changed from glory into glory
It is Wednesday. Half-way to Sunday's sermon. At this point in the week I habitually chew on the text for this coming Sunday, meditating on it, fretting, wondering what it is saying to me, to us. This week there is a phrase hidden away in the passage from II Corinthians 3:12-4:2 that intrigues and puzzles me: "And all of us, with unveiled faces, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory into another". I recognize something here. This is the source of an odd phrase in the classic hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling". It is what Charles Wesley alludes to when, in the final verse, he writes "changed from glory into glory". Paul is, speaking of the transformation of the community that focuses its attention on the glory - the energy or presence - of God seen in Jesus. But I am not really sure how to describe these differing degrees of glory. What does a glorious church look like? Are congregations really being transformed - as the King James Version puts it - "from glory to glory"? What evidence is there? Later Paul seems to answer, saying: "So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal" (II Cor. 4:16-18). Paul writes to the pastor in me who is tempted to measure glory by what can be seen on the surface of congregational life. He invites eyes that see beneath the surface. He also writes to all of us who live with chronic incurable illness and others who suffer all manner of pain renaming it a "slight momentary affliction" that it is, somehow, preparation for an experience of God's glory that is "beyond all measure". The text is puzzling to me. I am not sure how to give voice to it on Sunday. I am glad it is Wednesday.