David A. Davis
June 5, 2022
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“Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday. Giving thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, hearts filled with God’s love and our hope of sharing God’s glory. “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Sharing not just goods and possessions but sharing the glory of God. Our hope of sharing the glory of God! Sharing God’s glory; whatever that means. Do we divvy it up like slices of pizza so everyone gets a little? You get some glory. You get some glory. You get some glory. Do we invited everyone to join in the sharing; like jumping into the pool on a hot day. God’s glory! Come on in! Do we each take turns with it like all the players on the hockey team that wins the Stanley Cup. They each spend time with the cup. God’s glory. Your turn!
“We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Whatever that means. In the Greek New Testament there is no word here in Romans 5 and verse 2 that remotely refers to sharing. There is no verb after “boast”. A closer translation would be “we boast in the hope of God’s glory”. No “sharing”. We hope in God’s glory. Strike “sharing”. The addition of “sharing” comes only with modern translators who, perhaps, are trying to bring some clarity to what it means to “hope in God’s glory”. But God’s glory isn’t dependent upon our ability to share it. God’s glory can’t be defined by how much we boast about it or how we exult in it. The magnitude of God’s glory made known to us in and through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is, of course, beyond us. God’s glory so not dependent upon our sharing time. God’s grace, God’s mercy. God’s presence, God’s love. So beyond us. This reconciling, forgiving, new life-giving work of Christ, this glory of God, yes, it there for us and yet so much greater than us. So much more than our ability to talk about it, brag about it, choose it, testify to it, share it. The hope of God’s glory.
In the last week amid all the reports of horrific gun violence of all kinds and elected officials saying so much and doing so little, there was the story of someone smearing cake on Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre. The painting is covered in bullet proof glass so the attempt to mar the painting was in vain. A video is also posted of a museum employee standing at the painting in front of the throng of people wiping it clean. Wiping it as casually as a parent wiping icing hand prints off the refrigerator door. A nameless staff person whose job was to allow the beauty of the Mona Lisa to once again be seen.
“We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” The hope of God’s glory. Yes, it is a future and eternal hope that one day, together with all the saints, that great multitude that no one can number, one day you and I will rest forever in the glory of God. Yes, it is a here and now hope that in the power of the Holy Spirit you and I will bask in the glory of God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s presence, God’s love, and the new life Christ offers. A glory that is drenched in beauty like God’s creation on Day 7, like a late spring morning with the sky so blue, the dew so fresh, the air so crisp. The hope of God’s glory. But we don’t live on Day 7. It’s not all good. The world doesn’t always allow God’s glory shine.
Moses had many conversations with God in the book of Exodus. At one point Moses says to God, “Show me your glory, I pray.” God told Moses that while he would be able to see God’s face, he should go over and stand on a rock and when God’s glory passes by. God would put Moses in the cleft of the rock, cover Moses with God’s hand, and when God takes away God’s hand, Moses would be able to see God’s back. God’s back parts. God’s backside. The backside of God’s glory. Interpreters are pretty clear about the connotations of what God’s back parts mean. But forms of the word also carry the connotation the aftermath. A backside that has a sense of timing. Behind. Afterwards. Coming after. Clearing all the dishes from the table on the backside of a dinner feast. Picking up all the toys in the room left in a child’s wake when bedtime arrives. The backside of her day. There on the rock, what if what Moses can see, what if all that surrounds Moses, is the aftermath, the wake, the leftovers, the crumbs of God’s glory?
When my mother would visit us here in Princeton when our kids were still very young, she would often leave to go back to Pittsburgh when they were in school. So Grandma would always go to their room and leave a note with a few dollars taped to the desk, or she would leave a snack on the kitchen counter with a note. Always something from Grandma left behind. It was just for the kids, it was for Cathy and me too. One particular visit my mother had been cold the whole time. She blamed it on the timer on the thermostat that would drop several degrees while the rest of us where out during the day. At the end of her visit, I arrived home from my office, Grandma was gone, and there was a twenty dollar bill taped to the thermostat. The note read “Couldn’t stand it anymore” and the heat was bumped up. Early in the pandemic when we transformed our children’s bedrooms into grown up guest rooms, I found that Ben and Hannah had saved several of those notes from the backside of Grandma’s visit.
The hope of God’s glory. Yes, thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever and ever. But what if God’s glory leaves a mark in the here and now as well. You and I standing knee deep in the everyday promise and faithful and steadfast love of God. Looking for, pointing to, clinging to bits and pieces of divine glory that can’t help but be left when the Lord passes by. The wake of divine glory that flows like a river of justice, a stream of righteousness, The aftermath of glory scattered around, a bounty of God’s promise, nibbles from the feast of the divine banquet. You and I living each day in the hope of God’s glory.
“We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Whatever that means. The Apostle has a take on what it means. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us.” I long ago stopped thinking of this verse from Paul as A + B + C = D with cause and effect etched into the rhetoric. For one thing, who can believe that every kind of suffering is somehow redeeming or good for you. Sometimes it is just suffering. I can no longer read the verse as if Paul was a motivational speaker. Or the point was something like my father shouting for all to hear after I was hit with a pitch in Little League; “Run it out”. The preacher in Hebrews might call us to run the race set before us with perseverance but I can’t read Romans like Paul is telling us to “run it out”
Suffering. Endurance. Character. Hope. Love. I now hear Paul offering a litany of life for after the seventh day of creation. A litany of life when all is not good. A litany of life that plays out far from the mountain tops, the soul nurturing warmth of worship on the Lord’s Day, or those moments when you have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart. Paul and our hope in the glory of God. It is Paul claiming the promise that God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s presence, God’s love, and the new life Christ offers is present and real in that litany of life too. It is not a pep talk. It is Paul’s take on sharing God’s glory. It is a call that together as the Body of Christ we hope, we yearn, we covenant to discern together God’s presence, God’s glory in all of life. That we would help one another to look for the splendor of God on the ordinary days and cling to the promise of God’s presence on the darkest days and longest nights. Yes, our hope in God’s glory, even now, even today, even this season, because the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts.
That nameless museum staff member wiping away the attempt to veil the Mona Lisa, the nameless staff member who was also faceless since his back was to the crowd who all had their cameras up filming his act of restoration, that simple yet profound preservation of beauty, it’s not a bad image for the life of disciple, for the followers of Jesus, for you and for me. Heading out into the world everyday with anonymous, simple yet profound acts or wiping just a bit of the world’s grit and grime away to allow the beauty of God to shine.
Hoping in the glory of God because the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with the very love of God. Simple, yet profound. An act of love and the resplendence of the glory of God.