“Seeing the Glory of the Lord”
Isaiah 40: 1-5 – Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Dear Christian Friends,
Years ago, when we lived near Lewiston, MN, a neighbor woman was dying of cancer. Her name was Ida, and she and she was a cheerful and well respected Christian lady in our farm community and one day her husband Marlo the dairy farmer called me and said, “If you want to want to say goodbye to Ida, you’d better get over here. She doesn’t have much time.” I visited her, and we did a little bit of small talk and then when it came time to talk to her about dying, I started to cry. She asked me why I was crying and I had such a lump in my throat I couldn’t really say anything and then she scolded me for crying and she knew where she was going and heaven was going to be way better than this and why don’t you stop your crying and say a prayer. It was as if she could almost taste the glory of God. And so I prayed with her that God would receive her into paradise in His time.
A couple of years ago, I had a similar experience with my dear mom. She was in hospice care, and one day it was just me and her, and she was sleeping and I was thinking and then I started to cry. She opened her eyes and saw that I was crying and she said, “Larry, are you crying?” I said, “yes.” She asked why. I tried to tell her that it was because I loved her so much, but I couldn’t get any words out. She assured me that she was going to be ok and maybe I could pray for her. It was as if she could almost see the glory of paradise and she wanted to be there sooner rather than later.
Just a few days before Mary breathed her last, I couldn’t help but get teary eyed as I greeted her and noticed that in spite of all that she had endured, she had a bit of a smile on her face. It was if it was frozen in place. As if she couldn’t not smile. Instead of asking her a yes or no question, I asked her an either or one. I asked her if she was getting discouraged or if she was keeping her spirits up. It took every bit of energy she had to mouth the words “keeping spirits up.” It was as if she could already see the glory of God in the midst of her frail and declining condition.
Our sermon text for today is in Isaiah 40, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Our theme is “Seeing the Glory of God.” I invite you to think with me today what it means to live by faith instead of by sight. What it means to see the glory of God, even when life is ever so inglorious. What it means to celebrate the beauty of the resurrection even as you stare in the face the ugliness of death.
The assignment of the prophet Isaiah was to comfort the people of God. He was to speak with a tender voice to them that their time of exile in Babylon would soon be over, that their sins had been forgiven, and that their blessings would be abundant. They were to get themselves ready to see the glory of their God by making straight in the wilderness the way of their Lord, by lifting up the valleys, making low the mountains and hills, and smoothing out the rough edges in their lives. In other words, they were to spend their days repenting, that is to say – being sorry for their sins, throwing themselves on the mercy of God, receiving that mercy, holding onto that mercy, and walking by faith instead of by sight. Living according to what God had promised instead of according to what they could see.
It seems as if Mary Cords had figured out how to live by faith instead of by sight. She knew the reality of polio and she knew the unbelievable pain of losing a son at a young age and she knew the loneliness of losing a husband and she knew the long days and nights of cancer and treatment and surgeries, and yet she kept on seeing with the eyes of faith that Jesus was her Savior, that God was with her, and that His promises were to be trusted. Or to say it another way, she had found a way to see the glory of God even when life was short and full of trouble.
Bob and Wayne and Al and Molly and all you who loved Mary and were loved by her, today, I invite you to spend your days here and now seeing the glory of God, no matter how dark or discouraging are your days. You might wonder where it is that you can find the glory of God, and in answer to that, the Bible offers at least three answers – First Article, Second Article, and Third Article glory.
First Article. The Psalmist writes that “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Take a look outside in any one of your days, and notice and take in the breathtaking beauty of nature. You can’t miss it. In the Book of Exodus, when Moses was dealing with a wandering and starving and complaining people of God, he indicated that in the mornings God would provide manna and in the evenings quail meat, and as often as they saw the bread and meat and so much more, they would be seeing the glory of their Lord.
Second Article – You may see the glory of the Lord as often as you fix your eyes on the cross, where Jesus Christ was crucified until He was dead and buried. As often as you make the sign of the cross, as often as you see the sign of the cross, as often as you lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross, that often you will see the glory of your Lord. The hymnwriter says it this way, “In the cross of Christ I glory, Towring o’er over the wrecks of time, All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime. When the woes of life o’ertake me, Hopes deceive and fears annoy, Never shall the cross forsake me,Lo, it glows with peace and joy. Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure By the cross are sanctified; Peace is there that knows no measure, Joys that through all time abide.
Third Article – Holy Spirit, Holy Christian Church, Communion of Saints, Forgiveness of Sins, Resurrection of the Body, Life Everlasting.
As you lay your dear wife, sister, mother, mother in law, grandma, and friend into the ground today, I invite you to do so absolute confidence that her soul and spirit are already now in the presence of Jesus Christ and that the day is coming when Jesus Christ will come not as a baby in a manger, but as a Lamb upon a throne. Believe that on that day the archangel will shout and the trumpet will blow and the saints in every generation will rise and be accepted into glory.
Go ahead and cry today, but not as the unbelievers cry. Cry out as the people of God who know that you have been claimed in the waters of Baptism, that your mansions in heaven have been put on reserve, and that your Good Shepherd is following you around with goodness and mercy. Go ahead and be sad, but not for Mary. Mary’s never been better. Take your sad and your empty hearts to one another and hold onto family and travel through this valley of the shadow of death together, and never alone. Even more importantly, resolve this day to stay close to Jesus Christ all the days of life. Stay close to Him by listening to His Word, and not just once in awhile, but in regular fashion. Stay close by stepping forward to His Supper, and not just when life is overwhelming you, but in the good times and not so good. May God every last one of Mary’s friends and family closer and closer to Him, may God help you to see and even taste His glory no matter how strong are the winds and no matter how high the waves, and may Mary Cords rest in peace.
Worship Sermons & Letters