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Title: “The glory of God is humanity fully alive”
Preacher: Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor
Date: 6 August 2023, The Feast of Transfiguration
Readings: Exodus 34:29-end, 2 Corinthians 3
Towards the end of his life, the frail and slightly eccentric Archbishop Michael Ramsey, preached what would be his last sermon to a community of nuns in Oxford. The Mother Superior was fearful, that, because of his age and frailness, the old archbishop would not be audible. But every single word was heard, and every time he said the word ‘glory’ it came out as a triumphant shout. Michael Ramsey believed glory was everywhere.
On his memorial stone, in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral are inscribed the words of St Ireneus, a second century theologian: “The glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God.’
Or in other words: The Glory of God is humanity, fully alive.
We sometimes get Glory very wrong. We think that Glory is a prize that we win, rather than the way that we live. We think glory is related to achievement or merit, we think it’s about coming first, about power, or wealth, or status or celebrity. We might even think that the more we do, the more glory we will get; the better behaved we are, the shinier we will be.
Well, it isn’t like that with this God of ours. God entered into creation as flesh and blood, as a vulnerable infant, in such a daring way, that it almost seemed like foolishness.
Glory, for this God, is about humility, about entering into our humanity, emptying himself, looking like a loser, being mocked, and beaten, and crucified. And why did God step into the arena of humanity in this most surprising way? God did this, so as to lead us to glory too. The incarnate God, makes humanity holy.
In the transfiguration, that moment of light and glory on the mountain top, God shows us the potential of what it means to be human. In this moment, all earthly existence is gathered in,
and we catch a glimpse of what is to come,
when we are fully realized and transformed.
The whole of creation is charged with God’s glory and there is fire and music under our feet. We are shown who Jesus is, and where we are heading. We are given the long view. These flesh and bones can be transformed, they live, we are not merely dust and ashes, there is something greater beyond the material, beyond anything that we can see and touch or imagine.
Transfiguration holds out the possibility that the most ordinary life can be infused with glory. No matter how small or insignificant we feel we are, whatever our hopes or fears, or doubts, or sorrows, or sins, whatever we hide away and keep secret, God’s transforming power, takes all this, and turns it into glory. That essentially means that we are all extra-ordinary, we are all infused with the glory of God.
If we believe this to be true, it will have an impact on how we live with our fellow human beings as reflections of Christ. We are called to give glory to God and act in such a way that the nature of God becomes visible within us, in the way that it became visible in the face of Jesus Christ.
C.S. Lewis said that ‘Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If they are your neighbour, they are holy in almost the same way, for in them also Christ the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
God stepped into the arena of humanity and God became one of us. We have all seen his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ and we see his glory in one another.
God has raised fallen humanity, and if we have eyes to see, we can see God’s glory in the mirror, and in the faces of those around us. Just look at the glory surrounding you! Glory is everywhere!
God’s glory is reflected in every human being, it shines, it glows, and so when we come face to face with our neighbour, our actions and our words towards them, reflect that glory back to God.
God’s glory is found in the little things, the kind gestures, the daring words, the unconditional love which we offer one another, the care and compassion we show to those in need, and all that we do to ensure that humanity can live to its fullest potential. When we give glory to God in this way, the nature of God becomes visible within us.
The Glory of God, is humanity, fully alive.
This glory, is not about success, or getting things right, or being perfect this is glory by God’s standards, this is about living life as people who are fully alive, people who are transformed from one degree of glory to another before the one and only living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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