When the Glory Passes By

Ryan serves as a pastoral intern and staff member at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He immigrated to the United States from China in 1999 and is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Georgetown University.

This post was initially published on The Body Politic and is reposted in its entirety with permission.

The Chinese media – including my family’s social network – was buzzing with news of China’s military parade in Beijing recently. The parade marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in China, and it gave the entire world a chance to see how far China has come in the last seventy years. Having lived through the turmoil of 1950s–1980s, many of my family members and friends watched the parade with pride.

Large-scale military parades like these are not common in the U.S., but we have our own parades – championship parades for sports teams, Thanksgiving parades and presidential inaugural parades. Regardless of what they celebrate, all parades share a common purpose: to let the glory of a team or a nation pass before the eyes of its people. Whether the object of the parade is military glory, political glory, or cultural glory, such exhibitions celebrate a collective achievement that distinguishes a people from all other teams, political parties, or nations. Such glory leaves us in awe, and inspires us to ask for more. 

As citizens of the Kingdom of God who believe that we have been created by God to share in his own glory, what is the glory that we should seek? What type of glory expresses our collective identity and sets us apart from all others?

Moses asked God this same question. After the Golden Calf episode showed that the Israelites were just as sinful and idolatrous as all other nations, God again promised to Moses that he would give Israelites land, victory and even his presence. (Exodus 33:1-3, 14) But Moses was not satisfied. He pleaded with God, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18) Moses was not asking to see God’s glory because he doubted God’s power to deliver Israel, but because he wanted to experience the glory that would anchor his entire existence. Moses was fully aware that he was asking to see the only thing – God’s presence – that set the Israelites apart from all other nations. (Exodus 33:16)

But God’s response to Moses’ request may have seemed a bit strange: “I will let my glory pass before you, I will proclaim before you my name. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:19–20) In other words, God was saying, “Do you know what you are asking here, Moses? If I really show you my glory, you will be destroyed!” No sinful human beings can be in the presence of God’s holiness without being burned up. “So here’s what I’m going to do, Moses: When my glory passes before you, I will put you in the cleft of that rock over there, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21–22) In this way God made his glory pass before Moses; Moses caught a glimpse of the back of God’s glory, but he did not see God’s face.

If the story had ended there, it would have been the most disappointing event in human history. It would be like waiting in the cold winter streets of Washington, DC, to see the inaugural parade, but never even catching a glimpse of the president as his motorcade passes by. 

So it’s a good thing the story did not end there.  

About 1,200 years later, God did show up. The Gospel of John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.” (1:14) Jesus is the Son of God who came to show the glory of the Father. He healed the sick, cast out demons, and calmed storms, but all of Jesus’ life ultimately pointed to the moment where God’s glory truly passes by – the cross. The place where God the Son was most lowly and humiliated was also where he had victory over the power of sin and death. Christ became the rock in which we take refuge by taking on the punishment that we deserve. Think of Christ’s death on the cross, and consider these words that God proclaimed to Moses,

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7)


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What is the glory we should seek? The answer is found in the Cross, where God responds, “I love you and I will be with you, even if I have to die for you.”  

While the rest of the world may seek glory in political power, intellectual achievements, or cultural influence, let the glory of the Cross displace all other types of glory that we seek. It is not a glory dependent on anything we achieve, but a glory entirely dependent on God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The Cross is not simply a show of force that demonstrates God’s power; it is also a show of mercy that makes it possible for sinful beings like you and me to be in the presence of God without being burned up. The glory of the Cross is a way of peace and sacrifice, and through it we have the rights to become children of God. It is a glory that we may seek to experience awe, but more importantly, it is a glory that we need to be reconciled to God.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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