Tuesday, December 31, 2013

sermon from sunday: john 1:1-16

Lord, I pray that you will focus our minds and hearts on the great gift you have given us in your Son Jesus. I pray you will help us to receive this gift and carry it out into the world. Amen.

John 1:1
In the beginning
John the evangelist means for you to hear
in the very first line of his gospel
the first line of Genesis.
In the beginning,
We are not next to the manger,
there are no shepherds here,
no Herod,
no wiseman,
no star.
We are beginning before everything came into existence,
when there was only God hovering over the face of the deep.
In the beginning there was only God.
And God spoke.
This is where John begins,
that primordial ancient first moment.
But so much has transpired since then.
We have hundreds of pages of history recounting the destruction of that original creation.
Now, at this moment,
In the beginning,
John wants you to be both at that first moment
but also thousands of years later at this second moment.
This is a new creation.
Watch how John builds just in this first verse 
In the beginning--creation
Was the Word--tuck this aside for a moment
The Word was with God--the Greek is more nicely rendered
'face to face' with God
looking at him,
like two people look at each other when they are talking,
two people who care for one another,
not eyes drifting up and around and away,
that would be me when I'm talking to my kids--
shh, I'm on Facebook.
No, God and the Word are Face to Face.
They have communion with one another.
They understand each other.
This means they are distinct from one another.
Then the final note in the line,
The Word was God.
The Word was there in the beginning.
The Word is distinct from and intimate, face to face, with God.
The Word was God.
So what is the Word?
John is uses a Greek word, Logos.
The Greeks,
you might remember,
had a pantheon of gods,
a dizzying array of interesting deities to appease.
Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Apollo.
Each god had something they did for humanity.
They were distant,
living in the clouds of mount Olympus
but they interfered and meddled in the affairs of man.
They were not the embodiment of all that is good and pure and true.
They were glorious, but they looked and acted awfully human.
As the Greeks went along some of them noticed,
Heraclitus for example,
that in spite of the capriciousness of their gods,
there was an internal order to the physical universe.
There must be an omnipresent stabilizing influence or force that holds everything together.
Not a personal or knowable god,
but a force inherent within many of the attributes we find within God.
Heraclitus called this force the Logos.
John takes this word
and uses it as a capstone for his own Hebrew knowledge of God.
God, John knows perfectly well,
is not just an impersonal rational force.
God is a Being who has not a body like men,
he cannot be seen because he is so holy.
He is in himself the definition of all that is good,
true, holy, beautiful, right and just.
And, moreover,
he is a covenant making God.
He relates personally to his creation.
Part of this relating is self revelation.
God reveals himself to his people primarily through language.
He spoke in creation and all things came into being.
He spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden.
He spoke to Noah and Abraham and Moses 
and Isaiah and Daniel and a whole lot of other people.
With words.
That were then written down.
Moses, for instance,
hearing words from God,
took an pen and wrote them in books.
These words were understandable.
It was possible to hear the law,
understand it
and then try to do it.
When you failed,
it would be clear that you had so failed
and clear what you needed to do about it.
God was not a capricious malleable manipulable impersonal force.
No, his words formed the world and the character of Israel.
God communicated through language that he wanted Israel to know and follow him.
To be face to face with him.
But Israel treated God like a capricious force whom they did not know.
They treated him like a stranger whose language they didn't understand.
Now consider the ordinary first century Jewish person
sitting in church next to the ordinary first century Greek person.
You're all stuffed in together in some catacomb,
the Romans are raging over the face of the whole earth,
you've been invited by a friend,
some guy gets up to read the gospel.
He holds it up and announces that it's God's Word,
and he unrolls it and says,
'In the beginning was the Word, Logos,
and the Word was face to face with God,
and the Word was God.'
Both of you together
Jew and Greek,
have your sandals shocked off of you.
The Logos, the rational force that holds the universe together,
is with God,
so distinct from him,
but also is God.
