Below is the reflection I gave this evening at an evening prayer service I have been leading called Evensong. Read and be enlightened!
In the Psalm reading today the Psalmist proclaims these Words:
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
A littler further he states…
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
Listen to these words: worthy, greatness, mighty, awesome. The Psalmist used all these words and generally when we hear such words our mind fills with images of power, and we perhaps think of conquering, changing circumstances, making things happen. It is ideas such as these that populate our understanding of the divine and why it is we should pay homage, fall to our knees, render sacrifice, and obey. Our tendency is to think that because God is powerful: all powerful, he is glorious: all glory. The Gospel, however, forces us to reconsider our understanding of glory and power. Listen to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading:
Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
Prior to speaking these words Jesus washed the disciples feet as an example of service, which in the Kingdom of God is the very substance of greatness. In these words Jesus is connecting the glory of God to his impending death, which is the absolute example of service and greatness, the example of greatness which is at the root of all genuine service of all the saints throughout the ages, and it is this glory that will forever crown all God’s saints in the age to come. In connecting the glory of God to his death Jesus reveals that God’s glory is his self-giving love, a love by which he made himself vulnerable, allowed himself to be broken, so that he could meet us in our brokenness, and in our brokenness intimately bind us together and bring us home to Him. This connection between glory and service, a connection which displays God’s heart for all to see, is the very heart of the Gospel.
We live in a culture that is becoming further removed from a Christian worldview, an age I have heard referred to as post-Christian, which is to say that the dominant culture no longer assumes Christian beliefs and values. More and more what is emerging is a belief that plurality, and radical autonomy, are the paths of freedom and human flourishing. Our culture believes that everyone should have the right to determine and identify themselves, without any recourse to nature or any other determinates. In this framework the greatest virtue is tolerance, and the prophetic word is what we most deeply feel is true about ourselves. We must all tolerate, even affirm, each person’s chosen identity, for the chosen self is sacrosanct. We Christians, however, have a different view of self and a different prophetic Spirit.
In today’s reading from Revelation, just after the assigned verses we find these words:
And he [an angel] said to me , “These are true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Within this passage I want to draw attention to this sentence, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Often, when we hear the word prophecy, we envision one who offers words about the future, often a future of judgment, but here the testimony of Jesus, the Gospel itself, is the prophetic utterance. No doubt John has in mind a Spirit empowered testimony, but nonetheless the prophetic utterance is the Church’s proclamation of the mighty deeds of God expressed through the person and work of Jesus Christ, these mighty deeds wherein God made himself vulnerable to lay a hold of our depths, our sin, our brokenness and bring us back to our true selves. Selves not created by our own hands, not determined by our our limited and broken sense of what is true and good. Rather selves that were created by God’s wisdom and design. These true selves are purchased selves, purchased through God’s self-offering on the cross. These true selves are not autonomous but rather owned and they are selves that are formed and are being formed by nail pierced hands. This is the spirit of prophecy that we proclaim to an age lost in radical autonomy, and it is my prayer that God would empower his people with this prophetic spirit to boldly proclaim the mighty deeds of a glorious God who would pour himself out restore us and make us his own.