What does it mean to be fully alive?

In the words of the 2nd century Christian theologian Irenaeus, “The Glory of God is a human being fully alive!” In truth there need not be a tension, need not be a crisis between serving God and activating one’s gifts.

When we experience for ourselves what it is like to be a human being fully alive, we know it to be true that this has a sacredness, an expression of the glory of our Creator. And when we witness this in others, we know it to be true. It’s an important part of the reason, I believe, that we find beauty and awe and fascination in watching the best of the best compete in sports, or witnessing passionate musical performances, or for that matter circus performers, or any kind of skilled artistry or skilled work that requires one’s full focus and dedication.  

“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive!”

This means that whoever we are, wherever we are on life’s journey, living into our God-given purpose does not mean suppressing or repressing the glory of our being fully alive. It means activating that fullness and directing it to the Glory of God. So, whether we’re peeling potatoes or tying our shoe or teaching a class or singing karaoke or running in the sand or giving medicine to a patient or food to someone who is hungry or working for a more peaceful and equitable world or plying whatever is our craft – let what we do be from the fullness of our life for sake of God’s glory.

But wait, I thought we had to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus. Right? Well, what does that really mean? Does it mean being miserable and frustrated and shamed into a restricted life?

Especially as we approach Holy Week, we remind ourselves of just how totally Jesus lived out his purpose, God’s purpose for his life, despite failure, despite ridicule, in the face of the fear and suffering due to all the forces in the world that want to deny and destroy the full embodiment of God’s glory and love on earth.

Read Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg’s full sermon from March 17, 2024, here.