For Thine is the Trouble and the Glory: A Sermon for Lent 5B

Each and every Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer we add a concluding line that actually isn’t part of the prayer our Lord taught in the Gospels.

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.”

That short concluding doxology is a later addition, not a quote from Jesus, and it’s meant to sort of wrap things up.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but when we read today’s gospel, it does give me pause, because when Jesus spoke of glory, he didn’t actually speak of power.

Instead, he spoke of trouble.

But it’s not for lack of opportunity or access to power. At this point in the story, power was thick in the air. Jesus had just ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people had laid out their cloaks, waved olive branches and palm fronds to hail him as a king. They shouted “Hosanna” to proclaim him their savior, the messiah would would liberate them by force from the oppressive, occupying Roman Army.

This was perhaps the moment in Jesus’ ministry that he came closest to brushing up against earthly power and the intoxicating glory that comes with it.

The power and glory of a king.

It was all there for him to seize.

And we know that’s in people’s minds because the Greeks who seek Jesus address Andrew not as the common fisherman from the backwaters up north in Galilee, but with the more formal “Sir.” This is no simple courtesy. The word in greek is actually Kyrie, the word for Lord, as in Christ Our Lord. Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy.

They have glimpsed the power and the glory and they want to get as close to it as possible.

But in response, Jesus speaks not of power and glory, but of trouble and glory.

And now my soul is deeply troubled, Jesus says, because the glory of God leads not to a throne, but to a cross.

Of course, that’s not typically what the word glory calls to mind. Glory is associated with success, not failure; power, not weakness; praise, not scorn; with life, not death.

Glory is the scoring the game winner as the clock expires, winning the scholarship or getting acceptance letter, winning an important client, riding into a city with fanfare and adulation.

That’s human glory, at least, and if you’ve ever experienced even a little of it, you know how good it feels and just how far away something like the cross is from it. But our gospel text puts those things in conversation and gives us a glimpse of what the strange, upside down glory of God really looks like.

In John’s gospel, whenever Jesus speaks of glory, it’s always in reference to his death. Not parades, praise, or prosperity, but a cross.

How could something ugly be so glorious?

It’s such an off-putting thought that the crowds who had just acclaimed him disperse and turn away, even though, the writer of John tells us, some actually believed in Jesus. It’s just, as he puts it, they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.”

And who can blame them, if the cruciform glory of God troubled even the soul of Christ?

I imagine many of us might have the same reaction if we changed the concluding doxology to the Lord’s prayer each Sunday to “For thine is the kingdom, and the trouble, and the glory”. It just doesn’t have that same comforting, reassuring ring to it.

Besides, when things are going well, the last thing we want to be reminded of is the trouble following Jesus might lead us into, or even worse, of the very real trouble in our world or in our own souls, especially if it’s well-hidden.

But, if you’ve ever come to church troubled, it might just be the one thing you need to hear.

That the kingdom, and the glory, and, yes, even the trouble, all belong to God.

And so it’s okay to be troubled, and you don’t have to hide the trouble you’re in under a suit of respectability.

We might know intellectually that love and life have the last word, not hate and death, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of the story, seeing that, must less feeling that, can be difficult, maybe even impossible.

And so being troubled doesn’t mean you lack faith, or don’t trust God, or are a bad Christian. It doesn’t mean your lost. It doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.

As a matter of fact, at least in this story, being troubled makes you a lot like Jesus himself. He, more than anyone else, knew the whole story and how things would really end, but he was troubled nonetheless.

He was fully human, after all. He wept when his friend died, even though he knew he would raise him. He was troubled when another friend betrayed him, even though he knew it would happen. He got frustrated, and angry, and worried, and sad.

And so if we worship a God who was fully human in Jesus, then we get to be fully human when we worship him.

I’ve got to be honest with you this morning. That Jesus didn’t talk about the power and the glory but about the trouble and the glory is actually about the most comforting thing I can imagine today.

Because, I don’t know about you, but I suspect we’ve all come in to this place with some troubles in our hearts.

We have with us today Suhaila Tarazin who shared with us about Gaza, the destruction and decimation, the humanitarian crisis, the torture of medical professionals, and the bombing of hospitals, the trouble in that part of God’s creation.

And of course, we are troubled at the loss of Christoph Herpel, our dear friend, faithful staff member, and part of our parish family. To be honest, I scrapped my original sermon after his death because when I read through this gospel text on Thursday, I literally couldn’t read past that line from Jesus at first, “And now my soul is troubled.” And I thought, “thank God”, because so is mine.

And maybe you come carrying even more troubles than that. Financial hardship. Family conflict. An illness of your own. Job insecurity. Eviction. Addiction.

Those things that trouble the soul, steal hours from your sleep, and hope from your heart.

What troubles you this morning?

I hope you brought them with you this morning rather than leave them behind at home or lock them away in your car before coming inside to worship.

Because whatever they may be, I know that this is a place to bring your troubles and that this place will hold you in your troubles. I know that because I have witnessed you open your hearts to each other’s troubles, to help bear one another’s burdens in so many ways, day in, and day out. I can’t tell you how humbled I am to serve in a parish that has stood by Christoph, Joshua, and Jazmine through this long year of his illness. Thank you for being the body of Christ, for living out your baptismal vows in such a profound way.

I don’t know how people do it without a church, without a community like St. James.

Because here, in this space, your troubles can be transfigured, somehow, into something holy. I don’t know how it works, but I’ve seen it happen, when a trouble walks through the door and over the weeks, months, and years of being loved and welcomed just as they are, the things that trouble them slowly change into something that gives life not just to themselves but to others as well. The wound doesn’t just heal, it begins to heal others.

I think it has something to do with serving a God who chose to suffer with us because God knew that suffering in this broken world was inevitable, a God who chose to heal the world through wounds rather than weapons. And God so loved you and me, that God’s compassion meant entering into our suffering so that we are never alone or abandoned to it. And because God is in the midst of it because we are in the midst of it and wherever the presence of God is there is glory, there is hope, there is new life, if not today, then maybe tomorrow.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy, joy comes in the morning.

Because while the road to glory might run through the cross, it doesn’t end there.

And that is precisely why we can bring our troubles into this place. Because while it might feel like we live in a world weighed down with the trouble of Good Friday, by the trouble of death, because while we do indeed have to walk through Holy Week all the way to the cross, Sunday is coming, Easter is coming, Resurrection is coming, new life, new hope, new birth, the kingdom is coming, on earth, in your life and in mine, as it is in heaven.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the trouble, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Eulogy for Christoph Herpel

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