“When Time Stands Still”

John 1:1-18

5 January 2020 – The 12th Day of Christmas

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

7

John 1:1-18

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

 

Prayer.

 

Happy Twelfth day of Christmas;

The twelfth of twelve days of Christmas,

Which we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Tomorrow is the Epiphany of the Lord;

Also known as the manifestation

Of the baby Jesus as the Son of God

To the three visiting wise men / kings / astrologers / magi, from the East.

Hence, Epiphany is also known as “Three Kings Day”

Throughout much of the Christian world.

 

To remember and honor their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Our Eastern Orthodox sisters and brothers will

Reserve the exchange of gifts until “Three Kings Day.”

Our Catholic cousins in Central America will dance in the streets

In oversized costumes celebrating the manifestation of Christ.

Great is the diversity around the Christian world that celebrates

“God with us”!

 

12 days of Christmas,

Followed by the Epiphany of the Lord,

The baptism of Jesus,

Leading to his transfiguration,

Immediately preceding Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.

That, right there, my friends

Is a passing grade in Introduction to Worship.

 

I love to manage time;

Be it keeping track of the liturgical calendar

Or my Google calendar,

When I’m able to thumbtack down a date and time and location

I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

I feel like I’m in control.

 

 

The Gospel of Luke nails down a time and place for Jesus’ birth:

“This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.” (Luke 2:2-4)

 

The Gospel of Matthew likewise stakes down a time and place for Jesus’ birth:

“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-2a)

 

The Gospel of Mark skips right over the birth of Jesus,

As if the life and manifestation of Jesus began at his baptism:

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9)

 

For Mark, “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) starts with the Spirit descending like a dove on him when he emerges from the water,

“and a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

 

Place and time.

Nailed it.

 

In Matthew and Luke,

The Incarnation,

Of God becoming fully human and fully divine

Takes place at the birth of Jesus.

For Mark, Incarnation began at his baptism.

 

Date. Time. Location.

Grab the Gospel by the tail, bulldog it to the ground, and hog tie it;

All in the first few minutes of the sermon.

 

Jesus: lung breathing, heart beating, appetite rearing … fully skin-over-muscle-organs-and-bone human.

Jesus: Son of God, the manifestation of the Divine Creator, God in Jesus, none other than the Lord God, Almighty!

Woo-E!

 

 

Quietly absent in this discussion is the Gospel of John.

Many have noted that chronological time, persons, places, and events

Doesn’t begin in John until after the prelude,

The opening 18 verses of the first chapter.

 

John’s prologue,

Or pro – logue / pre – logos / before – word,

Is before the Word sets out in linear time.

A prologue is a literary technique used in Greek dramas,

And employed here by the Gospel author of John,

To set the stage for events to unfold.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1)

 

Before God began in our linear world of time and space,

There was God.

Simply God.

The stage is set:

There was God.

There was no time, no space, no forward progress.

There was simply the presence and existence of God.

 

“God created the heavens and the earth.”

(Genesis 1:1)

 

For the Gospel of John

The birth story of Jesus is a cosmic birth story;

Taking place outside of time,

Beyond our means to record or calculate time or space.

 

God steps from the cosmic prologue

Into our linear, chronos world

When “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (1:14)

The divide between heaven and earth is Divinely breached,

Between God’s cosmic realm and our time- constrained word.

 

In a similar but reverse action,

Jesus exits our chronos world with his ascension into heaven;

When he returns to the right hand of the Father,

When he reenters the cosmic.

 

Jesus, a person, the Son of God, the Word

Exists and remains present as Holy Spirit;

A cosmic, omniscient presence,

Unfazed by the fact that

Linear, mortal time marches on for the rest of creation.

 

 

This is not some theological rabbit hole I’m leading you down.

The prologue of the Gospel of John

Has real world implications.

 

 

Have you ever experienced time slowing down?

Have you ever felt time stand still?

 

The prologue of John

Begs us to ask the question,

How do we mark time?

Kicking off a new year, a new decade, 2020;

This is a poignant question.

How do you mark time?

 

The prologue of the Gospel of John,

When held in dynamic tension with the epiphany narratives

from Matthew, Mark, and Luke,

Leads us to examine this intersection of time, place, and presence of God.

 

Where has time slowed or seemed to come to a stop in your life?

 

I’ve thought about this a lot this past week.

Time has slowed in my life on numerous occasions.

 

Time slowed and nearly stood still

When a dear friend and future colleague,

Personally sought me out and

Broke the news to me that my father had suddenly, unexpectantly died.

The cosmic presence of God

Flooded into my awareness when my clock nearly stopped ticking

At 11:30 am, September 30, 1985.

 

We might be in control of our calendar, time, and space,

But, God commands the cosmic space of our lives.

 

Have you ever experienced time slowing down?

Have you ever felt time stand still?

Pay attention.

 

When time slows or seems to stop

Extend your spiritual antenna into God’s atmosphere and fine tune your reception.

“Emmanuel,” the Gospel of John assures us.

God is with us.

God is there.

 

Time slowed in my life on many occasions

When I was a volunteer medic on the Palmyra FD ambulance;

When bullets flew,

When a man lay with a steak knife in his chest,

When I started an IV in an arm with no skin,

When providing respiration for an accident victim on Mercy Flight.

 

The eternal, cosmic, heavenly presence of God fills the space

When time slows or nearly stops.

 

In my life, time slowed

When the neurologist conducted an assessment,

When a psychiatrist suggested an alternative course of treatment,

When the anesthesia began to flow and the scalpel was unsheathed,

When a social worker from the county met me on my front porch and said,

“I understand you just received some really bad news.”

 

Have you ever experienced time slowing down?

Have you ever felt time stand still?

 

When time stands still

There is the Word.

The Word is with God.

The Word is God.

 

Your homework for this New Year is to be hyper-attentive

To the intersection of life events, the passage of time, and the presence of God.

Mark time, plant the flag with the mundane, the routine, the everyday efforts of family, work, and faith.

That is your reference point.

 

Then watch, listen, and wait for the perception that time is changing speeds;

Quickening time might come with pleasant or happy occasions

(“that birthday / wedding / anniversary was over before I knew it”), or

Slowing time might come with struggles, difficulty, or death.

Time slows when we walk that lonesome valley

Or the valley of the shadow of death.

 

It is in these moments that

We can recognize God’s presence and

Make ourselves vulnerable, accessible

to God’s amazing grace and support.  

 

When time slows

Or even appears to stand still

Place your complete trust and confidence

In Emmanuel,

God with you.

Lean on, and lean into,

God.

 

 

This masterful, beautifully written prologue to the Gospel of John

Is cited in worship numerous times throughout the year

Because of it tremendous implications,

Revelation of God’s incarnation through Jesus Christ, and

Very real promise and assurance that

God is with you,

God will always be with you, and

When time comes to an end,

From his fullness,

Jesus will lead you from grace upon grace;

Forgiveness,

Salvation,

Eternally abiding with God in his cosmic, heavenly kingdom.

 

Mark it.

Bank it.

To God be the glory!

Amen.

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