Father, Glorify Your Name

So far, John’s gospel has told us that God so loves us that God sends God’s son to save us, and today, we are told that God’s name will be glorified through Jesus’ horrible ordeal.

Beg pardon, what?

We have built Atonement theory upon atonement theory. The supposition for many of them is that God’s nose got so out of joint by what went down in Eden that God lost it and will require nothing less than the perfect sacrifice to wipe the slate clean and get us back in God’s good graces.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not down for paying homage to a divine version of a medieval throne warmer who requires honor debts to be paid in blood. And I don’t think Jesus is, either. After all, he was cracking a whip and flipping over tables, bellowing at us not to turn his father’s house into a place of transactions. I find it interesting that in the creed written by the first council of Nicaea (two and change centuries after this gospel), there’s no mention that God ordered suffering and death.

So why the suffering and death?

That’s on us. That was our choice.

I imagine Jesus’ soul is troubled because

One, it’s horrible to know that pain is coming 

Two it’s horrible to know that your nearest and dearest are gonna sell you out, deny you, cut and run.

And what should I say– `Father, save me from this hour’? 

No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. (v.28) “Father, glorify your name.” 

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

This is not about God’s name on a Marquee, Not a trumpet fanfare. No Non Nobis Domine. What is God’s name? We heard it when Moses asked in the desert.


First person, present tense of the verb to be.

God’s name is the state of constant, active, present being

Not potential, not was and will be, rather I AM


And that is giving me chills because that is the voice that said “Let there be light”, the same voice that uttered the Word that became flesh. And here, that flesh says, ‘Now is the judgment of THIS world; (you know the world that was dust and will become dust again) now the ruler of THIS world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL PEOPLE to myself.’

So, the supreme being, the unmoved mover, the I AM, the Word made flesh will draw us to itself. Not grab us by the scruff of our short-timer necks, not move us around like pawns, but draw, persuade, induce all people to itself. His most human part sees not futility, but the foolishness of a plan based on the choices of humans. God’s foolishness is God’s love for us. All we do is break God’s heart and yet God is always there. Always. 

In the beginning, out of nothing, God created everything. To the creatures God created in God’s image, the only caveat is that they cannot eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. According to the story, a talking snake says, “Hey, don’t you really think you would be a better God?” and persuades Eve to do just that and she offers some to Adam and he eats as well. This is the sin: They didn’t trust, they didn’t ask, nothing wrong with curiosity, just when God goes to the trouble to make you, and gives you but one rule, seems you could trust God enough to have a discussion before you go off book. 

The sin is compounded because the Knowledge of Good and Evil lets them know just how vulnerable they are. Their ‘nakedness’ is their limitations, their vulnerability. When God comes calling, they hide, lie, and blame each other. If this is the point where God is so offended, now would be the time to smite them, smite the snake, Instead, God provides some consequences of their actions. The word punish does not appear in the Hebrew text. 

Now the humans with their newfound knowledge of Good and Evil will have to till the earth for their food. Their bodies will be sore and blistered and they are still trusted to harvest their needs from Creation. Now humans will have to participate in the creation of other humans. It will be painful and exhausting, heartbreaking and joyful. They are still participating in a relationship with God and God’s creation. In fact, their consequences revolve around responsibility for creation. It would appear their offense was not respecting God’s wishes and not taking responsibility. 

To help us to grow in the trust these relationships require, God became incarnate to share in our limitations and to help us imagine our possibilities: to help us be transformed.

This is the overture to heal the breach. God becomes incarnate, not as a king or a general but as a carpenter’s son. The incarnation –Jesus’ sacrifice to live and die as a human– would have been complete if he had died in his bed at a ripe old age. He would still have accompanied humanity. Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing demonstrate how we are to be in the relationship: communion with God and one another. The repair only requires our repentance, our turning to God. Our trusting the evidence of the abundant creation around us.

We are still ashamed of our nakedness, our finitude. Even as his arrest and execution become the inevitable outcome, the incarnate God teaches trust and commitment to continued communion. Washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus also washes the feet of Judas knowing full well what Judas is about to do. Even Peter who has repeatedly said he believes Jesus to be the Messiah, will panic and deny him three times. We cannot trust, we cannot bring ourselves to do this. We cannot believe the messages of abundance, grace, and peace. We are afraid of what it will cost us. We are afraid of what we do not know, so we kill him. We do the most horrible thing we as humans can imagine. We end his life and seek through shame and humiliation to erase his life and its meaning.

A human empire and its killing machines are not the last word. God and human together cannot be erased by violence and fear. God wants the relationship to continue. When Peter sees Jesus after the resurrection Jesus asks him three times, once for each denial, 

“Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”

Peter answers yes, each time. Jesus trusts him to continue the relationship telling him, “Feed my sheep.” A call to action. A demonstration of reconciliation. Peter had to answer for his denials, he had to own his part. Do something different going forward.

This is the ongoing work of Atonement. We humans are the ones who will have to sacrifice. Sacrifice our lust for power, our need to win, our illusions of perfection.

In our contrition we are not alone, we know God has seen worse. Our absolute finitude is not our own death rather the death God reversed. When the powerful can do as they like, to snuff out lives on a whim it can seem like the boundaries of this earth are all that matter and that we are friendless. The resurrection says that is not so. Therefore, the resurrection is Good News to the poor and the powerless, and to the powerful it is a frightening challenge. We must recognize our part in the pain, in the mess. We must do what is within our power. We must take our place, not as a pet or a puppet, but as image bearers. 

We lift high the cross because it says out loud and upfront where you can see it

Here is the worst thing I have ever done

And God was bigger than that

God still wanted to be connected

All is not lost

We must understand that we are collectively able to reflect God only when all are included. 

Because when it comes to being made in God’s image it is not a one to one

This is not mirror, mirror, on the wall who’s the most divine of all? 

This is not the Glory of God

All of us are the image of God

Not each of us.

All of us are necessary 

In our infinite variety

We see in a mirror dimly because we are looking in it to see ourselves

But try imagining that flat plate mirror shattered into countless pieces

Now imagine them regathered not flat, but in a sphere

Each of them reflecting something slightly different from the ones next to it.

Exactly, a disco ball

That is the glory of God.