This week’s gospel got me thinking about the secular things in our lives that we glorify. For instance, a young child might glorify their parents, super heroes, Disney princesses, and whatever the new cool TV characters are. Teenagers might glorify their friends, getting to drive, and their cell phones. In our increasingly secular society, we glorify secular things more and more. We glorify sports stars, actors, musicians, and even politicians. I made a list of the secular things I glorify, they include: Zac Brown and his band, all of the Nationals players, the entire sport of gymnastics, and of course dogs, any dog anywhere! These are some of the things that in my mind can’t do wrong, I put them on pedestals, they are perfect. Ok, maybe you’ll hear me accuse the Nationals of not being perfect, but I still love them! These things are pretty benign, they aren’t really controversial, unless you’re a Braves fan. But what happens when someone glorifies something dangerous? Or what happens when these things we glorify become more important than our faith? What if what we glorify is in direct opposition of what Jesus would glorify? When we glorify ordinary things, we need to evaluate if it is at the expense of glorifying God.
In this last week of Easter, we hear what is often called the “High Priestly Prayer.” This comes before Jesus’ arrest and execution. In the Gospel of John, it is part of what is called the “Farewell Discourse.” Chapters 13 through 17 are Jesus’ goodbye messages to his disciples, and this reading from today occurs right at the end of this speech.
You have to imagine how intimate of a setting this was, they weren’t out in public, they were sitting around the table together after sharing a meal. Jesus has just explained what is to come, he has given them the new commandment to love one another, he’s given his disciples some insights, and then he turns his conversation to the Father. Jesus, speaking to the father, proclaims that “the hour has come.” The concept of “the hour” is mentioned many times throughout John’s gospel. Throughout the gospel, Jesus refers to an hour coming when something will happen, and things don’t happen to him, such as being arrested, because that hour hasn’t come yet. So, Jesus proclaiming that the hour is now here is very important. Jesus is ready to face his fate on the cross, and he uses this moment to address the father and talk about his work being completed. Here we hear one of Jesus’ most direct explanations of faith. He says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Jesus isn’t known for being very direct, he loves metaphors, but he is very direct here: To know God is eternal life. So, what is it to know God?
Here we move from the extremely simple concept that knowing God is eternal life to the extremely complex concept of trying to figure out what this means? How do we know if we truly know God? Does baptism mean we know God? Does reading the bible mean we know God? Does praying mean we know God? Does going to church mean that we know God? How do we know that we are doing enough to know God? It’s complicated! I would say that all those things add to our knowledge and relationship with God: baptism, scripture, prayer, and worship.
Yesterday I saw a funny little video on Facebook: someone pulls their car up to a shopping cart in a target parking lot, the cart is in the middle of the driveway. They roll their window down just enough to grab the cart, and they drive to the cart rack pulling the cart along. When they get to the cart rack, you wonder how they are going to get the cart in, or are they just going to leave it there. Then the door opens, and someone dressed as Jesus gets out and pushes the cart in. The caption read: “What would Jesus do?” The whole “What would Jesus do,” concept might seem silly, but it is something that might be worth taking seriously, because I think that is one of the elements of truly knowing God. When we evaluate our actions through the lens of what Jesus’ action might have been, we grow our relationship with God. So yeah, Jesus probably wouldn’t leave his shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot.
What else would Jesus do or not do? In discussing this with some friends recently, someone said: “well how can we know what Jesus would do?” Fair question, but the answer to me is simple: we can look at Jesus’ actions through his life, and pretty easily figure out what Jesus would do. Jesus spent his time with people in the margins of society. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He fought back to the controlling religious elite. He cared for the sick and poor. So, would Jesus support refusing to help refugees, we can pretty much guess that he wouldn’t be ok with that. Would he be ok with programs and budgets that take away support to the elderly and poor, no he probably wouldn’t.
This gets us back to the concept of what we glorify. Jesus is asking the Father to glorify him, that his hour has come and he is ready to be glorified. Are we truly glorifying God the way we should? Or are we glorifying those ordinary, secular things above God? Through our secular glorification, are we truly knowing God?
It is ok to glorify secular things, as long as we don’t do it at the expense of our relationship with God. I challenge you to truly think about what Jesus would do, what would Jesus glorify? As we move from Easter into Pentecost, we reflect back on 50 days spent glorifying God. Jesus’ hour came, we have journeyed with him to the cross, the grave, and the ascension. How will we glorify God the other 315 days? How will you glorify God?