Have you ever heard the expression, “One hit wonder”? Tom Hanks made a movie titled “That Thing You Do” about a fictional music group, the Oneders or Wonders, who did just that. They were one-hit wonders; that is, they had one best-selling hit song and then they faded. But there were real life one hit wonders. Do you remember Edison Lighthouse? He sang the song “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” but do you remember any of his other songs? No? That is because he didn’t make any more hits. And then there was Norman Greenbaum who sang “Spirit in the Sky”. It was great; but he couldn’t repeat his success. Mungo Jerry with “In the Summertime” was also really big but again that is all he managed to get off the ground. Do you remember Nadia Comăneci? She was the first woman in Olympic Gymnastics history to score a perfect 10. Do you remember Olga Corbet or Mary Lou Retton? They were also very famous gymnasts in their prime time. And there have been times in most of our lives when we did something really well. There were spans of time when things were going very well. We would all like to have our lives measured by these moments. Those were moments of glory.
In our Epistle reading today we heard the Apostle say, “We do not lose heart even though our outer nature is wasting away.” You know, it is really hard not to lose heart when your body is wasting away. It is hard when life is an effort, when life is very painful, when life is a struggle. It is hard not to lose heart. How can we not lose heart when life is this difficult?
So why didn’t Paul lose heart? Note what says in the next line. “For this slight momentary affliction—this small amount of suffering. Looking at Paul’s life and considering the suffering he dealt with, I would not say it was a slight amount of suffering. It was not a small amount of suffering to undergo stoning. Paul was stoned, and the people thought he was dead and so they stopped throwing rocks. He was almost dead, not quite. That was pretty serious suffering. Nor would I say that being beaten with a rod around the body and head was slight suffering. These were strong soldiers who would brandish these rods. You and I would not say that being shipwrecked on a 1st century Roman ship was slight suffering. You and I would not say that being tied to a post and whipped with 39 lashes was slight suffering. And Paul had had this punishment of being whipped 5 times; he had felt the whip on his back almost 200 times! He was beaten with the rods 3 times. We have no way of knowing how many broken bones Paul endured; but certainly there were many. No, the Apostle Paul suffered extraordinary pain. But he just writes off this pain as momentary suffering. Why does he say this? He says this momentary suffering is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory.
What does this mean? What does eternal weight of glory mean? Edison Lighthouse had a moment or a short span of glory when his song Love Grows where my Rosemary Goes hit number one. Norman Greenbaum had a moment of glory when Spirit in the Sky rocketed to the top of the charts. Nadia Comaneci had a moment of glory as the premier woman athlete in the Olympics. But these were only moments of glory weren’t they? They didn’t last. People want their moments to last but even the most powerful the most famous fade in time. The ancient kings of Egypt built great and mighty pyramids and they stand to this day. Yet, now we know very little about the kings who had them built. It is the same with the pyramids in Central and South America except we know even less about the Mayan, the Aztec, or the Inca men and women who had them built. They were mighty structures built to last; they were built to make their builder’s glory permanent. But now, they are not so glorious. Glory is momentary here on earth. We only live a relatively short time. Paul tells us that the sufferings we go through now are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. And this glory is beyond all comparison. This glory is not going to be momentary like ours and everyone’s here on earth is. This glory is going to be eternal. And this glory is not like earthly fame and fortune or earthly power and authority. The glory Paul is talking about is a weight of glory. It is substantial. It is important. It has worth and it is eternal—it will last forever!
What is this weighty glory he is talking about? We see it in our gospel lesson. Jesus tells us that those who do the will of God are his brothers and sisters. Scripture says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called the children of God: and that is what we are! What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” You see, we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We will share in his glory; we will share in his eternal glory because we are part of his family! Look at Prince Harry. He will never be King of England. He is 6 or more people away from the throne. And yet, look at the glory of his wedding. Look at his importance in England. Why is he important? He is a grandson of the current Queen of England. He is the son of the next king. He is the brother of the future king. He is part of the royal family! He is a Windsor! And that is what we are, well we are not Windsor’s, we belong to a much more important family! We are adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ the most important person in the universe.
So the reason we can look at our current sufferings as momentary is because we realize that this world we are in, this life we are in, is temporary. Paul says we look not to the things we can see but to the things that we cannot see. This is why Paul could handle and even dismiss being beaten by rods and scourged with whips. He was looking ahead to heaven. Our bodies are wasting away but our inner self is being renewed-now that part of us, the inner part, that part should be growing. That part is not dependent upon how well we are feeling physically. That part is not dependent on whether or not we are doing OK economically. That part is not dependent on whether our society likes and respects us. That part, that inner self is the part that is in relationship with God. That inner self is the part that God has made alive by his Holy Spirit and we can talk and communicate with God through our inner self.
Paul tells us that when our outer body, our earthly tent that we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The author George MacDonald once said, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body.” The real you is your soul and that is your inner part! The bodies that you and I have are temporary tents. These tents get tattered, old, faded and worn out. But God is going to give us a building—no longer a tent—but he will give us a permanent structure, an eternal body like our older brother Jesus has.
So you see our future glory is not like the short lived glory of Nadia Comăneci or Mungo Jerry’s. This is why we do not lose heart. God is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure! So let us remember our sufferings are momentary. Because of this, let us with joy continue to serve our Lord Jesus. Let with joy us continue to give generously to God’s work. Let us with joy continue to love each other and love our God who is indeed our Father. Amen