When I was an undergraduate, I was blessed to be able to spend two summers doing archaeological excavations in Greece.
Each weekend we were allowed to leave our site and travel the country. We bused and taxed to Pylos, Mystra, Nafplion, Monemvasia, Bassae, Epidaurus, Kalamata, Mycenae, and, of course, Ancient Olympia.
One of the things that really struck me was the massive size of these ancient pagan temples. They were HUGE!
One of the temples in Olympia was dedicated to Zeus, which originally had a statue of him seated upon his throne. But this particular statue was common joke in the ancient world.
People teased that if the statue should rise and stand, he would burst through the roof of his temple!
ANCIENT PEOPLE CARRIED HEAVY IDOLS IN PARADES
Not all statues, however, in the ancient world were as big as the one of Zeus at Olympia.
In fact, in the ancient Near-East, these statues – or idols – were meant to be carried in processions. This would happen on special occasions or special feast days.
In Orthodox Christianity, we do something similar when we parade around the church carrying banners and icons.
The difference, though, between a modern icon, and an ancient statue is the weight. Ancient statues could get quite heavy.
If the Hollies had lived thousands of years ago, their famous song may have been, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My God.”
A GOD’S GLORY REFERRED TO THE HEAVINESS OF THE IDOL
In Hebrew, the word for “glory” is kabod, and it refers to the heaviness, or the weightiness, of the idol. The more important a god was, the heavier his, or her, idol was.
This was a god’s glory!
The more glory your god had, the more burdensome he, or she, became, especially in religious processions.
BUT THE ISRAELITE GOD HAD NO IDOL!?!
Among all these ancient peoples, and among all these various gods, there was one that stuck out like a sore thumb.
This was the god of the Israelites.
This God had no idol.
Yet, the strange thing was, this God still had weightiness – that is, glory!
OUR GOD’S GLORY IS SO HEAVY IT’S BORN ON CLOUDS!
One of the most beautiful passages about the glory of God, the Father of Jesus Christ, is found in Ezekiel:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze. … Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. [Eze 1:4, 28 RSV]
The heavy glory of this God is paradoxically light as cloud, and He moves about on His own – like a stormy wind.
GOD’S GLORY REMINDS US THAT HE MAKES HIMSELF PRESENT
Have you ever been in a field on a calm sunny day, then, out of nowhere a gush of wind comes breezing by? That wind makes itself present out of nowhere.
That’s what this passage is saying. God’s glory is not limited to heavy statues, nor is God’s presence limited to temples. He, like the wind, can make himself known from out of nowhere.
No heavy lifting required here!
GOD IS PRESENT WITH US WHEREVER WE ARE
This idea was revolutionary in the ancient world, because they believed that gods were only present in the heavy statues, which resided in temples at specific locations.
But THIS God was with His people in Egypt, and He was with His people in Babylon. He wasn’t stuck in a temple in Jerusalem.
And now, even after the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ, this same God continues to make Himself present.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. … ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh… [Act 2:1-2, 17 RSV]
GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT WILL COMFORT US
God’s presence, God’s spirit, does a lot for us.
Through the Spirit we are reborn.
Through the Spirit we inherit the Kingdom of God.
Through the Spirit we worship God in Truth.
Though the Spirit we are comforted and counseled.
Through the Spirit we speak in tongues, and proclaim Christ to the nations! And, in so doing, God’s glory is all over the earth!
P.S. GLORY TO YOU, O GOD, GLORY TO YOU!
Once upon a time, the glory of a god referred to that god’s heaviness, and weightiness. These gods were made of stone and wood, and had to be carried around for his, or her, presence to be known.
However, the Israelite God had the greatest glory of them all, and, paradoxically, this God’s glory was born upon the clouds and the wind.
His glory was manifested, in a moment, out of nowhere, like the wind, and he wasn’t limited to His temple in Jerusalem.
This God is still making his glory known through His Spirit, which is given upon all flesh.
In Orthodox Divine Liturgy, God’s glory is mentioned about 30 times! Does any other church do this?
I’ll see you Sunday (10:30; 2001 Asbury Rd., Dubuque).