The Greek is shocked that the Logos is a relatable divine figure,
the Jew is shocked because it sounds like there's two gods when he knows there's only one.
The man reading the gospel continues to read, verse 2
"He was in the beginning with God."
So the Logos, the Word, is a he.
He was always there,
distinct from God,
because you can't be with someone if you are him.
Not an emanating avatar spirit force
but a person, a being.
Just as a little aside
it isn't any accident that our post post modern worldview
makes it hard for us to accept
The Word of God.
Both the book and the Person.
The attack on language,
the undermining of the ability of people to believe that they can know what words means,
that it doesn't matter what a person intends to say
it matters what you the hearer hear,
you can pour any meaning you want into any word because language is in itself incomprehensible.
This undermining of language is so subtle.
We can’t really know what the Bible means,
you might have heard someone say,
you interpret it one way,
I interpret it another.
It’s such a huge lie.
God designed you to understand words
with the ultimate plan that you would know and understand The Word.
So the Word was there in the beginning.
Not his beginning, our beginning.
Verse three, All things were made through him.
Not by him.
All things were made by the Father through the Son.
The verb, were made, indicates a one time thing--
this is the initial moment of creation.
The Father created through the Son, the Word.
Then John flips it around to the negative,
And not anything was made that has been made.
Has been made is perfect tense,
it indicates the going on of things.
This is what Paul has in mind in Colossians 1:17 when he says,
"and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
The Word is the Rational Logical Person,
not force,
whose power and will hold all things together.
The continuance of the created order is through the Word.
As you carry on with your everyday life
God is holding all things together through the Word.
As you go to work,
pay the bills,
scrape snow off the car,
waste a few hours on the internet because someone is wrong,
scramble to do something important you forgot,
muscling your way through each day,
so often a prisoner, a captive to your own mind,
your own world,
your own 'reality'
your very existence is in the palm of God's hand.
Or rather, in his mouth, his Word.
That you continue to draw breath is because he is exerting his power so that you will.
Do you ever worry that when you cry out to God in prayer
your voice is lost in the empty abyss of chaos and disorder?
I read after Mother Teresa died
that she had gone much of her adult life without feeling the presence of God.
But she didn't let that feeling inhibit her knowledge that God was there and true.
Without him, the Word, was not anything made that has been made.
Verse 4 And in him was Life.
It doesn't say,
In Him was death,
even though I always assume that to be the case,
assuming that God is out to get me.
No, in him was Life.
In creation God designed Adam and Eve to live forever.
Not a circle of life that includes death.
No, an unbroken line of life from your conception to all eternity.
Death is a shattering of God's creation.
The Word is Life.
That is why, when death was meted out on the one who is Life,
not only was the whole cosmos shaken,
death itself was shattered.
And his Life was the Light of men.
John loves all his words to have two or three meanings.
I think he means every kind of light here.
Real physical Light.
It was the first thing created.
And when all the lights go out, the Word will be the only light.
But John also means spiritual light.
His life was the light of men.
His life brings light to our spiritual darkness.
The light shines [present tense] in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
The darkness has not destroyed the light.
It is not hard to feel sometimes like the darkness is awfully overcoming.
I've been reading Job over and over again accidentally all month--it's a long story--
and the darkness of his suffering is so immense.
He cannot heal himself.
He cannot get his children back.
He cannot get away from his grief.
He is helpless.
It feels like a great black cloud that can't ever lift.
Until God breaks in at the end of the book.
The darkness, however huge, however black, cannot overcome the light.
The cross, the moment of the greatest most profound darkness
could not prevail against the light.
The Light of the Word that lives in you through the Holy Spirit
cannot be overcome by your own darkness.
Sometimes we try to put out the light,
or we shove it in a corner.
But there's no wick that will eventually end,
no oil that will run dry.
You can't flick a switch.
You cannot destroy it.
Better not to try,
however painful it's illumination is.
