This week has seen the celebrations of Ascension Day – ‘Our eyes have seen the glory’ we sang as we climbed the nearest hill-fort to remember Jesus and his return to heaven, ‘Glory, glory, Alleluiah’.
But this week has also seen terrorism come too close to home and for parents of children just beginning to explore the world of pop music and live gigs, right into our hearths. We are not the only ones to be subjected to such fear and horror: terrorist bombings also took place in Istanbul and Jakarta as well as Manchester, Marawi City in the Philippines was invaded, and Syria continues to face such constant fear and terror, that it is no longer news.
In the midst of worldwide attacks by a group who claim to be religious, it can feel a little treacherous to be not just celebrating a religious occasion, but revelling in the glorification of God.
The gospel passage set for this seventh Sunday after Easter, and three days after Ascension, recalls Jesus’ prayers for his disciples before he is arrested. He begins by calling upon his Father to ‘glorify’ him so that in turn Jesus can glorify his Father. He goes on to pray for his disciples, those who have ‘glorified’ him on earth. I am not feeling comfortable as I read through this passage. I wonder what it could mean for Jesus to be glorified, or for him to glorify his Father. We know that Jesus had a huge cult following, that fame was certainly his and fortune could have been too. This all takes place long before the invention of the camera and certainly the selfie, but Jesus was a celebrity of his time – or at least he could have been. Jesus didn’t live a celebrity lifestyle: he didn’t travel around in luxury, his entourage weren’t there to make life easy for him, he didn’t send out riders ahead of him to ensure that his every need was met. He certainly didn’t court those in positions of power and influence. If Jesus was glorified by his disciples, if Jesus sought glorification, it wasn’t in the way that we have come to understand in our 24/7 media world.
For us ‘glory’ means to be clothed in splendour…For Jesus it will be seen in the humiliation of the cross.
Jesus has come to the end of his earthly mission. It began with him shaking off the splendour and the glory in order to become one of us; descending to earth in all the humiliation of a messy birth and the helplessness of incontinence and weakness. The culmination of his ministry would be his death on the cross, once more stripped naked and powerless. His resurrection astounded everyone and was a foretaste of his true glory – but his Ascension, his return to heaven, is the celebration also of his return to glory.
The promise Jesus made, prior to his return, was that he would pray for us – that he would have a word with God the Father, the Almighty. In his earthly prayers for his disciples he prayed that they would be protected by God. If this is true, how do we account for what happened on Monday night? How do we account for the persecutions and crucifixions that his disciples met? Empty promises? False hope?
Just what does it mean to ‘glorify’ God?
And what does it mean to make God’s name known? Those who have caused the outrages of this past week, also claim to have done so in God’s name. When we pray ‘Hallowed be thy name’, in the Lord’s Prayer, what do we actually mean? We are back to that sense of celebrity status – hollowing God’s name doesn’t just mean to put it up in lights, to have top billing, to become a hashtag even. To do something in someone’s name means to do something according to all that they stand for, all they represent. We are back, in a way, to re-imagining what it means to be glorified: in our society (and Jesus’ too) to be glorified meant to be given the VIP treatment, to be hero worshipped, but for Jesus’ it meant death on a cross. It meant to act out love that is true and puts others first. Jesus laid down his life so that others wouldn’t have to. For Jesus’ name to be known wasn’t to make him infamous, but to make his way of life known to others so that they, so that we, can love others too. So when we pray, ‘hallowed be thy name’ we are praying that everything that Jesus stands for, loving your neighbour, forgiving your enemy, taking care of the poor, the vulnerable, the refugee, will become sacred. We are praying that those of us who align ourselves to his church and take on his name, will also take on this way of living too.
And when we pray ‘for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory’, we are reminding ourselves of where Jesus truly belongs and why. These 9 days between Ascension day and Pentecost, the Archbishop of Canterbury is once more calling us to pray, to call on God’s name, on behalf of others; to pray for good, to pray for blessings, to pray that Jesus’ name will indeed be known, and through that sacrificial love will he be glorified.
Something to watch:
Something to think about:
- How do they events of this week make you feel?
- Have the events of this week affected your relationship with Jesus, with God?
- Do you agree with the statement that ‘religion is the cause of all wars’?
- What does it mean to you to glorify God?
- How can we make Jesus name known in a positive way?
- How can we respond to the Archbishop’s call to prayer? https://www.thykingdomcome.global/
Something to pray: