Glory In The Church
September 11, 2016
Verse: Ephesians 3:20–21
Today St. Paul makes us think about things that we don't ponder very often. By this little phrase, "to him be glory in the church…." he wants us to understand what the church really is, and really does, and it is more than we would ever imagine. People talk about "going to church on Sunday," but that does not begin to cover the matter.
Our present state of understanding might be compared to a baby in the womb. Shortly after conception this newly minted life is aware of voices and sounds coming from the outside. But the little treasure has no comprehension of the world which she is about to be born into. She knows something is out there but what it is, remains a mystery!
We are like that when it comes to the power of God which "is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or even imagine." But must we remain forever myopic? Or is there some way that we can glimpse the glory of God today?
Many hucksters would answer in the affirmative. But their message is always the same. It begins with the word "if." If you will subscribe to my teaching, if you will buy my book and send a "gift" to my ministry, then you will see the mighty power of God.
But notice Jesus in today's gospel lesson. That he, who really did demonstrate the glory of God on earth, never said any such thing to the grieving mother. He did not ask her to jump through any hoops, or to do anything at all! He simply said to her: don't cry.
But unlike people who carelessly toss those words about because they have nothing better to offer, Jesus did. Without a word he touched the coffin, and the pall bearers stopped dead in their tracks. Somehow they knew. Then the Lord of Glory said to the dead man: Young man, I say to you arise! And the dead man did exactly that! He sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother! She saw the glory of God in Christ that day.
We hear of a similar case in today's Old Testament lesson. Elijah was a mighty man of God, a Type of the coming Christ. So that when he likewise prayed that a dead son should be restored to his widowed mother, Scripture records these inspiring words, "And the Lord listened to the words of Elijah." She, too, saw the glory of God in Christ that day.
But that is not the end of the story because St. Paul's words are still true for us today, particularly his little phrase, "to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…" We witness the glory of God in the church every Sunday, but do we recognize it for what it is, or are we like the baby in the womb?
By these words St. Paul teaches us that the church is God's exclusive agent to proclaim the mystery of Christ to all creation. Not only to men! But to angels, to demons and to the whole of the creation as well! To all things visible and invisible! So that at the name of Jesus, spoken in the church's holy convocation, and resounding throughout the universe like the voice of many waters, "every knee should bow in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
To the heavenly angels the church announces that the Eternal Word who lived, died and rose again is "the Bread of Angels," the very source of their life and sustenance.
And that same bread, by our Lord's word and institution, is not eaten by angels only, but is also appears on the church's altar for us Christians to eat and to drink. Given us so that we might obtain the same indestructible life enjoyed by the elect angels, and live abundant life, now and unto the ages of ages.
To the principalities and powers, and to the forces of spiritual wickedness in high places the church also proclaims Christ crucified. But now as God's judgment against them. As his victory over death, Satan and every evil whatever its form or manifestation. For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we check and vanquish the power of the devil, and remind him that his time is short.
And to the whole of creation we proclaim that because of the Lord's death and resurrection its bondage to decay will also come to an end: and that this good creation of God will also have a share in the glorious liberty of the children of God. That, in the words of Psalm 30, the dust itself will praise him; and declare his faithfulness.
And so it must be with deep humility and holy fear that the Lord's people gather on the Lord's Day to liturgize the one to whom our words can never do justice. To offer sacrifices of praise. And to give thanks to our God. Not just the ordinary thanks that good breeding teaches. But the unique thanks called "eucharistia" in the Greek.
The same thanks that our Lord gave on the night in which he was handed over for our sins. The night when he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and GAVE it to the disciples and said: take eat this is my body which is given for you, for the remission of sins! You are those disciples, who eat the sacrifice of God, whose life is restored and whose liberty is assured. Thus we, too, see the glory of God in Christ in the church.
For as often as the church offers this divine liturgy, which is the living and active Word of God; which is Jesus among us the hope of glory; she obtains abundantly more than she could ever hope for, pray for, or imagine. She enters into glorious communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. You are that church. Christ is your glory. Amen.