I wish we had several weeks to spend on John the Baptist in verses 6-8
but there’s just one point I want to draw out.
Matthew 11 records John's disciples coming to Jesus to find out if he, Jesus, is the Messiah.
Jesus says this about John, verse 7 "what did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Vs 9 a prophet? Yes, and more than a prophet....
Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist."
In other words, John the Baptist is the greatest person ever to have lived.
Not Job, not the guy down the street, not you, no, John the Baptist.
And how well does the best person ever to live measure up to the Word?
Look over at verse 27. John the Baptist says of himself "I am not worthy even to untie his, Jesus’, sandals."
The lowest of the low, a slave or a servant would be the one to untie everybody's sandals.
But here, the greatest and best person ever John writes, verse 8 is Not The Light.
Verse 9 the True Light, the Word
This light was coming into the world.
Now watch the word World.
He was in the World--I think he means the physical created material world.
And the World was made through him--it belongs to him. He owns it.
But the World--now it narrows down to mean People--did not know him.
Not intellectually know.
No, Know like Adam knew Eve.
The world wouldn't be with him, face to face.
Then it narrows some more.
He came to his own people,
people he had made and revealed himself to,
had spoken with by the words of his mouth,
and his own people would not receive him.
They treated him like a stranger whose language they didn't understand.
I ran across a website last week set up by homeschooled children
who hated being homeschooled.
And hated their parents.
Boy, if you want to keep me up at night
tell me stories of children being irreparably estranged from their parents.
That's what we did to the light that came into the world.
We should have known him because he made us and spoke to us.
We did recognize him
but we chose to treat him like his language is incomprehensible.
This is so tragic.
But, verse 12, to all who did receive him
To be allowed to receive the light after having once rejected it.
To believe on his name. And not just the name.
The name encompasses the whole person.
To believe on his name is to believe in him.
To trust him, to accept him, to be face to face with him.
To those who are willing to receive him,
not like a stranger, or a guest,
but like your parents on Christmas Day, with joy and relief.
To those who believe in him he gives them the right
We're talking legal right, like in a court of law,
but the word indicates also something like authority.
He gives them the Authority to become children of God.
Not children born of blood, the old creation way, 
Nor of the will of the flesh--not by anything you can achieve or decide to do on your own
Nor of the will of man--nobody else can do it for you
But of God. God gives the right.
Verse 14
The Word became flesh.
God, the Word, became human.
The word flesh is just as it sounds, physical.
He didn't just look like a person.
He became a real person,
and his name was Jesus.
And he dwelt among us.
He pitched his tent.
Just like in the wilderness of Sinai when Bezalel and Oholiab
fashioned the Ark and the Tent
and then God,
in his glory descended
in the tent sitting on the wings of the cherubim overshadowing the ark.
The Word tabernacled in a body
walked around,
ate dinner in the evenings,
spoke words.
And we have seen, says John, his glory,
the glory as of the only son--the unique, the single, the only--son of the father.
The people of Israel saw the glory of God in the cloud that led them through the Red Sea.
They saw the glory of God covering the mountain.
When Solomon consecrated the temple the glory of God filled it.
On the mount of transfiguration Jesus unveiled his glory for the inner circle of disciples.
But I think John means even more than that.
The glory of God, the Word was fully present in the flesh of Jesus.
When you saw Jesus walking around you saw the glory of God.
Vs 15 is important but it will have to be for another year.
Vs 16 From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.
The incarnation of the Son, the Word, the taking on of a body, was enough.
It was the fullest most complete revelation of God.
You take all the ocean of words that is the revelation of God in this book,
God's perfect revelation of himself,
that none of his words come back empty or void,
and you pour all these words into The Word,
into Jesus the Son
and nothing is lacking.
It is full.
There is a full complete revelation in Jesus for you to know to him, God, face to face.
You look at him, the Light,
and you receive more grace than you can ever ask for or imagine.

No comments: