Glory and Suffering
Monday of Pentecost 4
3 July 2017
The ancient Romans were mad for earthly glory. They were not above the most cruel murder, military slaughter, rebellion, adultery, or any political underhandedness, if they though it would donate glory to their name. The slightest diminishment in their public reputation was considered an unparalleled disaster. Even their path to ever higher public offices was called the cursus honorum, the course of honors or offices. Their glory turned to ash in their mouths when it had to be set aside for the younger generation who ambitiously came to supplant them. Their glory, focused as it was on the city of Rome and her empire, was a purely earthly honor. This glory arose and collapsed with the fortunes of the earthly city, which went through many upheavals and was finally abandoned by the emperors during the time of Augustine. True it is of earthly glory "sic transit gloriam mundi." Earthly fame flits away.
 
Christ's glory has been donated to His church on earth and will be characteristic of her heavenly existence. Her glory comes from the suffering she shares with the King of glory. Death and decay simply opened a portal to fuller experience and enjoyment of the glory of God. Those who seek the glory of this dying world experience glory to be fleeting and impermanent. For this city, surely has a glory of its own, one that it is valuable in its own sphere of human life, but not valuable unto eternity, because it is being brought to an end along with the city that gives that glory (2Cor 3:11).The church and her children have a glory that does not pass away because it is not dependent on human accolades or earthly recognition. The glory of the church depends on Christ whose glory will never pass away.
 
The church's glory is, like Christ's, hidden until the veil upon this world is lifted by His glorious return. Till then her suffering is her glory. At the end her glory will have a perfect permanence, while the glory of the world will pass away, even as the world is passing away. Martyrdom becomes a witness to the glory of Christ through suffering. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Let the desire for glory be surpassed by the love of righteousness, so that, if there be seen anywhere lying 'neglected things which are generally discredited,'if they are good, if they are right, even the love of human praise may blush and yield to the love of truth. For so hostile is this vice to pious faith, if the love of glory be greater in the heart than the fear or love of God, that the Lord said, 'How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God' (Jn 5:44)?Concerning some who had believed on Him, but were afraid to confess Him openly, the evangelist says, 'They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God' (Jn 12:43). Did not the holy apostles, when they proclaimed the name of Christ in those places where it was not only discredited, and therefore neglected (as Cicero says, 'Those things are always neglected which are generally discredited,') but even held in the utmost hatred, held to what they had heard from the good Master, who was also the physician of minds, 'Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven' (Mt 10:33). Amidst curses and reproaches, and the most grievous persecutions and cruel punishments, they were not deterred from the preaching of human salvation by the noise of human rage.
 
"When, as they did and spoke divine things, and lived divine lives, conquering, as it were, hard hearts, and introducing into them the peace of righteousness, great glory followed them in the church of Christ. They did not rest in that as though it were the goal of their virtue, but, referring that glory to God, by whose grace they were what they were, they sought to kindle, also by that same flame, the minds of those for whose good they consulted, to the love of Him, by whom they could be made to be what they themselves were. For their Master had taught them not to seek to be good for the sake of human glory, saying, 'Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven' (Mt 6:1).But again, lest, understanding this wrongly, they should, through fear of pleasing men, be less useful through concealing their goodness, showing for what end they ought to make it known, He says, 'Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven(Mt 5:16). Observe that it does not say 'that you might be seen by them, that is, in order that their eyes might be directed to you' (for of yourselves you are nothing), but 'that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven,' by fixing their sight on those so that they may become such as you are.
 
"These the martyrs, who surpassed the Scaevolas, and the Curtiuses, and the Deciuses (ancient Roman worthies), followed both in true virtue, because they had true piety, and also in the greatness of their number. But since those Romans were in an earthly city, and had before them, as the end of all the offices undertaken in its behalf, its safety, and a kingdom, not in heaven, but on earth, not in the sphere of eternal life, but in the sphere of death and succession, where the dead are succeeded by the dying, what else but glory should they love, by which they wished even after death to live in the mouths of their admirers?"

Augustine, The City of God, 5.14
Hebrews 11:1-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, You have told Your children that glory of this world is fleeting, but that the glory of Your bride, the church endures forever. Grant that we might seek only those things which redound to Your glory, that what is Yours might ever be ours. Amen.
 
For these United States, that we would rejoice in the gifts of temporal freedom granted to us by our constitutional government
 
For believers that they might not be weighed down by the cares of this world and thus avoid the gathering of ourselves together
 
For Jill Stoneburner, that God the Lord would watch over her and grant her ever greater blessings
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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