How to Glorify God! - Sunday of Fathers of First Ecumenical Council - 6/13/2021
Gospel Reading: JOHN 17:1-13
Link to Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
This is one of the most important and unique passages in the Bible, because it shows us a glimpse of the nature of prayer which the Lord Jesus Christ has with God the Father. What is unique about it is that it shows us the conversation within the Trinity. God the Son is talking to God the Father. This is also the prayer of Christ the Most High Priest to God the Father. And while this conversation’s depth is beyond measure, and there are volumes that could be written about it. There are few vital lessons that are very helpful to us this morning that we can learn from this passage, and before I discuss these lessons, let us put this passage into perspective.
This passage takes place in the Book of St. John Chapter 17, which is during the last supper of our Lord with His disciples in the upper room. The conversation started between The Lord and His disciples in John 14, in which He took the bread and consecrated it and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take Eat This is my Body” and likewise to the cup. Then a long conversation took place between our Lord and His disciples telling them how it is important for Him to leave them so he could send them the Holy Spirit, and therefore in these days the Church has chosen for us these passages of the Book of St. John to remind us that we are waiting the Holy Spirit, which will come in the Pentecost, which we are celebrating Next Sunday. This is one of the infinite examples that we as a Church not only we read the Bible, but we literally live it in our daily lives and in the liturgical cycle of the Church.
Now, immediately as Jesus was talking to His disciples, Jesus lifts his eyes to Heaven and started talking to God the Father, which where the passage today starts. And in this is our first lesson. Talking to God is not and should not be a decision that we mull for days, or sometimes years, it takes place instantly and everywhere. God is here and everywhere, He is with you at work, He is with you when you are with your family, when you are out with your friends. You don’t have to stop your life to talk to God. You can talk to God any minute you are about in your daily life. So many people say, oh I am busy I do not have time to pray. But who said that you have to stop your work to pray, or stop caring for your children, or for your family to pray. You are called to pray while you are doing what you need to do. We do not work and pray separately. Our work becomes prayer and our prayer life becomes part of our work. Try that, and see how God is always around us and He listens to us immediately. One of the reasons that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere, that He can listen to you wherever you are. You don’t have to leave the room and go to another room to pray for Him. Talk to Him in the room that you are in while you are doing what you are doing, at work, while driving, while cooking, while cleaning the house, etc.. You prayer does not become part of life, your life becomes more and more prayerful, and then, prayer doesn’t become something that you do, but rather someone who you are, as the Psalmist David sings in Psalm 109: 4 For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer, or I am prayer.
Lesson No 1: We pray as we and where we breath
The first thing that Christ has told the Father, The Hour has come, which means it is time. This is exactly what the deacon says to the priest or the Bishop at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. It is time for the Lord to act, Bless Father, or Bless Master. The Divine Liturgy is not separated from the Bible, the Divine Liturgy is the actualization of the Bible, is the true understanding of the Bible, if we read all the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and understand the Bible correctly, we arrive to the Divine Liturgy. If you like to understand what happens in the Divine Liturgy, read the Bible. Not parts of it, but all of it. The Language of the Bible is the Language of the Liturgy, and the Language of the Liturgy is the Language of the Bible. This is why the Orthodox Church is the true Bible Church, not just because it reads the Bible, but it lives the Bible and actualizes it in Her liturgical services, and liturgical cycle.
Lesson No 2: The Church who wrote the Bible actualizes it in her liturgical life.
A constantly recurring word in this morning’s Gospel reading was the world Glorify. And this word Glorify is a big word, and essentially is a fabric of multiple verbs intertwined together. I would like to focus on Three of these verbs. The first verb is TRUST. Let me give you an example. Let us say that there is a world renowned lady chef, and that chef is praised in all the cooking magazines and the cooking shows all over the world. Unfortunately, this chef is married to spouse who when he comes home every day asking for his meal, tells his chef wife: “Are you sure you cooked this correctly, are you sure you did this right, are you sure you did not burn the food, are you sure you put enough spices, and so on, and so on… are you sure, are you sure, are you sure… and not only that, he tries to take her place in cooking even though he does not know the difference between salt and sugar. And the question becomes, is this man, by his attitude towards his wife Chef, is he glorifying her? Let alone respecting her.
