Gloria in Excelsis Deo

‘Tis the season to use the word Glory (or Gloria) a lot.

If you’re anything like me, the usage mostly happens unthinkingly–except for this year. This year I’m writing a new study for the OSFGroups. The study is called Glory, so I guess I’m noticing the word, and how we use it, much more than usual.

The seeds of this study were planted a year before the study was written, during another Online Spiritual Formation Group study on the book of John (The Transforming Word). One day we were discussing Jesus’ temper in the Temple in John 2. In response to a question about why Jesus got so upset that day, I said, “Jesus’ number one, all-consuming passion was not His love for humanity or His followers (or us) in particular, but for the will and glory of His Father.”

This sparked quite the dialogue, beginning with a participant’s frank admission, “I have always struggled with the idea you express. I see the scriptural support for the idea that it is all about God’s glory. But I really struggle with the idea that God’s glory would be more important than His love for us. Is this just my selfish humanity talking?” He wasn’t alone in his reaction.

The entire discussion left me with the question, “Why do God’s glory and God’s love have to be two different things?” I’ve been wondering that ever since. This study is written in an effort to explore that conundrum. Is God’s glory the glittery but scary and even destructive side of God—the side that is so decidedly not human, the “Old Testament God” side? Is God’s love the more earthy, encouraging, empowering, “New Testament God” side, in the image of which we were created? Could it possibly be the other way around? Or is there something else going on entirely? “I was thinking,” said a future participant the other day, “that glory is really kind of murky, even though it seems so shiny!”

There are three OSFGroups forming for this study so far, each of seven people or fewer. In a post-and-comments internet kind of way, we’re beginning to get to know each other. We are seeking to open our hearts and minds–and our Bibles, too–to see what substance, over the next two months, we begin to discover in the glorious love that is God.

Would you like to join us? The study itself launches on 1 January 2018. Sign ups close on 20 December, and you can join up here on this website, or through Facebook.

Published by Jennwith2ns

Jesus person. Wife and step-mom. Daughter, sister, auntie, friend. Collector of stories: mine, yours, tangible, not... Pastor of Central Baptist Church, founder and spiritual director at The Pilgrimage, and author of Trees In The Pavement and Favored One.

8 thoughts on “Gloria in Excelsis Deo

  1. I’m mostly curious why religious issues won’t leave me alone. Also I wonder if arriving at God through abstract thought is as good as through the “heart” or intuition. I am too cerebral, I know, but it’s more comfortable for me to make the approach by philosophy rather than by religious practice. Rituals scare me in church, and I feel safer at home with my PC — where I pick up my Pilgrimage (with setbacks) anyway and keep going. Thanks.

    1. These are good questions. One thing that to me is comforting about the idea of the Incarnation is that if God really did become human, He would presumably experience something of our human proclivities and preferences, even if He wasn’t ruled by them. So maybe He would know what a more cerebral person feels like and what a more intuitive person feels like, and be able to communicate with them via the means most readily accessible to them. (After that, I think He likes to push us out of our comfort zones a little, but I also think there’s always one special way He communicates most, with each individual.)

      I’m really curious to understand what you mean by “why religious issues won’t leave me alone.”

      1. Simply that I have a mental illness, schizophrenia (paranoid type), that’s characterized in part by religious delusions. I suppose if the ideas were strictly delusional that a medication would disperse them. However, some bit of the psychosis always seems to peek through. Some would say this is because the brain and the soul / mind are not equivalent. Consciousness would then be something more than an “emergent property of brain function.” It arises from a source with a different quality of substance than matter — i.e., spirit… Thanks for saying that Christ has a personal way of communicating with individuals. I had a terrible alcohol addiction until on one occasion I just stopped. An act of God? Time will tell. Also, thanks for not saying I sound like a “nut” for talking personally about God… although, the deprecation is self-imposed. No real person has yet called me that. Only there was one abusive email contact a couple of months back… Oh, well.

  2. Yikes. Sad to hear about the abusive email. I talk personally about God all the time–have my whole life. I guess some people have thought I was a nut, too, and heck, maybe I am, but I don’t really think so. I’ve found God deeply present and challenging/comforting/liberating in different ways through my whole life.

    Thanks for sharing some things about yourself. I won’t pretend to fully understand your experience or even the dynamics you talk about, but I do think the brain and soul are not identical–although I’m more and more interested in and convinced by the idea that all the different components we humans divide ourselves into were originally designed to work together as a whole, that in this broken world, we ourselves are fractured images, and that one way to look at this lifetime is as the pursuit of integration–within ourselves, as well as with each other.

    1. Sorry for lateness; PC went “tilt” and had to shut down for a while. I like your idea of fragmentation of self and society in modern life. CG Jung thought that from birth to toddler we’re in a holistic state, then after, we begin to be differentiated. Sort of a microcosm of human evolution, I guess. Wordsworth’s Intimations Ode is a famous poem about human preexistence and how “heaven lies about us in our infancy.” Then, “shades of the prison house” close around the growing boy, who in manhood is “inmate” to the earth. “Our birth’s but a sleeping and forgetting…” Beautiful Romantic ideas… BTW, my own blog posts, in order, read a bit like Emily Dickinson’s series, having faith for a few poems, then plunged in doubt for a few. She’s my favorite American poet. Critics have questioned her mental health, too, but then, that’s what critics do. I appreciate your open-mindedness, Jenn. You tend not to treat spirituality like a pat science. Myself, I use my blog(s) as a searching method, a means of exposing (temporary) truths. One follower from last April told me each post was a “mood.” I like the word “attitude” or “position” better, since these are not merely feelings, but specific thoughts… Better leave off for now. Keep being honest in searching, and I will, too. Take care of you and yours. Ciao for now.

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