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Sermon – Commencement 2015
McCormick Theological Seminary
Matthew 10:16-25 and John 17: 13-26
for the worship service today: glory! Glory because you have come to the end! Alleluia! It is all over thanks be to God! But I must tell you this: it aint’ over until its over… You are just starting a new chapter of your life and this wrestling with God, with belief, with yourself, with the world will continue. And that struggle will keep you alive! But thank God no more papers! Alleluia! But let me tell also you also this, once you get into the nitty-gritty of the madness of the world, you will say: how much I long for McCormick! You don’t believe me? Just wait. And that is not a curse I promise you! However, it is indeed time for you to go and be attuned to God’s voice and the guidance of the Spirit as you move into what is next for you.
I must say I am so deeply honored with your invitation for me to preach. It does mean a lot to me and I am very grateful. Thank you for trusting me to bring the gospel in such a special day and a special time in your life. I rejoice with you all and I am here to shout GLORY!
And that is the one word I have for you tonight: glory! I believe that If we learn to say glory, we will be just fine. Because glory is not a mere word that can come and go. Instead glory is a wake up call, a demand, a perspective on the world, a set of values, and an attitude. Glory encapsulates a whole theology, a way of living out the gospel in the world. Due to that, it is not easy to say and live this glory. There is a tremendous lack of glorias in the world today. Understandably so.
Jaci C. Maraschin, perhaps one of the most important liturgists and liturgical theologians in Latin America, was concerned with the lack of glory in the world. Maraschin said that “The lack of ‘glory’ in the modern world is due to the economic massive process of numbing people, which includes the arts and churches. […]. For him, the notion of glory has been kidnaped by consumerism and the revelation of God has become synonymous with accepting life’s material things in life. There is no glory in the new creation of God, there is no glory in the pursuit of justice, but rather the glory of God has turned into the process of buying things or the processes of attaining success.
In that sense, church growth is no longer about the glory of God in the world but rather, the mercantilization of the glory of God clothed by the proper mission of the church. We now ascribe success, or the glory of God, to successful pastors who have big churches and have big salaries. Pastors who are barely paid for small churches are examples of failure.
However, the glory of God has nothing to do with the mercantilization of success. On the contrary, the glory of God is often where success isn’t, among losers.
To say glory one has to have a good sense of God and the costly grace that comes with it. For the glory of God happens in creation and pursues justice for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. The glory of God shone in the life of an undocumented peasant called Jesus Christ. The glory of God happened in the shame of a cross, and after being killed, the glory of God was resurrected and lives now in our midst.
The glory of God is nothing less than the love of God for the world. “For God so loved the world….” says John. The song “Yes Jesus loves me Oh, yes Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so,” holds the weight of the theology of Glory. It is said that Karl Barth mentioned this song as the fulcrum of the Christian message.
For the Christian message is grounded in love more than in belief. Our faith starts in God’s love. God’s love is the immemorial beginning of ourselves and where everything makes sense. Thus, if you know you are loved beyond measures and your own abilities then you can say Glory! That is why we go to church every Sunday, just to shout Glory! Because we are loved by God: Glory! And it is the Holy Spirit that sustains our vey shout of glory!
However, the devil hovers around us trying to deform our shout of Glory, defiguring the love of God in you and me. Our society and our capitalistic system are always already there to take this potent message down and make it sound like an embarrassing unsustainable unrecognizable sound.
Our society has hijacked the glory of God! Even our churches have done that too. Instead of a Glory that changes and challenges and transforms everything, our glory has been turned into self congratulatory events, into golf club reunions, and meetings of a social class that is committed only to itself.
The glory of God that disrupts and transforms and challenges and makes demands for conversion has been hijacked from us all and it has became a psychological tool to appease fears of unsafety, protection from strangers and turned into a “cozy immanence.”
That is why we see many churches and seminaries and Christian institutions not being able to say glory!
When the glory of God becomes the survival of a high class society we have lost God’s glory completely!
When the poor are not served we have entirely lost the glory of God!
When Christian institutions tame the gospel so they can only do what they like, we have lost again the glory of God.
And that means that we all have learned to live without the glory of God! We have learned that we can live without God, that prayer is not really a reality, that a miracle is actually a fiction in the Bible that belongs to the illiterate and the poor.
Today, we can live with no trouble, without the glory of God.
The perversity of our capitalist society is this: it has made Christianity exist without Christ, our faith without God and the world without glory! We can live with economic disparities within ourselves without any problem. We have learned that we can say and pray and sing glory without the very harsh consequences it might brings to us. As you might have already heard, Christianity has become like decaffeinated coffee. It tastes somewhat like coffee, it looks like coffee, but it does not affect us in almost any way.