While this seems a little bit hysterical and frankly paranoid, but this is exactly what we do with God, we do not Trust Him. We keep asking Him, are you sure you are going to take care of me, are you sure I am not going to be in trouble? Are you sure you will get me out of this situation? Are you sure? Are you sure?
And it is obvious that by our mistrust in God does not glorify Him at all. In order for us to glorify God we need to Trust Him, and this is our third lesson.
Lesson No. 3: We are not glorifying God by our anxiety, but by trusting in Him
The question becomes how can we Trust God if we do not know Him? And here where we might be confused, and we can say, of course we know God, He is the creator of Heaven and earth, He sent Jesus Christ, and we start reciting the creed. And here I would answer, we know God like we know the president of the United States, or any other leader for that matter. We do not know Him, we know of Him, and there is a big difference. A big difference between the intellectual knowledge, that even atheists, demons, those who rebels against God have, and the true knowledge, which comes through a true and deep relationship, prayer, dialogue, purpose, reading the Bible, reading those who loved Christ what did they do in their lives, and most importantly the mysteries of the Church; Communion, Repentance and confession, and sacramental life and liturgical cycle of the Church.
Lesson No: 4 We Glorify God by Knowing God, not of Him.
For us terrestrials, we see the sun as a circle, that we can cover sometimes in our hands when it is setting. We know that the sun is big, but we also think big of ourselves. But did you know that the sun could fit 1.3 million planet earths, so in comparison, how big are we compared to planet earth, and how small are we in consequence compared to the sun. This is exactly what happens in spiritual life. The more that we get to know Him, the more we get closer to Him, the more that we realize our true selves, the more we realize how Great, powerful, loving, kind, and mighty He is, The more we become in awe of Him, and start automatically, organically, naturally glorifying and giving praise to God. The more we forget ourselves because we start to understand how small we are, how weak, and how much we need Him. The more that we totally dismiss our own power, the more that we place our Trust in Him.
Did you notice brothers and sisters how many times Jesus said to God the Father, It is You. 30 times in 13 verses Jesus said the words you and your.. And Jesus is God the Son. He also is almighty, all powerful, and all glorified, and with one essence with the Father, and yet He kept referring to God the Father as the source of everything He does. How much more should we, the dirt with no power in our hands whatsoever, be saying to God it is You, Glory to You.. Yet so many of us still think, I got all of this because of my hard work, because of my intelligence, because of my skill, and we foolishly forget that it is God who gave us the health, the stamina, the brains, the means, the people, the times, the resources, everything…
Lesson No 5: We Glorify God by giving Him all the due credit, not ourselves.
Finally, and most importantly, Let us return to Verses 3 and 4: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do;
The eternal life is all what we just discussed, the eternal life is not a reward, neither hell is a punishment, God did not create us to punish us nor to reward us. God created us in His image and likeness so we can be united with Him. If we are glorifying God in our lives, we have already started the eternal life, we have already started to taste infinite joy, peace, purpose, which are the results of our communion with God even though through our suffering, and we know that our suffering is temporary, and serves the purpose of our purification and repentance. But we start our eternal life by realizing that everything that we do, everything that we accomplish, all of our work, is given to us by God, and we need to accomplish for His glory, and the Glory of God is our own glorification. Otherwise, if we are choosing work for our own sake, for our own glorification, then we want to become Gods without God, just like the serpant fooled Adam and Eve. God wants to glorify you with him, but some of us choose the opposite. it is our own free choice, but we need to face the consequences of our choice. What is the result of that? anxiety, fear, and loneliness, depression, anger, distress and all negative emotions that you think of that are result of our own temporal glorification.
Lesson No 6: The Glory of God results in our own true, eternal glorification.
So my question to you this morning brothers and sisters: Are you glorifying God in your life? Can you say with Jesus, the work which you gave me to do I have accomplished?
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.