Sunday, 23 February 2014


After a very long break from blogging, I got back this evening from an excellent weekend away for new CU leaders in the Northeast and felt inspired to write!

For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was delving in to John's gospel with Peter Mead, from Cor Deo. My heart was warmed and my interest was piqued again to spend some time mining the many riches of that wonderful (true!) story. 

Here's a thought from Mr Mead - why not read through the gospel a few times over the next few weeks. First time, just read it and enjoy the narrative. Enjoy it! It's gripping. Then read it again, and track how John develops the theme of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Read it again, and this time follow how he explores what it means to believe. Keep going.

One of the themes developed in John is that of glory, and we spent a session looking at this.

What comes to mind when you think of the glory of God? His power? His might? Perhaps you have a picture in your head of shininess?

John suggests that the glory of God is shown ultimately in the humiliation, mercy and grace that we see at the cross. His glory isn't primarily his might or power, however wonderful and true those attributes of God are. His glory is his kindness, his patience, his love. His glory is most profoundly seen in the way he relates.

If you know the God of the Bible, then that doesn't come as a surprise. We follow a God who is fundamentally relational. A Father, loving a Son. A Son, loving a Father. A Spirit who communicates that love. "God is love."

God is relational, and the way he relates is glorious. That's his glory. And his glory is not only in the relationships within the trinity, but the way that he relates to his creation.

Of course, this isn't new. Remember the incident in Exodus when Moses climbs Mount Sinai and speaks with God. Don't turn there yet, and just think back.

Moses asks God if he can see his glory. And what does Moses see - can you remember? Perhaps you remember the shininess? He can't look. Why's that? Because of the sheer power on display?

Let me copy it below to remind you. It's Exodus 33 if you want to check it:

"Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”"

And let's just flick forward to 34:5 to see what happens when the Lord actually passes by:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

What a God! Yes he's powerful. Yes he's mighty. But that's not what God's pointing at when he shows his glory. He points to the way he relates. His compassion. His abounding love. His grace. His justice.

And of course that's seen most clearly in the cross. How can he say to Moses in the same breath 'forgiving wickedness and sin' and 'yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished'? The answer is seen at the cross.

The Son wanted to show the glory of how his Father relates. The Father wanted to show the glory of the way his Son relates. So the Father graciously sent the Son, giving the world the opportunity just how glorious his Son is, as he mercifully dies for a broken world.

But the Son didn't go with his arm behind his back. He went willingly, to show the glory of the Father - the kindest Father imaginable who wanted to make forgiveness possible, and wanted to adopt people like us, giving us the same rich inheritance as his Son.

At the cross the guilt isn't left unpunished - Jesus takes the punishment. Forgiveness is made possible. Our God - Father, Son and Spirit - are shown to be glorious in their kindness, humility, grace, mercy, compassion and love.

Now that's truly glorious.

Let's finish with a bit of John 17 - Jesus' final prayer, before being handed over to be tried and crucified. Marvel at the beauty of the relationship of the Father and the Son. Jesus wants to be glorified - why? Not for some power trip. Not because he's a glory hoover. But because he wanted to give glory. He wanted to be glorified so that he can bring glory to his Father. And how does he do that? By dying for a lost and broken world.  By dying to make it possible for messed up people like us to know the Father, and to know his Son.

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."