The Takeaway Season 2: Glory
Today we’ll be focusing on the glory of God as fuel for our lives—and we’ll explore how we can offer God glory and participate in God’s glory. Spoiler alert: it’s not by working towards success. Listen in.
“Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory, children of the Lord.” Does that line ring a bell? It’s from the chorus of a song about Noah. It contains a plethora of awkward rhymes: floody, muddy; arky, barky; daysies, crazy.
The unlikely, cringe-worthy sequence of rhymes starts with glory. Of all the attributes of God that we’ll talk about in season 2, glory wins my vote as the most enigmatic.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines glory as high renown, fame, honor; adoring praise or thanksgiving. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew for glory is cavod, meaning weight, importance, honor, splendor, describes both God and humans. God’s glory, or cavod, is seen by humans in the cloud, fire, tabernacle, and temple. After the Old Testament was written, rabbis used the word shekinah to describe God’s glory, as the radiant, shining, light of God. In the New Testament, the Greek word for glory is doxa, meaning brightness, splendor, radiance. It’s related to the word “doxology,” the time in worship where we praise and offer glory to God.
What do the Scriptures say about God’s glory?
In Exodus 33-34, in the story of the giving of the 10 commandments, Moses asks of God, “show me your glory.” God passes by Moses, who is shielded by a rock, and Moses indirectly sees God’s glory. Later on in the same story, when Moses receives the 10 commandments from God, he speaks to God face to face. When he returns down the mountain to the people, his face is shining—a residual glow from talking with God and beholding God’s glory.
Jesus’ birth is also described using the word glory. In Luke, when the angels appear to the shepherds, “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2.9). And in John, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14).
Do you see the common thread? God’s glory is something to be seen. Glory is divine light. Come with me back to physics class for a minute: our Sun is the source of energy and light for our solar system. All the light we see, even the light of the moon and the planets, is reflected light from the sun. And the speed of light—how fast light can travel—is the speed limit of the universe. One of the few constants in our world. It’s known by the letter c; it’s 3.0 x 10*8 m/s*2
Translating this into theological terms, God’s glory is the unique source of light and life in our world. And God’s glory travels faster than anything else in the world. It’s constant. Thomas Merton describes it this way, “the whole world is charged with the glory of God, and I feel fire and music under my feet.” Glory is seen in creation, and it is most clearly seen in Jesus: “Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Hebrews 1.3).
So what? How can you and I participate in God’s glory? How can we lean into it? How can we draft off of it? How can we fill up with God’s glory in the fuel tanks of our lives?
Not by focusing on tasks and goals. Not by embarking on the quest for success, the way of shining through your own achievements. And not by focusing on what you look like to others—your appearance. True radiance does not come from striving.
The quest to succeed or shine is the quest of Enneagram threes, known as the “The Performers.” Recall that the enneagram is a personality model that describes how we see and interact with the world—and how we grow into who God made us to be. The divine attribute that threes most reflect is God’s glory. The most common way they get sidetracked in life is their need to succeed. In order to meet this need, they focus on appearances, especially their own, as the measure of their worth. Their own vanity trips them up.
The way ahead for all of us in growing in glory, and not just for Enneagram threes, is to be truthful, to be honest with yourself and God, and to be genuine and real with others. Each and every one of us is a conduit, vessel for God’s glory. Glory doesn’t come from us—or from our efforts—it comes directly from God and shines through us and in us. In the words of Irenaeus, 2nd century church father: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
There are three dimensions of growing in truthfulness, and therefore glory: body, mind, and heart.
To become truthful in your body, keep an eye on your activity, especially your work and your desire to be (and look) successful. Limit the time you spend on your work. Also, to become truthful in your body, deliberately do things that you aren’t very good at. This will help break your addiction to success.
To become truthful in your mind, keep an eye on your thoughts, especially your ideas that become a means or vehicle for your success. Ask yourself: is this really true, all the way down? Or does it just appear true on the surface?
Finally, to become truthful in your heart, connect with yourself, others, and God in a genuine way. Ignore the temptation to shape-shift—to become what other people want or need, depending on the situation. COVID-19 has helped us in this regard: most of us don’t have enough energy or desire to put up a front, or an appearance. It’s easier to just be ourselves—which is why I’ve had more meaningful and honest conversations with family and friends during this pandemic season.
These three paths of truthfulness in body, mind, and heart will lead you to yourself, the truth about your identity and worth. And then you can then begin to ask yourself the question: “where can I shed a little of God’s light today?” Growing in glory happens through the backdoor of growing in truthfulness.
In the words of the Apostle Paul: “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3.18)
In short, look to God, let God’s light shine through you, so that you might become who you are.
As we turn to God in prayer, we’ll use the words of a collect from Morning Prayer, from the Book of Common Worship.
Let us pray.
God our creator,
Yours is the morning and yours is the evening.
Let Christ the sun of righteousness
Shine forever in our hearts
And draw us to that light
Where you live in radiant glory.
We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, Amen.
Until next week,
Open the windows and doors to your heart,
So the light of God’s glory might come in, so the truth might come to light.
Know that your true self is enough, for God’s glory gives you light.
And let your light shine in the darkness so that we all might become who we are.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.