By Sherry Black
A Reading from the Gospel of John 5:30-47
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 I do not accept glory from human beings. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
In the fifth chapter of John, Jesus is essentially on trial for healing a paralyzed man on the Sabbath. In giving his defense he affirms his witnesses, both his Father and John the Baptist. In a curious switch in tactics, Jesus changes from defendant to prosecutor in today’s reading. Jesus suggests that his accusers don’t believe Jesus’ witness in the works and miracles he has done on behalf of his Father. They don’t believe the one that God has sent. They search the Scriptures regarding the Messiah, and they don’t see the glory of the one standing in front of them; they are blinded to the Truth. “How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” They love being religious men, but they seem to have forgotten to love God.
Christians, and especially those of us in leadership positions, are also vulnerable to this sin sickness. We kind of like being looked up to. We kind of like the glory and praise of others. Instead, though, we must be humble and faithful to our relationship with God. We see examples all around us of leaders who take pride in their churches, denominations, biblical knowledge, and theology, but when we begin to argue over these things (which sometimes, perhaps, we must), we need to examine our motives. If we lose our love for God and our neighbor, our religion, even if “correct,” becomes a dry relic, and we are just making noise.
The scripture verse chosen as motto for my seminary graduating class is this (which we will read tomorrow in the lessons for St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ): “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory; because of your love and because of your faithfulness” (Ps. 115:1). This is the right kind of glory.
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
The Epsicopal Church in Connecticut