But that is enough for an introduction. Let us look at the text and see what Jesus says about God’s glory. There are some fundamental aspects of these texts that we need to wrestle with. Let us see what Jesus tells us through John.
First, The Givenness of God
In this text and throughout the gospel of John we see a mutual givenness: “Both the Father and the Son are “givers” of life and their mutual giving constitutes the grace which those who belong to Jesus have inherited and in which they are now seen to live.”  We are all a result of a deep mutuality, a deep solidarity, a deep love between the trinity! And like Jesus, we give now what we have received: mutuality, solidarity, love! We give what we have received: Glory! We give, we share, we spread, we offer: the glory of God!
The second thing about this passage: We must know where we belong
Many of us wrestles with this sense of belonging. Some people put their belonging in the things they have: their house, their possessions. Some people put their belonging in a fixed identity, be it religious, nation-state, sexual, racial and so on and if they lose that fixed identity they feel they will die. We don’t belong to any of these fixed identities brothers and sisters. ! We belong to God! As Jesus said:
16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
God was Jesus’ home. Thus, God is our home as well. You are not clinging on a precipice, you are not going ashtray! Instead, you and I belong to Jesus.
Jesus gives us multiple identities, identities that move around in love and without fear of others. In Jesus, we belong to the oikos of God, the shalom of God, the glory of God! We are God’s, and we belong to God’s glory.
Our very sanctification happens when we ascribe glory to God and each other. For sanctification comes in the glorification of God and one another. And that glorification is not an easy success for those who are already in the path of success.
Rather, the glorification/sanctification of God is in the very ability to eat and have a shelter and possibility to study, even when we don’t have a high GPA. For the glory of God is not in high GPAs but rather in the struggle of the poor to continue to study and go somewhere else. If I had depended on a high GPA I would never be here!
The process of sanctification is the process of honoring one another as we honor God. Our belonging is in each other’s glory. For I will only be able to sing God’s glory if that glory belongs to you as well. Then the oikos of God, the shalom of God is fulfilled.
The third thing: knowing a name
We sing Glory because we know the name of Jesus! And I don’t think this name will take me to a steeple church! That name, if properly glorified, will actually take us to the outskirts of the cities and into the fetid, disastrous, forgotten places of poverty and dishonor. For the glory of the name of Jesus will be the glory of those trashed by society.
Also, this name will bring me closer to those who profess other names. Knowing the name of Jesus will make us extend our tent to anyone who comes near us, it doesn’t matter what religion or class or walk of life! The name of Jesus harbors the entire world and offers shelter and love, protection and honor to anybody who comes near us. In a word: glory!
The fourth thing: Knowing the Word
Verse 10 says “the word of God will be glorified in us.” We are the temple of Gods glory and the word of God will set us free! Free! Free to believe and not believe! Free to think and to speak.
I learned this freedom from my Latin American protestant background filled with Calvin, Marx, Tillich and liberation theologies. The Latin American Protestant tradition taught me that the word of God entails this divine gift of free theological reason, critical and emancipatory (for which the Word comes to history in preaching) and can be an antidote to anti-intellectualism, to individualistic religions and psychologically turned feel good Christianity that serves more to protect a certain class of Christians than witness to the glory of Christ. The truth of that word shall set you free!
Lastly: We are sent into the world
In the gospel of Matthew Jesus says something like this: “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their churches and seminaries. You will be dragged before theologians and governors, professors and legislators, pastors, session counselors and even the president because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles, the poor, and the non chosen ones in our societies.”
It is in this world that we need to live and sing the glory of God! Be careful for they will teach you to tame the glory of God! And if you truly want to live the glory of God you will be in trouble! Because the glory of God is the alternative to the only way of thinking proposed by our economic elite.
Our world says: capitalism is our only choice! Let us make it better! And Jesus and the first communities say: No! Sharing and having equal possibilities is the only possibility! A stupid proposal for sure!
If you live this glory in its fullness, you will be the world’s most dangerous enemy. In this struggle I beg you: never take the side of the rich, of those who are holding power! They can deceive us so well!
Always stay with the ones in the margins for they are the ones who hold the true gospel. And even if they are wrong, it is better to be wrong with the poor than right with the rich.
In this world that Jesus send us, your theology will always ask you to take sides, where is God in this situation? Be prepared! And don’t try to be nice and understand everybody. Try to understand first and foremost the oppressed, those pushed down by the systems of power! For there is the fullness of God’s glory!
As you go, don’t be afraid! The Holy Spirit will guide you and sustain you! For the glory of God can only be lived if by the movement and sustenance of the Holy Spirit.
So when you are anxious, when you are sick, when you are falling short, when you are lost and fearful, remember that you have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that heals and anoints and holds you with the glory of God!
When I was a pastor in Brazil a woman who was holding a child came to me and asked for money for her child. I asked if she needed some money for medicine and unveiling her child to me she said: “no, my child died and I need to find money to bury her.” The lack of glory was such in that situation that I couldn’t say glory for a month. The lack of glory in this world is such that your tongue will dry within your mouth time and again.
However, if you hold on to that Glory, to the everlasting Glory of God that transforms the world, that converts us to the poor, that associates honoring God with honoring every single human being on earth, then you better be ready to go and serve God in the world.
So get ready!
Because we are living days where the glory of God is desperately needed!
You are going to be sent to a world where the future isn’t anymore what it used to be;
You are going to be sent to a world where 1% of the population has more money than the other 99%
You are going to be sent to a world where churches mirror that system. Some churches have lots of resources while others are dying.
You are going to be sent to a middle class that tends to be frozen with fear. A middle class that often says our problem is the poor and the minorities and not the government who is actually devising our disgrace.
You are going to be sent to a world where our elite, those who have the money and power are viciously destroying our earth and trying to eradicate the poor! See the ongoing eradication of the indigenous people for the last 500 years and the eradication of black people going on right now!
You are going to be sent to a world that has forgotten how to dream and has learned to live in fear. For the glory of God, do not stop dreaming! Don’t stop dreaming that people will find God and will be healed, transformed, honored! Do not stop dreaming that a world of justice and glory and peace is on the way! A world where everybody can eat three times a day and have a roof over their heads!
The song we started with for this sermon came from the movie Selma. If you haven’t seen the movie Selma, watch it as soon as possible. In this movie you will learn what the meaning of glory is all about! The movie describes a short period of the civil rights movement when blacks and whites get together to fight against white supremacy and the apartheid in this country.
It is so amazing to see how our brothers and sisters back then knew how scary it was to sing the glory of God…
To shout glory was a very risky endeavor
Every shout of Glory was a shout for justice!
Every shout of Glory was a prophecy of a new world!
Every shout of glory was the struggle to honor every black person in this country!
The black and some white people became the holders of a new world right there!
They were the chorus of a glorious future! Singing and fighting on our behalf!
They knew that to shout glory could destroy their very families, it could put them in jail! They knew that to shout glory could get them killed!
In the midst of the fight, God’s Glory was something unknown, since the birthing of a movement had so many unknowns. And yet the glory of God was closer to them than anything else. For God was hovering over this movement with a cloud of God’s own glory!
Their shout of glory was a different proposal of a society! It opposed the glorias of the white supremacists. Don’t forget that the KKK used to sing glory too! A very corrupted glory, a glory that was based on a white theology of destruction.
And yet, the “glory glory alleluia” in the mouth of black and white folks broke loose the gates of hell.
They walked because they knew the glory of God
They crossed the bridge and went from Selma to Montgomery because the glory of God went ahead of them
The angels of God were singing along with the cloud of witness singing: glory glory glory
And they walked! In the midst of bullets and water hoses and dogs, they walked! For all they had was the glory of God and signing their glory to God was the way to keep themselves alive!
They knew the very consequences of singing glory!
When they got to Montgomery, the journey wasn’t finished. There were still way more glories to sing, to come, way many more glories to be shouted so the fight could go on! And after fighting for years, after losing so many people along the way, they knew even better what to shout glory was all about! Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X and so many others couldn’t shout glory with their people when the laws of segregation were broken.
But now, you have your own history to teach your people and your sons and daughters what God’s glory is all about!
Now we are in the mist of a Black lives matter movement! A movement that needs to add brown LGBTQI Indigenous lives as well. For they all matter as well!
The forces that continue to kidnap the glory of God in the world are in full force!
So don’t go alone! Engage with other people, find movements of resistance, and never ever forget to sing glory together with other people!
For if you hold to the glory of God tightly to your heart and mind and body, you will see the glory of God coming!
Sometimes you will need to go to the mountaintop to see the glory of God.
Sometimes and more often, it will be amidst your people that God will show God’s glory to you.
Every time you don’t know where the glory of God is, go where the poor people are, and you see Jesus, and the glory of God shining in its full stretch. And if the church isn’t there, leave the church! But never leave the poor!
For there, amidst the poor, the glory of God is in full swing!
As I finish, let me say what I think God is looking for right now:
God is looking for lunatics not proper thinkers!
God is looking for crazy ballers in the park not the ones who are there to take care of somebody’s safety!
God is looking for disrupting clowns not messengers of the king!
