If you want to be a TikTok influencer, your fame has to spread. You have to catch the eye, and capture attention. You need to cultivate your image, and develop a clever pitch. It seems to me that the new world of social media is like the old world of advertising, only bottom up rather than top down. Mind you, I don’t think that’s much of an improvement, because “viral” from whatever direction is both invasive and sometimes deadly. Most of us know that the glittering image is only that, an image, a projection, that can just as easily mislead as inform.
It was for this reason that the God of Israel prohibited the making of graven images, especially images of God. Ancient Israel had a clear notion that when it comes to God, there was always more concealed than revealed. An image of God could be deceptive, because no image could capture the reality of the Most High.
After all, when God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, Moses was not allowed to see him face to face, but was only allowed to catch a glimpse of his back (Ex. 33:20). Exodus tells us that “the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel” (Ex. 24:17). “Moses entered the cloud” (Ex. 24:18), as it says; he “drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Ex. 20:21). Cloud and fire and deep darkness: phenomena that conceal and reveal at the same time. Yet, unlike the glittering image of the influencer, the glory of the Lord never deceives.
“The appearance of the glory of the Lord” (Ex. 24:17) in Exodus point us forward to our Gospel today. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you…” (Jo. 17:1). In the Old Testament, the glory of the Lord was what the people saw when God was at work: not God, but the glory of the Lord. Another way of putting this is that glory is what people give to God when they see what God has done, the evidence of God’s power and presence. Glory is invoked in worship, as an expression of love and praise. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:2), as it says in Psalm 29. When the glory of the Lord is invoked, God cannot be far behind.
Again, back to our Gospel. Jesus prays to the Father to glorify him so that he may glorify the Father. The theme of glory runs throughout the Gospel of John, from its very beginning. “And the Word became flesh, and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jo. 1:14), words that take us back, not only to the start of the Gospel, but to the beginning of the Church year.
According to John, the glory of the Lord has been present in Jesus from the very start. As Jesus prays in our Gospel today, “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed” (Jo. 17:5). With Jesus’ words, we are back on the mountain with Moses, in the midst of the fire and cloud, in the presence of the glory of the Lord.
Jesus fully and faithfully reflects the glory of God, yet even here there is something hidden, something that is not so obvious, something that is easy to miss. Even at the end of the Easter season, the season of resurrection, John’s Gospel shows us God revealed most fully in the cross of Christ. Jesus prays to the Father, in our reading today, before his crucifixion; as he says, “the hour has come” (Jo. 17:1). He’s referring to the hour of crucifixion.
Jesus’ glory will be revealed most fully in his self-giving love on the cross. This is the thing that is hidden, that is not so obvious, that is easy to miss. When Jesus prays to the Father, he has just finished washing the disciples’ feet and sharing the last supper with them. The context for Jesus’ prayer are acts of service and sacrifice. John tells us before it happens, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jo. 13:1). The challenge for the world, and for us, is to discern the glory of the Lord, through the lens of service and sacrifice that both reveals and conceals.
Today we are in the presence of the glory of God, revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord! We proclaim the glory of the Lord in our liturgy, as we sing praises to God. Not only are we in the presence of the glory of the Lord, but we have been caught up in that glory. It has become part of who we are. Remember Jesus’ words, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them” (Jo. 17:10). As Jesus says later in the Gospel, “The glory that you have given me I have given them” (Jo. 17:22). We share in the glory of the Lord.
Through sharing in the sacraments, in baptism and the Lord’s supper, and in acts of service, we share in the glory of the Lord. We see that glory in the face of our confirmands today, as they reaffirm their faith and receive the renewing gift of the Holy Spirit. We catch a glimpse of it in the face of our fellow worshippers as we sing praises to God, and come to the altar rail today. In Jesus Christ, we have entered into the presence of God, and discovered the glory of the Lord.