Summary: Remembrance Sunday, 1989: For us to see the glory of God in the face of death means that we have to move some obstacles and we have to live into the bitterness of what might have been; but then the great "Come Forth" can be heard.
At Easter it was not hard to think and to sing of the glory of God, was it? Not hard at all to imagine that God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world. Triumphant music played, pronouncements came forth about victory and power and honor to our God. It was not hard at Easter to dwell on the glory of a living God.
The lilies burst into bloom, the sun poured out its warmth, people filled the church, and everywhere there was an air of celebration and of expectation. At Easter we knew in a kind of euphoria the sounds and smells and sights of the glory of God.
With a little encouragement at the conclusion of last Sunday’s service I could even get you to say with me, Christ is risen, Alleluia, Christ is risen, Alleluia.
Today you say it, but it’s not quite the same. It doesn’t quite have the sparkle. But it could and it should. Because Easter is not a day; Easter is a season, a whole series of days. And in fact Easter is not just a season or a series of days, but Easter is a way of life. Easter is a way of believing, hoping, and thinking. Easter is a continuing doxology. We are the Easter people. We are those for whom the risen Christ is a continuing reality and a living presence. We are the Easter people.
And Easter people do more than go to church in a burst of enthusiasm once in a while. Easter people keep on seeing the glory of God.
Easter people do more than dress up in new clothes and hunt colored eggs and nibble the ears off chocolate rabbits, lots more. Easter people open light-filled eyes and see everywhere the glory of God. Easter people perk up alert ears and hear everywhere the glory of God. Easter people bring every experience, every thought, every activity into a framework that speaks to them of the glory of God.
What do I mean? What is this all about? I am saying that if you know who the risen Christ is and if you are living in fellowship with Him, then you can find in every human, experience, however painful, evidence of the goodness and the love of God. I am saying that behind every human experience, no matter how difficult or how demanding, there can be some way to know the bright shining glory of our God.
Now wait a minute ... isn’t that overstating if? Isn’t that going too far? Can it be true that the purpose and the greatness of God is visible in everything? Aren’t there some things so horrible and so final, so terrible and so destructive, that there is nothing in them that is positive, nothing that will lead us to perceive God? Aren’t there some things so thoroughly negative that God is completely obscured?
What about death, for example? What about that old ogre that keeps on stalking every last one of us, not resting until he has us in his grip? What about death? Can it be that even behind the experience of death we are going to see the glory of God? Can we really argue that this most awful fact of humanity is a window on to the greatness of our God? The glory of God? Where? .
Word came one day to Jesus about one of his friends, and it was not an encouraging word. It was, in fact, the kind of word every one of us knows will come one day, but we dread it, fear it, hope it will never arrive. Do you remember, as I do, when long distance phone calls were a rarity, something you did only in emergency situations, and the bell on that phone would ring lots longer than it did for just an ordinary call? And did you have scenes in your home like we did in mine when I was growing up: that long, long telephone ring, and everybody running from every part of the house, breathless? “Somebody has died, what’s happened?” It must have been something like that for Jesus ...
John 11:1-4: This is for the glory of God, but how? John 11:5-7, 17-21: Martha – my brother is dead, and where were you? Where is the glory in this? And then a little farther on, Mary, the sister, and she echoes the same thing, John 11:32. But now watch: where is the glory of God? Watch what Jesus feels and what He does. Catch the smell and the flavor, feel the atmosphere: John 11:33-44.
The key verses again: "Jesus said, ‘Take away the, stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ’Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”’