And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” – Isaiah 6:3
“Mary” and “Tim” have what my mother would have called “a bad case of the can’t-help-its.” They are precious souls, in fact, but for years they struggled with the demons of mental illness, exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. This year, too much of a bad thing caught up with them and Mary ended up in the hospital on a ventilator and the verge of death. Tim called to say the doctor suggested he get Mary’s affairs in order. Would I do the funeral? Unless some kind of miracle happened in the next twenty-four hours, that would be Mary’s fate.
Twenty-four hours passed, then forty-eight … then several days. Mary lingered at the edge of death, kept alive by a ventilator but probably much more by the prayers of God’s people. Her church and family surrounded her in prayer. One week later, she opened her eyes. Two weeks later, defying all medical logic, she walked out of the hospital with just a sliver of a pancreas remaining. Our community celebrated a genuine miracle as we welcomed her into worship just three Sundays after she’d been given up for gone. She has confessed her need for Jesus and is ready to start a new life.
In Mary’s miracle, we have seen God’s glory.
The Greek and Hebrew words for “glory” are richly textured. In Greek, it’s doxa, which can mean splendor or brightness but also the trait of defining something as it really is. Greeks saw the glory of God as explaining who he really is. That fits John’s proclamation. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). If you want to know what the glory of God looks like, look at Jesus.
Or at the paralyzed guy who was lowered into Jesus’ presence for healing. “Immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God” (Luke 5:25). God as He really is—God in all His glory—is expressed powerfully in someone who has been healed.
The other side of glory is expressed in the Hebrew word, kabod, which means “weight” or “heaviness.” This is the side of glory Isaiah experienced. When the prophet stood in God’s unhindered presence (Isaiah 6), he was overcome by his own depravity. “I am a mess!” he confessed.
In the presence and weight of God’s glory, Isaiah saw the absolute emptiness of himself. We can relate. It would be like opening the door on a Saturday morning—dressed in our most comfortable, least attractive clothes—only to find the Queen of England on our doorstep. In that moment, we are less likely delighted by the honor and more likely to cry with Isaiah, “I am a mess!”
This is the weight of glory: It exposes our most ambitious pursuits as empty, shallow, lacking—not to condemn us, but to better position us for a life of substance. God’s glory is both kabod and doxa. It is the one thing of real substance that has power to call out the truth of who we are as we stand in the truth of who God is.
And standing there in that substance of glory, in the weight of it, we come to realize with Paul that, “Christ in you is the only hope of glory!” (Colossian 1:27)
This is the real work of worship. It is to bring us into the presence of God so that in his Truth, we see ours. We confess our sins. We seek healing. We let our lives point toward Jesus, so the glory of God can be made manifest in us.
Does your worship call forth the glory of God?
Carolyn Moore, a 1998 graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, is serving in Augusta, Georgia as the founding pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church. She is married with one daughter.
This is part 1 of a series on God’s glory by Carolyn Moore.