God is looking for those who have compassion for the poor not proper theologians of safe cabinets that fight only for a proper belief!
God is looking for the truth of the poor and not the disguised lies of the rich
God is looking for revolutionaries not people who want to wait for a process of change to happen. Because only those who can afford a full belly can wait!
God is looking for people who love first and believe after
God is looking for people who are committed to life and not to denominations.
God is looking for people who are committed to God’s creation and not the economic development of the world.
God is looking for people who are committed to people of other faiths and not the ones who think their faith is enough and have it all.
God is looking for savages not well behaved people.
God is looking for pastors who do not agree with the capitalism of the church
God is looking for prophets who know how to work with the people not lone rangers for justice.
For the glory of God
For the glory of God is often seen in the stupidity of the lunatics
The glory of God is often seen in the danger of those who don’t have anything to eat.
The glory of God is often seen in the misguided counsels of the court clowns who think differently.
The glory of God is often seen in the hearts of compassionate people
The glory of God is often seen in the truth telling of the poor
The glory of God is often seen in the revolution for those who are desperate and going hungry
The glory of God is often seen in the midst of people mixed together
The glory of God is definitely not in capitalism, because capitalism wants the well being of only a few.
The glory of God is always around love.
Friends, you have in your hands a potent bomb that can transform the world. Don’t treat it as a lollypop, don’t carry this gospel as if it doesn’t make any difference. Believe it wholeheartedly or leave it behind and go do something else.
I finish with the words of Teresa L. Fry:
Keep in mind that every tear you shed on the journey
Every pain you feel on the journey
Every lonely night you spend on the journey
Every headache you experience on the journey
Every joy you share on the journey
Every victory you have on the journey
Is all to the glory of God!
Go spread the glory of God throughout the whole wide world
Now you go to this world that is in flames,
Burning in inequality, hatred and guns and shames
It will be hard to see love
It will be hard to see justice
It will be hard to see the glory
But off you go!
Hands to the Heavens, in worship and honor to God
No weapons in our hands but the Bible, and the compassion of our savior to the poor
You received proper training, love, and care
Now you are formed, ready to serve and dare
Glory will be your destiny and those you will serve
Not the glory of the world
But the glory of God
Who will bless you in the unknown places of your life time and again
Every one of you will become a legend
Siding with the poor
Siding with the poor
Don’t let the sins of the world overwhelm you
Don’t let the weight of the world take away your blessings
Don’t forget that the one who abides in you is bigger than the one in the world
The movement of the Spirit is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtapositionin’ us
Justice for all just ain’t specific enough
One son died, his spirit is revisitin’ us
Truant livin’ livin’ in us, resistance is us
That’s why Jesus died on the cross
That’s why Rosa sat on the bus
That’s why we walk throughout the world
In Ferguson and Baltimore
Asking God for more
So get your hands ready
For when the glory comes our hands must be up,
In a thousand shouts of Glory!
When the world says “go down”
We will stand up and shout Glory!
When they say, “Stay down”,
We will stand up and shout Glory!
When you hear shots of violence, we on the ground, our beloved one being killed
With no cameras around
We will stand up and shout Glory!
Like Martin Luther King who said I’ve seen the glory
We will stand up and shout Glory!
For King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up
just to shout once again: Glory!
So off we go!
Under the blessings and love and the mighty protection of the whole triune One
whose name is Glory!
God the Glory
Jesus Christ the Glory
The Holy Spirit the Glory!
And THIS glory will be with you every day!
And yet, it will wait to come again until the work of God is done
And One day
when the glory comes
ahhh It will be ours,
it will be the glory of the wretched of the earth
when the war is won and the glory comes
it will be ours, it will be ours!
One day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
So go into the world and fear not!
Once again I say: fear not!
And one more time
And once again
And until our final day
Glory! Glory! Glory!
 Jaci C. Maraschin led the creation of the hymnal O Novo Canto da Terra (the New Song of the Earth), a groundbreaking musical work done in Brazil where, for the first time in Brazilian history, a hymnal unapologetically included native musical rhythms from Brazil and Latin America, as well as global rhythms from other parts of the world, to help us sing hymns, songs and coritos to express, explore and expand the living of the Christian faith from a tupiniquim faith, a faith sung from the cultural markers we knew. in O espelho e a transparência. O credo niceno-constantinopolitano e a teologia latino-americana, (Rio de Janeiro: CEDI / Programa de Assessoria à Pastoral, 1989).
 Walter Brueggmann.
 This part of based on the work of James Boyce, Professor of New Testament and Greek, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1292
 Weary Throats and New Songs, Bracl Women Proclaiming God’s Word (Naschville: Abington, 2003), 52.