“The Word”

January 3, 2021

John 1:1-18

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

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.

| Centering Prayer |

One of the many loses I have felt

Over the course of this pandemic

Is the loss of our choir,

Especially during Advent and Christmas.

I deeply missed our annual Christmas cantata.

Cantata, from the Italian “cantare”, means to sing,

As opposed to a sonata, which is a composition played instrumentally.

(Britannica.com)

The composer creatively intertwines theme appropriate

Music and narration to tell a story.

The Christmas cantata, rehearsed since September,

Is song and story that

Propels anticipation into Incarnation

With the birth of Jesus Christ.  

The Gospel of John sets its own pace and direction,

Apart from its synoptic siblings … Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

John speaks broadly about Jesus,

Using symbolism, metaphor, imagery, and irony,

In such a way that draws the reader into the story as a participant.

The Gospel of John speaks about a God

Who is present, intimate, powerful, and loving.

The opening 18 verses of the first chapter,

An echo of the opening creation chapter of Genesis,

Are constructed as a cantata

Weaving together early Christian music and narration

Into a theological masterpiece. 

The original Greek in these 18 verses is written as poetry meant for singing,

Interspersed with commentary about John the Baptist.

Sending John to prepare the way

Not only fulfills prophecy

But reveals God’s ongoing, never ending, unbreakable,

Intimate relationship with humankind.

God tears the divide between heaven and earth,

Rips it to shreds,

To muddle in your affairs.

Yep. God is stirring your pot.

My question for you is, “are you aware?”

God has been stirring my soul this past week

Leading me to focus thoughts and meditations on the music,

The theological poetry of John’s cantata.

Even this is too much to consume in one setting.

So I’ll focus on smaller trimmings.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:1, 14a)

“In the beginning,”

A phrase borrowed from Genesis,

Tells us there was a starting point,

With nothing preceding it.

To speak of anything prior to the beginning

Is as senseless as dividing by zero.

The beginning was the beginning,

The starting point,

Defined by the presence of

The Word.

The Word,

Logos, in the original Greek,

Is an amalgam of ancient Jewish and Greek

Theology and philosophy,

Culture and practice.

The Word, Logos,

Is a way of speaking about the creative plan of God

That governs the world.

When John uses the word Logos,

He is plowing new ground.

John uses the masculine Logos

(as opposed to the feminine Sophia)

To expand upon the Jewish understanding of wisdom

To speak of the revelation of God in Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word”

Word is more than intellectual,

More than cognitive,

More than an unabridged collection of memories,

More than any sense can detect,

More than emotions or feeling.

Word and wisdom are tangible.

Word is John’s introduction of Jesus.

The names of God are many.

The manifestations of God since the beginning are many.

Who are we to pray to?

Sometimes, I get confused.

Do I pray to the Father?

Sometimes that is too gender specific and limiting,

Other times it just feels right.

Do I pray to Jesus?

But Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father.

How about the Holy Spirit?

I invoke the Holy Spirit to be present with

The bread and cup and every participant

During Holy Communion.

“In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God.”

One God

Fully comfortable with being besides himself!

The Word was with God.

So, it is apparent to me that what we call God

Is significantly less important than

Having an intimate conversation with God.

Mix and match.

Ancient names like Yahweh or Elohim?

Good Shepherd? Great Physician? The Way?

Jesus? Christ? Lord? King? Spirit?

I Am?

Logos or Word?

It doesn’t matter what name we give the Lord.

God is way more expansive than our comprehension, anyways.

What matters is maintaining a healthy, growing relationship with God.

Pray.

Learn.

Love.

“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

God has existed

Has been present

From the beginning.

This sheds light on God’s stamina and strength.

“The Word was God” speaks volumes about God’s faithfulness.

God is sticking around.

Even when humankind pokes the hornet’s nest and flairs God’s anger and wrath,

God is sticking around.

There is no “abandonment”

There is no “quit”

In God’s vocabulary.

When our ancestors disappointed the Lord and found themselves in slavery or exile.

God stuck around.

When they wouldn’t listen to prophets sent their way

God stuck it out.

When Jesus was sent, suffered, tried, executed, and his corpse buried for three days,

God stuck around.

Even after Jesus ascended to heaven to sit at the right side of the Father

The Holy Spirit took his place.

God stuck around.

The mere fact that you are hearing, seeing, or reading this

Tells you that God is all over you like a cheap suite.

The Lord is on you, in you, with you

And there isn’t a thing you or I can do to shake God lose.

This is the season of Emmanuel.

The Word.

God with us.

If you haven’t been aware of God’s presence

Maybe you haven’t been paying attention.

“The Word became flesh and lived among us.” John reports.

No long-winded recitation of Messianic lineage.

No Gabriel visiting Mary, annunciation, or immaculate conception.

Not a peep about angels, shepherds, or wise men following a star.

The Word became flesh.

Immortal became one with mortality.

Divinity and humanity became One

And his name is Jesus.

Don’t try to untangle Word from God or God from Jesus.

God remains God.

What changed is our world view.

The God of my experience became like me,

But not me, and lived with similar daily experiences:

Joy and sorrow.

Anger and fear.

Hatred and love.

Betrayal and suffering.

Death and resurrection.

Redemption and salvation.

Sharing life’s journey with Jesus

Allows us to make correlations between what we are going through

With what Jesus went through.

God knows what you are going through

Because God went through it before

And will, undoubtably, go through it again.

Jesus fully mortal and fully immortal is both humbling and exhilarating!

It’s humbling to consider that

The world is such a chamber pot of sin,

So mad and out of control,

That God had to personally step in and take the wheel.

At the same time,

It is exhilarating to recognize how much God loves us. 

Enormous. Expansive. Beyond comprehension.

That is how much God loves you and me.

Jesus has you covered.

His grace and truth win over every transgression of the Law,

Ten out of ten times

And twice on Sundays.

Adam Hamilton rightly observes

That we often confuse The Word with the Bible.

The Bible is sacred scripture

Sent by God for our benefit.

But the Bible is not the Word. 

Jesus is

The Word

From the beginning

Manifest in many ways

Always God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

This is the poetry of John’s great cantata,

The music of a God that is intimate, present, loving, and faithful.

This is the sound of Jesus.

Amen.

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