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Let Our Children See Your Glory

October 30, 2022

Let Our Children See Your Glory

Preacher:
Passage: Psalm 90:16
Service Type:

“Let Our Children See Your Glory”

A sermon on Psalm 90:16 by Dwight A. Moody
Providence Baptist Church, Hendersonville NC

 

I confess I do not know what to do with all the anger in the Psalms. In Psalm 90, the writer asks of God, “Who can comprehend the power of your anger?” Then, continues, “Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.”

Earlier in this same psalm, we read, “We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.”  Last week, you may remember, I read and preached from Psalm 85 which includes this: “You held back your fury. You kept back your blazing anger…Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations?”

I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t ever think of God being angry, even at our sin and wickedness. Sad, yes, and disappointed, surely, and even in despair: but angry, wrathful? No. I don’t understand these lines in these Psalms, and when I read the Psalms, I want to skip right over them; I want to omit them.

They are foreign to my religious experience. I have connected to a God who is, in the words of the great Hebrew confession, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.” That is Psalm 103 and perhaps that needs to be my text next time I preach.

But here is something I do understand, something close to my heart, something near and dear to you as well: the prayer of the psalmist in our text today, “Let us, your servants see you work again. Let our children see your glory.”

Let our children see your glory.

That is my prayer today, and it has been my prayer for almost 50 years. I pray it when I think of my own children, and I pray it when I ponder the Christian Community in the United States. I call your attention to this psalm in hopes that this simple six-word prayer will find its way into your heart and onto your lips.

Lord, let our children see your glory.

I.

There are some things I don’t want my children to see.

I don’t want them to see gatherings of religious men issuing anathemas upon people simply because they dissent from established orthodoxy, as has been done since the early centuries of Christianity.

I don’t want my children to see their leaders trade their prophetic message and servant attitude for a place in the palace of some power-hungry emperor, as was done when the Church married, first, the Roman Empire and in many empires since.

I don’t want them to see the men denigrate the women and deny them the opportunities that men everywhere enjoy, as has been done for two millennium.

Tertullian in the second century wrote about women: “You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law…. On account of your desertion—that is, death, even the son of God had to die” (81).

And this month, trustees at the largest Baptist seminary in the world issued a statement asserting that the office, function, and title of pastor is reserved only for men.

I want my children to see the glory of God, but I don’t want them to see these things.

I want my children to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus, who went about doing good, who rebuked the religious authorities and blessed those considered unclean, who taught us to bless those who curse us and pray for those who denigrate us.

There are some other things I don’t want my children to see.

I don’t want my children to see armies from Christian countries—and that could be Rome, Russia, or the United States invading countries seeking to expand their own empire.

I don’t want my children to see church authorities burning witches, banning books, or blaming scholars for upsetting settled orthodoxy, as has been done in almost every century.

I don’t want my children to see church doors closed to lesbians, gays, bi-sexual, or transgendered people as is being done in churches large and small today throughout the world.

I want my children to see the glory of God: stepping out into empty space and calling into existence all there is; bending down in the dirt of the garden to fashion the man and the women in God’s own likeness; calling out to people everywhere to sing for joy and live with hope.

That is the glory of God.

II.

I pray my children will notice the glory when it appears.

It is not always easy.

I wonder how many people on the back side of Sinai saw that bush aflame and walked on by. I wonder how many people watched David sling those stones at Goliath and went back to making pottery. I wonder how many people sat in the temple during worship without hearing the voice of God saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us?

It is not easy to know when the glory of God comes near.

Ask all those people who sat on the hillside and listened as Jesus spoke the beatitudes.

Ask all those people who watched as Jesus looked up and said to the little man in the tree, “Zacchaeus, come on down. Let’s go home and talk.”

Ask the people who stared as Jesus spoke from his own suffering, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Most people did not notice, did not care, did not stop. They went on picking blackberries the poet wrote.

They were so close to the glory of God and did not recognize it. The glory of God was shining all around them and they did not even stop.

The glory of God does not come as we expect.

