Today’s Author: Paul Sponheim
Martin Luther was not keen on what he called a theology of glory. In his theses for the Heidelberg Disputation he was relentless in critiquing a theologian of glory, lifting up instead a theologian of the cross. And yet in the text for the sermon last Sunday we hear John saying that Jesus revealed his glory when he changed the water into wine. What are we to make of Luther’s critique?
Well, there’s a sentence in these theses that helps us. Luther writes “A theologian of glory calls the evil good and the good evil; a theologian of the cross calls a thing what it actually is”.He is making a moral distinction, Did you notice the last six words in the text?: “ . . . and his disciples believed in him.” Perhaps they had been with him enough to see that he named something for what it was: the good, good; the evil, evil. Even in this glory-revealing miracle, he speaks to his mother ominously about the hour that is to come for him. Perhaps we are not far from a theology of the cross. The disciples saw the glory revealed. But the miracle story does not end with universal participation in an altar call. There is no mention of others (the servants, for example) believing in Jesus.
And how is it with us? There certainly are plenty of reasons not to believe in Jesus. There’s the infamous problem of moral evil defying the power of God. And the behavior of the church or of people professing faith in Jesus can turn us off so readily. Probably most of us find ourselves mumbling “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mk. 9:24) We might even say that it is a miracle that we do believe. Believe in what? Notice that the text is not talking about affirming propositions but about believing IN Jesus. That sounds like faith as trusting the person.
In any case, we are in the Epiphany season, the time of unveiling, of revealing. We’ll want some sentences; there is a message to bring. But most fundamentally there is glory to be seen in the changes that take place when a person follows the word of Jesus, as the servants did in Cana. So, let yourself claim the glory—the peace and joy—that discipleship brings to the ordinariness of our lives. The light does not obliterate the darkness, but the darkness does not overcome it. That’s glorious.
Let us pray… Dear Lord God, awaken us, that we may be ready when your dear Son comes, that we may receive him with joy and serve you with pure hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Prayer written by Martin Luther Die pommersche Kirchen-Ordnung und Agenda, p. 282. Translated for A Collection of Prayers.)
Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community. If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.