“Jesus …revealed his glory and his disciples believed” ( John 2:11).
This is Epiphany, the season of celebrating the glory of God revealed in his son Jesus Christ. But glory can be used in many different ways.
Glory can describe a politician at the zenith of his or her power. Glory can describe a beautiful painting or piece of music. Glory can describe a newborn baby. And in the Lord’s prayer, we pray, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”
But what does God’s glory mean?
In the second chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals God’s glory when he turns water into wine. Jesus goes to a wedding with his disciples. His mother is there, which means it is probably the wedding of a family friend. Jewish weddings weren’t like ours. Ours last a few hours. Theirs lasted a few days. So you can see how after a while the wine might have run out. Mary comes to Jesus to inform him that they have no more wine.
“What concern is that to you and to me?” Jesus asks.
But Mary ignores his response and tells the servants to follow his instructions. So he gives them directions. He tells them to fill the six large jugs nearby with water. These jugs hold 20 to 30 gallons each. Then he tells them to draw some out and to take it to the wine steward. When the servants do, the wine steward tastes the liquid and raves to the bridegroom that it is the best wine of the feast. Now the wine steward didn’t know that the wine had just been water. Neither did the bridegroom. They both probably just thought more wine had been found. But the servants who had filled the jugs with water knew something incredible had happened. And Jesus’ disciples knew that something incredible had happened.
They saw it all. And in Jesus, they saw the glory of God and they believed in Jesus.
So what is the glory of God? In the Old Testament, when the Lord freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, the Lord himself led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. These were described as the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is the presence of the Lord. The glory of God is present when God is present with his people.
This glory continues today. When have you experienced the presence of God? I have experienced the glory of God when I have been in need of guidance and strength and have come to the altar to receive the bread and the wine of communion. I have experienced the presence of God when I have been broken and hurting and someone has prayed for me.
One time I experienced the glory of God when I was in need of direction. I was being interviewed for ordination. I was asked to describe my experience in the ordination process using a metaphor. Creating a metaphor on the spot is not one of my strengths, but in that moment, one came to me. I had a vision of standing blind-folded and with my hand held out waiting to be led.
Even in that moment I knew that the metaphor had not come from me. It was a gift. It revealed the presence – the glory of God.
As we experience the glory of God, our faith grows. This happened for the disciples. They saw God’s glory in Jesus and they believed him. As we experience the glory of God, we know that we are not alone. We learn that God is with us, providing what we need and guiding us daily. Through this experience, we grow in trust and faith.
And when our faith is strengthened, we are empowered to share with others the glory we have experienced. Some of my most powerful experiences of the glory of God have been through the actions of others. When we let our lives be focused on the glory of Christ, we are like mirrors – we reflect the light that we have seen – so that others are able to see the glory of the Lord also.
Sometimes we fear that our efforts are not great enough for the glory of God. “I’m not good enough to do God’s work,” we say. But remember Jesus started with water. When we allow him, Jesus will take our lives and use them to accomplish his purposes. We can trust him. When we do, our lives will reveal the glory of God.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 501 Pine St. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.