When I was a young man, and some of you were young people, God did a remarkable thing. Church worship had dominated the 1950s: choirs, building, ordained clergy, baby dedications. It was going good …  for white Christians, mostly. When people say, Make American Great Again, this is what they are thinking: white people, full sanctuaries, military parades.

But God was doing a new thing.

Out on the streets, lay evangelists were talking about Jesus. One was carrying a large wooden cross, walking across the country, across the world. Young people were gathering for prayer in store fronts, playing guitars, giving testimonies, sharing the stuff of life.  The Jesus Movement, it was called: fully of hippies and communes and shared meals. They were carrying Bibles and greeting strangers. They were breaking all the rules of religion.

It reminds us of that description of those first Jesus followers, written in the book of Acts, “The people could tell they had been with Jesus.”

It was tongues-speaking, Bible-reading, Jesus-following movement that brought the glory of God to a stuck-up church culture.

The glory of God cannot be snuffed out or shut down. “The light shines in the darkness, even the darkness of religion, and the darkness cannot overpower it”, the gospel of John reads.

When the church of Jesus capitulated to the Roman Empire, God raised up devout people who retreated to the deserts and kept alive the things of Christ. It was a surprising way, a surprising place for God to shine his glory.

When the church of Jesus  was gripped by tradition and grasping for power, God raised up bible translators, and gospel teachers, and ordinary believers who defied the Pope and the King to launch what we now call a Reformation.

And today, as Roman Catholics demand a return to tradition, Pope Francis is pulling them into a new more open future; as While Evangelicals fall at the feet of a disgraced president, small groups of dissenters are gathering in mountain retreats and coffee shops to rethink what it means to follow Jesus Christ. This Thursday, the great writer and speaker Brian McLaren comes to Kanuga Conference Center to point people to a different way forward.

I want my children to be alert to the glory of God, after I am dead and gone.

III.

I am blessed to go through life in company with a wonderful cohort of gospel workers. Ministerial friends from college, seminary, and a dozen places of ministry have made life great. Some are catholic, some are orthodox, some are Pentecostal, many are Baptist; but most of us have this in common: our children have gone in another direction. I don’t mean just a different career—that we expect. I mean a different way to believe, a different way to think about Jesus and follow Jesus, a different way to look at the world, at the church, at the Lord himself.

Our children have not seen the glory that we saw, that called us into Gospel work. Your children have not seen the glory that called you into a sanctuary.

You also are praying: Let my children see you glory.

Before I die, or after I am long gone, may my children see your beautiful, righteous glory. May my children encounter the Risen Lord on some Damascus road. May my children feel your Spirit, pervading the universe, loving all people, establishing justice in every corner of the globe. May my children encounter the glory that inspires them to sing for joy and live with hope.

It won’t be in this church. it won’t be in some catholic cathedral or evangelical megachurch. It won’t be with the wooden doctrines of Baptist creeds or the worn out rituals of protestant worship. It won’t be with the unpredictable tongues of Pentecostal preachers or the emotional pleas of television evangelists.

I don’t know what it will look like.

God is doing a new thing in the world. “Behold I do a new thing,” God said through Jeremiah centuries ago, and that has not changed. New songs, new people, new gathering spots, new rituals that help them celebrate with joy and hope.

Another prophet of God put it this way, “I am shaking the foundations in order that what can not be shaken will remain.”

What cannot be shaken is the common humanity we have,—all of us, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Humanist.

What cannot be shaken is the common future we face: American, Venezuelan, Syrian, Australian, Nigerian.

What cannot be shaken is the common life we live: birth, play, work, love, as well as chaos, tragedy, and death. Into this common human drama, the glory of God shines. It shines all around us. It shines on every face and in every heart. It shines in every home and school and playground. It shines in every corner of the universe.

I pray my children will see it and embrace it and live it.

Some years ago, a young man deeply emmeshed in the systems of the world's largest religion stood at the corner of Fourth and Walnut on a busy downtown day. He wrote later, “In the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers….This sense of liberation … was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God became incarnate. …And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

This is the glory of God, shining on you, shining on our children, shining on our grandchildren.

For the common good. For our children, my children, I pray.

 

 

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