Not long ago I was minding my sister’s dog Yogi, and every day of course, I had to take him out for walks like good dog owners do. We had some spectacularly beautiful days: clear skies, bright April sun, warm breezes on your face—perfect days for a long dog walk, with lots of time to think about your life. At one point, we were passing a house that was being built, and there was a man putting construction materials into the back of a pickup truck. Yogi is a friendly pup, and instantly approached the guy, tail wagging, big dog smile on his face. The man saw it coming, and welcomed Yogi’s leaping greeting. “Good dog, yeah, you’re a friendly one,” he said. I apologized for Yogi, and the man waved me off. “It’s cool,” he said. He put his hands on the dog, and you could see he understood the nature of a happy pup. “I’ve had plenty of them,” he said. He had one of those faces that looked both wise and kind, if you know what I mean. He was probably in his 60’s, some gray in his hair, African-American, strong arms and working man’s hands. As I began to pull Yogi away, I asked him how it was going—referring to the house he was building. And he said, with a big smile, throwing a two by four into the truck, “Oh, I’m looking for the glory.” It wasn’t what I expected him to say, and I awkwardly responded. I think I said, “Good deal,” which doesn’t really mean anything, but they were the words that came out. Have a good day, I told him, and he responded in kind, and Yogi and I resumed our walk. But for the rest of the walk, I kept thinking about those words, “Oh, I’m looking for the glory”. In fact, they have been haunting me a bit all week. “Oh, I’m looking for the glory.”
I suspect at one time or another we all nurse a secret dream of glory. We daydream that in some way we will stand out and be recognized. And so we fantasize about great achievements that will set us apart from others and make us famous. The daydreams vary but, inside them, always we are at the center—the most admired person in the room, the one scoring the winning goal, the ballerina star, the actor picking up the Academy award, the author writing the best-seller, the intellectual winning the Nobel Prize, or even the one in the circle who tells the best story. What we are chasing in all this is notice, appreciation, uniqueness, and adulation so that we can be duly recognized and loved.
And this isn’t all bad or unhealthy. I think we are built to stand in the spotlight. A healthy ego requires us to dream of our own importance. We nurse a secret dream of glory and, partly, this is healthy. But of course, it can also distort the truth, and lead us in bad directions as well.
“Oh, I’m looking for the glory.” One of the definitions of glory is admiration and praise that you get because you have done something impressive. Synonyms for the word glory are honor, greatness, distinction, prestige, triumph. In the Gospel today, referring to himself, Jesus says “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”
On my walk with Yogi, I thought about where else I had heard the word glory. Of course there’s the song from the war between the states that we sometimes sing in church, Glory, glory Halleluia. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me. Glory, glory halleluia, our God is marching on. I thought of other songs. Springsteen’s Glory Days. Lady Gaga’s The Edge of Glory. And John Ledger’s haunting song from the Academy Awards, “One day, when the glory comes, it will be ours, it will be ours. Oh one day when the war is won we will be sure, we will be sure.” And last night, I watched one of my favorite movies. It’s called Glory, and it’s about the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first all-black fighting unit in the Civil War. The title of that movie is ironic because those brave men, who were not treated very well even though they volunteered to fight. Knowing that they would certainly die, they bravely followed their leader into a horrific battle with no expectation of reward or glory but to die in the cause of freedom for all. Ironically, the film ends with the word Glory printed over their dead bodies. It’s the kind of glory that all brave soldiers have earned as they lost their lives in all of our wars. And watching Glory again last night, it really put me in my place when I thought about my dumb dreams of celebrity “glory”.
The glory that the Gospel speaks about is much closer to the real glory of the men of the 54th Brigade. The glory of Jesus is not very glamorous, nor is it much fun. Being rejected, ridiculed, spit upon, tortured and murdered is not the kind of glory most of us want to embrace. But the truth is, that’s what it means to be the Son of Man, and it’s what it means to be a follower of our glorious Lord.
Looking for the glory in your life? It’s there for the taking, every day, and many people in this room are basking in it, even if none of us notice. It usually involves courage to be gloriously compassionate, forgiving, and gracious. To go out of your way to be kind to someone who may never ‘get it’ and who might even continue to take advantage of you. To be willing to listen to someone who is hurting, or lost, or confused, to have the patience to bear with them and just be with them in your heart. To forgive someone who has deeply wounded you—your brother or your sister, your mom or dad, your children, your friends. To consciously step aside, step into the shadow, so that the spotlight of appreciation falls upon someone else, to be humble and sometimes invisible when all the credit should really go to you. To be glorious like Jesus is to let your very self go—everything that you think you need for your dignity, your self-worth, your rightful and righteous place in the world. Let it go, let it go, like he did, stripped, with nails and a crown.
Jesus defines glory very differently than we do. Real glory, for him, is not the glory of winning a gold medal, of being a champion, of winning an Oscar, or of being an object of envy because of our looks or our achievements. Glory consists in being deep in compassion, forgiveness, and graciousness—and these are not often spawned by worldly success, by being better-looking, brighter, richer, or better muscled than those around us.
To be glorious, like Jesus, to find the glory is found in the commandment that Jesus gives us today in the Gospel, to really and truly love one another. It is love that will give us our glory days, true love that is never selfish or boastful or proud or rude or demanding or irritable. Love that never gives up, is always hopeful, and that endures through every circumstance.
One day, when that glory comes, it will be ours, it will be ours. Oh one day, when the war is won, we will be sure, we will be sure. We’ll cry, oh glory, oh glory. We’ll cry oh glory, oh glory.