By Ellen Sims
Trinity Sunday B, May 31, 2015
Texts: Psalm 29, Romans 8:14-25
A HOMILY “Glory Be!”
We at Open Table have boiled down the basics of the Christian faith to “following Jesus.” But what if there’s something even more basic to the life of faith? In a recent UCC Daily Devotional, Rev. Emily Heath asks what it means to “glorify God.” She recalls that in the Westminster Catechism, a shared part of the heritage of the Congregational and Evangelical and Reformed branches of the UCC, the first question asked is, “What is the chief end of (hu)mankind?” In other words, “What is our purpose in life? What is our aim, our goal?
The correct answer for the catechists was: “To enjoy God and glorify God forever.”
Rev. Heath comments, “Nearly 400 years later, I think that’s the best one line synopsis of what it means to live a Christian life. In the end our choices should not be about what brings us glory. Instead, they should be about what glorifies God. And when we are faced with a difficult choice that one question can bring us clarity, cut through the excess, and make all the difference: Does it glorify God? If the answer is “no,” why do it? But if the answer is “yes,” we can act boldly and in good faith. And, if the Westminster divines are right, we might even get a little enjoyment out of the whole thing to boot.”
The precious woman who was our dog’s “foster mother” until we adopted him sometimes surprises me with her use of the phrase “glory to God.” She began a recent text message to me with “Glory be to God!” As in “Glory be to God! How is Rascal?” For her it’s an expression of joy and delight.
Others talk about giving glory to God when they are praised and want to deflect attention from themselves to give God the glory and praise. And I trust many are sincere in wanting God to be glorified in what they do. But the cynic in me is uncomfortable when the quarterback gives “God all the glory” for the winning touchdown. The football player often sounds as falsely modest as the glittering Academy Award winner who, clutching her Oscar, deigns to thank the crew on the movie set for her success.
I don’t use the word glory much in everyday speech. I sing that word—or its Latin equivalent, gloria—in Christian hymns. But I’m not sure that saying “glory to God” is the best way for me to give glory to God.
I am hoping to live in such a way that lights up a situation or points beyond me to the source of Light and Love. I think that’s what Jesus tried to do. And with all due respect, I’m going to turn Rev. Emily Heath’s comment backwards a bit. She said that if we glorify God, we may then get joy as a byproduct.
But what if experiencing the joy of God is the means of glorifying God, not the reward. What if relishing the hushed of quiet moments, noticing the rain-brightened greening of leaves, sharing a meal with new and old friends after worship—what if our joy IS the way we glorify God?
What does it mean to YOU to glorify God?
In our joy, in our trust, in our compassion, in service—may we glorify God, may we be a spark of God’s glory in this world. Amen.