Today's lectionary reading: Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45; Jeremiah 30:12-22; John 12:36-43
Selected passage for reflection: John 12:36b-43 (NRSV)
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
Glory and wonder. When the pandemic began, I didn’t see much of either. Where was God’s glory when a new virus was spreading? Where was God as we were afraid? Was there glory in our grief? Wonder in our aching?
The writers of Isaiah and John were not without their own griefs, fears and aches. And from their writings it doesn’t look like they suppressed their overwhelming feelings nor pretended they didn’t have questions. But they also saw God’s glory, too, maybe sometimes mixed with the grief. In exile and its aftermath, Isaiah preached of the glory of God’s heart of grace removing sins as far as the East is from the West. John, after the tumult of the fall of Rome, wrote of the wonder of God becoming flesh and making home among us.
And so I set out to find that glory and wonder for myself. It took some time. I wasn’t especially happy to be trapped at home and worried about getting sick or getting others sick when I left for unavoidable work and life things. I was still afraid. I was still in the middle of grief. But soon some things came to me. And I wrote this poem:
In this space
I want to find wonder,
Not just in flowers
Leaves dew drops laden
And skies painted red.
I want to find it
In a clean sink
In uncomfortable solitude (for what does it tell me?)
In opening a window
In the way light reflects on my wall
In the time of day I am never home
And in the glory
Of freshly washed sheets.
I felt an invitation to watch for the glory and watch for the wonder. It started pretty small with things like noticing new leaves on my houseplants or basking in the warmth of clean laundry. But soon, glory came in all shapes and sizes and I began to feel awe when my roommate’s puppy looked at me with hopeful eyes, when Mount Rainier peaked through the clouds, or when I met a neighbor while getting my mail who had the most delightful crinkle on the side of her eyes above her mask.
I began to think that perhaps that glory and wonder had been in front of me the whole time and maybe even in the most devastating of moments. And I wondered how many times I saw that glory and wonder and stayed quiet about it because people might talk. Because when I started looking for glory and wonder, I tended to find it in the most unexpected and most “unworthy” of places. Tiny scraggly plants that burst through cement were utterly gorgeous. People who weren’t considered polite company were very clearly wonderful and those who were pushed to the edges of things were obviously glorious.
The threat of the pharisees kicking them out of the synagogue and their communities kept many from confessing to God’s glory that they beheld. They believed the signs and wonders, saw the image of God in Gentiles and sex workers. But they didn’t say anything because they knew it could bring real consequences. We know that this still happens. When God reveals Godself, the God we find isn’t always accepted in our institutions and any halls of power. In fact, God’s glory is usually threatening to such things. And yet, how can we witness such jaw dropping glory without also celebrating the one who created it and the ones who bear it? God give us clear eyes to see, tender hearts to believe and courageous voices to confess to your glory!
How might the Divine be inviting you to behold glory and wonder in your life? How can you see the signs and wonders and not only believe them but also be courageous enough to confess them?
Divine God, you are glorious and we are filled with wonder when we see you in tiny plants, in clean sheets and in those that bear your image. Give us eyes to notice you each and every moment. Give us courage to celebrate and shout from the rooftops what we have witnessed in everything from clean sinks to our glorious human siblings. Amen.
About the Author
Ellie VerGowe is a pastor & artist who loves to paint, sing, write poetry & be in the mountains as much as possible! Ellie currently works as a pastor at a church in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, is a spiritual care intern at Harborview Hospital & is studying to become a spiritual director. Check out her visual art website at ellievergoweart.com or at @ellievergoweart on instagram.