compliance, his bank was violating the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

Through prayer, he decided to complain about this practice to bank management. He came up with figures and documented his case. He was not making a big deal out of it, he wasn’t trying to start trouble; he just wanted management to change their practices.

Exactly one month after he initiated this process he was fired. The bank said that they were going through some reorganization. But he knows why he was let go.

He was out of work for seven months. When he finally got a job, it was much less of a job then he had at the previous bank. Folks at his church said that he had a period of bad luck. Many people told him during his period of unemployment, “I know this is a hard time for you.”

But Jesus might have said, “This is your hour to share in my glory.”

We Christians believe that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love, and there was never a more glorious and self-evident sign of that love than when Jesus was hoisted up on that cross. That was his moment of glory.

Have you had your moment of glory?

Maybe for some of us - most of us, even - Jesus’ glory is something we’d rather live without. Perhaps, after hearing the banker’s story, you’d rather that Jesus shine his glory on someone else.

But God has chosen you to glisten with God’s brightness. God has asked you to be, as Paul and Silas were called in today’s second reading, “slaves to the Most High God.” Like the other disciples, Paul and Silas got into a lot of trouble. In today’s reading they were thrown in jail. History or tradition say that they and the other 12 were executed for their faith. And it wasn’t pretty. No lethal injection to numb the barbarity of their deaths. They died like Jesus. They sacrificed everything. And Jesus asks us to join them.

That doesn’t exactly warm the heart, does it? Such an invitation doesn’t quite set fire to the spirit or inflame the soul.

A few weeks ago I heard Tim Sanders, chief-solutions officer for Yahoo! give a presentation on leadership. He said that 80 percent (80 %!) of young people entering the workforce today have different priorities than their parents. He said that young people today aren’t taking the first job offered to them, but that they investigate companies, to make sure that their values match what the company is doing.

They won’t work for a company that isn’t environmentally friendly. They won’t work for corporations that employ slave labour in developing countries. They won’t work for any business unless it offers a positive contribution to the world.

And these young people are willing to greatly sacrifice financially so that their values won’t be compromised. He said that for these young people, their mission in life is not to make a lot of money, but to alleviate suffering.

They are, as Sanders put it, looking not just for success, but for significance. Sanders said that these young people are creating a “revolution” in the marketplace; in fact that was the title of his presentation. But I think Jesus would call it a “good beginning.” Young people are looking for their moments of glory, and it’s starting to look a lot like the glory that Jesus was talking about.

Jesus’ glory on the cross wasn’t for its own sake, but for the life of the world. And Jesus asks that we help him in that enterprise.

So, I ask again, have you had your moment of glory?


NB: with help from Willimon.


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