GLORY IN THE DYING
the service of worship at Warragul, 22 June 2003
the end of his ministry, Jesus began talking with his disciples about his coming
reacted in different ways, according to their personalities and life
tried to prevent him going to his death in Jerusalem, and earned a sharp rebuke
from Jesus; “Get behind me, Satan!
You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on
divine things but on human things.”
(Matthew 4: 10, Mark 8: 33, Luke 4:8)
unnamed woman came and poured costly ointment of nard over his head, and Jesus
said when some bewailed her “waste”: “Let her alone; why do you trouble
has performed a good service for me.
For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them
whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its
I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she
has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
(Mark 14: 3, compare Matthew 26: 7 and Luke 7: 37)
Judas betrayed him.
At the Last Supper Jesus said to Judas, “Do quickly what you are going
to do.” (John
each of these responses, I seem to hear an echo of the intense struggle Jesus
was going through as he tried to come to terms with his coming death.
Soon he would have to leave these people who had each become so dear to
growing within him was the conflicting conviction that only through his death
could the Holy Spirit of God’s presence be released amongst them.
He had to leave, in order to be with them in a new and more powerful and
Only by crucifiction could resurrection come.
reading, from the last of the Biblical Gospels to be written, portrays Jesus as
having reached a peaceful resolution to that internal conflict.
Listen now and you will hear a little of the continual communication that
went on between God the Father and God the Son, as the author of John’s Gospel
believed it took place on that last evening while the disciples shared their
final meal with their Lord:
the prophets who led us into the Uniting Church 26 years ago today pointed to
verses 6-26 as the basis for our coming together from the Congregational,
Presbyterian and Methodist traditions.
Jesus’ prayer that “I in them and you in me, that they may become
completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved
them even as you have loved me” (verse 23) was the basis of their call.
are still on the way to such complete union with one another and with God.
it seems to me we have travelled a long way into unity from those first
tentative but hopeful steps 26 years ago.
We have learnt from each other, wrestled with each other about property,
church politics and polity, the way things should be organised or different
theological interpretations, and even about different styles of worship and
on the whole, we have stuck together and grown together and worked for God’s
New people have heard of God’s love through our witness, and have
It is great that Elisabeth will be confirming her faith today, and other
people who have moved to Warragul will be having their membership transfer
sometimes it feels as if we have hardly moved at all.
Dreams given of ways we could enhance our ministry together have barely
begun to be fulfilled.
There are many reasons for this, but perhaps one of the reasons is that
unlike our Lord Jesus Christ, few of us have been willing to embrace the pain of
crucifiction in order to move through to the glory of resurrection.
So on this Sunday as we celebrate both a Confirmation and the Birthday of
the Uniting Church, let us focus on the first eleven verses of Jesus’ prayer.
the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you
have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you
have given him.
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and
Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me in your
own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world
are many sermons which could be preached on those few words.
Today let us explore just one word, the word “glory”, and one
relationship, that of unity.
the Father-Son imagery of John’s Gospel reaches a climax.
Jesus is portrayed as praying almost as if the crucifiction had already
taken place. He
seems to have reached a place where he can look over the pain and
degradation and leaving, to the glory and unity of the resurrection.
The two become one, the light overcomes the darkness, and only the union
with the father and the disciples is to be seen.
Jesus, the divine Son, dwells in the Father, the same yesterday and today
and forever. The
love between the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit, which was before
the world existed, is to be fully released in history through the crucifiction.
There, where humanity did its worst, condemning all goodness and love to
a criminal’s death by torture, God in Christ sees that nothing can destroy
must and will triumph.
Glory will shine forth.
Jesus’ death will be his return to the Father, his glorifying of the
Father and glorification by the Father, the manifesting of the Father’s love
for “his own” and forming them into a life-giving community.
we are faced with the mystery and the majesty of love and death.
Love is stronger than death.
Yet death is the gateway into fullness of love and unity with love.
as Elisabeth confirms for herself the promises made for her by her parents at
her infant baptism, she will accept that death of Jesus, that resurrection love
of Jesus and that unity with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit, for
can imagine the imagery of adult immersion baptism.
She is taking upon herself that leaving all behind to follow her
crucified and risen Lord, as many of us have already done.
In the joy of confirmation the pain of leaving the old life behind is
covered over with joy, but the pain is still there.
Jesus, inspite of the exultation portrayed in this prayer, still suffered
the agony and the terrible aloneness of the cross.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!”
We can pray that when the times of testing come for Elisabeth, as they
come to each one of us, she will be able to remember this day and link herself
to her crucified Saviour.
He knew that in the crucifiction the glory of God, the unity of love
between Father, Son and disciples, is most clearly seen.
we also know that truth.
Our society cries out for quick fixes for its pain.
People look to prescription medicine or a psychiatrists couch or alcohol
or loud music or expensive possessions or insurance payouts to instantly take
away pain. Jesus
accepted the cross, seeing in it the glory of God.
If we want to help to fix our society, we must first ourselves be willing
to accept the pain of dying, the cost of working though love to renewal.
we want the Uniting Church to be a place where people can discern the Body of
Christ, we must be willing to learn from our past, but then leave it behind.
We must be willing to pass through the agony of farewell involved in
crucifiction, in order to enter the resurrection of unity and love.
new things is God wanting to do amongst us in 2003?
What things must we leave behind, in order to be free to move through
crucifiction to resurrection?
Jesus whispers to us that it is time to again leave all behind to follow him,
what will our response be?
we like Peter reply, “There must be an easier way, Lord!”
Remember Jesus’ rebuke to Peter?
I hope none of us invoke that response, but remember, for Peter that was
not the last word.
He the impetuous one became a great leader in the early church.
some of us may sometimes like Judas deny our Lord.
But Jesus still loved him.
Always, like the Prodigal son, we can return to our loving Father, and
surely he will embrace us.
Love always has the last word, and God is love.
hopefully we will more and more learn to respond like the unnamed woman, who
poured out her alabaster jar of costly perfume on the Lord’s head, anointing
him for burial, doing what she could, giving her all.
in each congregation of the Uniting Church we encourage each other to make such
rash and overwhelming gifts of love to those in need, the dying, the hungry, the
imprisoned, the despairing and alone, we will be giving to our Lord.
In our unity God’s love is seen and we are blessed.
In our unity and love people will indeed see in us the Body of Christ.
We will be those living stones built into a temple of the Holy Spirit and
with its cornerstone being Jesus that the young people have been working on to
God be the glory and the praise.