The Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Nashville

“The glory that you have given me I have given them” (Jo. 17:22).

It’s an ancient custom in the Easter season to read from the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John. The Church’s instinct is that this telling of the story offers us a deep reflection that’s suited to this season: a deep meditation on the meaning of Jesus’ ministry and on his death and resurrection. Easter, after all, is a season that lasts for fifty days, precisely because the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising again is hard to encompass in a single day of celebration. So we have fifty days, rather than one day, and the Gospel of John to guide our reflection.

The first part of the Gospel concentrates on a series of miracles or “signs” that reveal Jesus’ glory: as it says when Jesus turns water into wine, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jo. 2:11). The miracles are an invitation to faith: the faith of the disciples and our faith as well.

The second part of the Gospel unpacks the notion of glory, and finds the clearest manifestation of Jesus’ glory in his crucifixion. Needless to say, this is counter-intuitive, as we would not naturally go to the sight of judicial execution to see God’s glory manifested. Yet this is where the Gospel directs us.

Jesus introduces the theme himself in the thirteenth chapter, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and will glorify him at once” (Jo. 13:31-32). It’s the evening of his arrest, but it’s only “now” that Jesus will be glorified. Just when you thought you understood what glory was all about, Jesus turns your understanding upside down. Just when you thought that glory was something bright and shiny, gleaming with the polish of miracle and success, Jesus reveals that it’s something else again.

Our reading this Sunday invites us to go deeper into the meaning of glory. In the Old Testament, glory is associated with God; we get a glimpse of it as God makes his appearance. “The glory of the Lord” is a personal attribute of YHWH, closely linked to him. “My glory I give to no other,” it says in the prophet Isaiah (Is. 42:8). On Mount Sinai, Moses begged God to show him his glory: he wanted the reassurance that the presence of God would be with them as the People journeyed on (Ex. 33:18). But God says to Moses, “While my glory passes by I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen” (Ex. 33:22-23).

With the story from Exodus in the back of our minds, we can see ourselves the power of the Gospel of John and its meditation on glory. “My glory I give to no other” (Is. 42:8): yet here we see God’s glory revealed and shared with us through Christ our Lord. “My face shall not be seen” (Ex. 33:23): yet again, we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), to borrow from St. Paul. “The glory that you have given me I have given them…  *Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me” (Jo. 17:22, 24).

God’s presence is with us as we gather and celebrate today. The glory of the Lord is all around us as we hear the Word of God and celebrate his sacraments. God is speaking to us as we hear the Scriptures read and preached; Jesus is present as he shares his body and blood with us in the sacrament of the altar. Our gathering offers powerful testimony to the reality of the living Christ as our fellow members of the Body of Christ reaffirm their baptismal vows and receive the laying on of hands. We can see the glory of the Lord in their faces. Even more importantly, Christ himself is standing in our midst as the One who is risen from the dead.

Remember, however, when it is that God reveals his glory: to pilgrims on the way. In Exodus the glory of the Lord appears to the People of God while they are still on their journey. God is present to them as they move ahead. When God’s glory was revealed to the prophet Ezekiel by the river Chebar, both the prophet and the People were in exile. “Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the glory of the Lord” (Ez. 1:28). In John’s Gospel, Jesus shares his glory with the disciples while they are still on the way.

So too the glory of the Lord appears to us in our exile. We’re still on the journey, we’re still moving ahead, but Jesus is present with us. His promise is that we will reign with him in glory. In the meantime, his presence is here, and he shares with us his glory.