2nd November 2017
Last night my boys aged 10 and 14 were under the Wembley arch watching a little bit of sporting history-in-the-making with Nana. They will have heard all the usual pre-match tannoy hype ‘the game is all about glory’. For once, there was something in it. They’ll probably tell their own kids about last night. I couldn’t hear their individual voices on BBC Five Live, but I could hear the 80000 strong crowd clear enough as Ronaldo and co slunk away. ‘glory glory Tottenham Hotspur’
I have seen glory too. Mountain peaks peeping through clouds, sunrise over mountain lakes, storm waves battering the cliffs, occasional moments of mountain biking genius/survival, more frequent viewings of beautiful human warmth and generosity. Those moments of overwhelming, silencing awe.
Beating the champions, clouds, sunrise, storms, survival, kindness… wonderful … glorious…. transitory.
The story of the Old Testament is a story of glimpses of glory. Moments where the reality of God breaks into the lives of his people. Often it’s transitory – leaving a mark for a few short weeks or the tenure of one leader before life fades back into grey and the glory is forgotten.
The New Testament, the story of Jesus and his followers speaks of a different kind of glory. Growing glory. It is seen first in Jesus – ‘the Glory of God in the face of Christ’. And then it gets a hold of those who encounter him. ‘Treasure in clay jars’ Paul calls it. It grows as Jesus’ followers are transformed into his image. I’ve seen it. Lives turned around. Faces lifted up. ‘Dirty glory’ as Pete Grieg calls it (yes, I know Pete Grieg is not a New Testament writer, but it’s a New Testament thought). It’s not aloof and holier than thou: this glory follows Jesus into the mess of the world and spreads the light. Homeless people get housed, sick people get well, lonely people find a family. ‘Glory to be revealed’ Peter calls it. The light sometimes gets obscured, but there’s a not yet to this glory. A coming surpassing glory that’s beyond comparison to what we see now. A glory worth living and hoping for. A glory that has enabled Stephen and countless others to face down death for Jesus. Peter Hicks, my old college lecturer had a way of saying the word “glory” like it was heavier than lead and shinier than diamond. He died in 2013. He’s seen more of the glory than me now, but the New Testament says that neither of us has yet seen the fulness of this growing glory.