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The Language of Glory
We're looking for glory this Advent as we prepare for the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ to this world. We're looking for glory as a Christmas gift. Wouldn't you like some glory for Christmas, glory for you, glory for the world? Most of us need some glory in our lives; we need praise, esteem, recognition. We need to be noticed. We need to be affirmed. We need our self-images stroked. And, most of us need some joy, some rejoicing; free, uninhibited, soaring joy. When we turn to the Bible, we find some good news about glory. The dictionary definition says we obtain glory by doing something important or valuable. Jesus says real, true, lasting glory comes from God. In the Bible, glory is the visible sign of God's presence, usually associated with light, an aura, a luminous manifestation, a brilliance, a halo. Glory is the presence of God. To seek glory for a Christmas gift is nothing less than the presence of God.
The sermons during Advent and Christmas are spelling out the letters of glory. Last week we looked at Grace as the letter "G" in glory. Grace is the unmerited, unrestricted, immeasurable love of God for you. The Christian gospel in one sentence is: God loves you. How does God communicate? How does God tell you, "I love you?" What language does God speak? For the letter "L", I have chosen language. What is the language of glory? I'm reminded of the elderly lady in Minnesota who was convinced Jesus spoke Swedish. To prove her point, she opened her Swedish Bible, pointed to a saying of Jesus, and asserted, "There, see, Jesus spoke Swedish!" We know Jesus spoke Aramaic when he walked this earth; but what about now? What language does God speak?
The inimitable Stephen King in his latest fantasy novel, The Tommyknockers, portrays a character who reads The Upper Room and has a 3-dimensional picture of Jesus and sheep on her TV. Suddenly, one day she hears the picture speak. Jesus makes himself comfy on a rock, and says, "There's a lot going on in Haven (which is the name of her town.) You won't believe the half of it." In the dialect of rural Maine, Jesus then proceeds to tell her all the dirt about her husband and her neighbors. When Jesus winks at her, she shrieks and runs from the house! How does Jesus talk to us today?
Can you imagine God's predicament. How does the creator of the galaxies talk to you and me? How does Spirit, pure Energy, we call God talk to humans? If there are extra-terrestrial beings out there, so far advanced beyond us they are able to reach our planet, how would they talk to us? Science fiction writers suggest they would use mathematics. Does God speak to us through mathematics? "Hello X, this is Y!" What equation would God use to say, "I love you?" Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."' She then proceeded to give us an enduring and endearing sonnet exploring her deep feelings and experience of love.
How does God talk to us of the intimate, profound experience of salvation, of the relationship God has with us, and wants to develop with us? How does God speak to more than our minds, more than our intellects? God knows a head-trip is not what we need. As human beings who have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, as Paul stated in Romans 3:23, how does God get us back in his glory? We need, we desperately need, the grace of God to speak to our minds where our doubts are; speak to our hearts where we feel guilty and lacking; speak to our souls where we feel lonely, rejected. Can we count the ways we need to hear and receive God's love for us, the glory God has in store for us?
So, how does God talk to us? What language does God speak? Let us look at one this morning. One language of glory is Holy Communion. We call Holy Communion a means of grace, a means, a method, by which the grace of God is communicated to us. We call Holy Communion a sacrament, a sacred act. At the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus broke off a piece of bread, told them his body would soon be broken like the loaf of bread, and asked them to eat it in remembrance of him. He then took a cup of wine, told them his blood would soon be poured out of his body, like this wine, and asked them to drink it in remembrance of him.
Holy Communion has become a central part of Christian worship. We gather at the table and share in Christ's life. Jesus died so that we may live. Jesus gave his life freely so that we may know the extent of God's love for us, the extent of God's mercy and forgiveness. When you receive Communion, you will break off a piece of bread. Don't be stingy and take a tiny piece as if you are unworthy. In God's eyes you are worthy because God made you and Jesus redeemed you. Break off a piece of bread, dip it in the grape juice, and let the life of Christ, broken and poured out for you, enter your body, become a part of you, a part of your life.
In Communion, God is speaking to your senses. You can see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. All of your senses are involved. To each one of your senses, God is saying, "I love you." You are no longer alone. You are no longer separated. You are no longer unworthy. You are now a child of God. You belong to God's family. You are loved.
Those of you who went on the Walk to Emmaus heard the story of Harry Houdini and his love for his wife. Houdini, the famous magician, liked to leave love notes for his wife around the house, so when he was gone on a tour, she would discover a note from him. The love notes all began the same, "Martha, you'll never know how much I love you." As you might expect, Houdini was quite clever in hiding his notes. He not only used the obvious places like under her pillow, in drawers, on the piano; but he found really secret places like behind the wall paper, behind drawers. He was so clever at hiding notes that ten years after his death, his wife was still finding love notes from Harry which began, "Martha, you'll never know how much I love you."
Jesus left us lots of love notes--a flower, song, bird, little child's laughter. But the best note of all is Holy Communion. When you receive Communion this morning, take the bread and juice as a love note from Jesus, "You'll never know how much I love you."
© 1988 Douglas I. Norris