Looking Forward 1-5-14

John 1: 1-18  In the beginning there was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. The Word was present to God from the beginning. Through the Word all things came into being, and apart from the Word nothing came into being that has come into being.In the Word was life, and that life was humanity’s light-a Light that shines in the darkness, a Light that the darkness has never overtaken. Then came one named John, sent as an envoy from God, who came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through his testimony everyone might believe. He himself wasn’t the Light; he only came to testify about the Light—the true Light that illumines all humankind. The Word was coming into the world—was in the world—and though the world was made through the Word,  the world didn’t recognize it. Though the Word came to its own realm, the Word’s own people didn’t accept it. Yet any who did accept the Word, who believed in that Name, were empowered to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor urge of flesh nor human will- but born of God. And the Word became flesh and stayed for a little while among us; we saw the Word’s glory—the favor and position a parent gives an only child—filled with grace, filled with truth. John testified by proclaiming, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The One who comes after me ranks ahead of me, for this One existed before I did.’”

January 5, 2014

Looking Forward

In the neighborhood where I grew up we referred to a sweetened carbonated beverage that cost a nickel as “pop.” When I went to school out east, I was surprised when people laughed at me for calling soda – pop – or soda pop. I quickly learned to say ‘soda’ and never ‘pop,’ but it took a little while and it felt strange – a tiny little betrayal of my neighborhood.
At Christmas time, for years, my mother would make what we called ‘yule logs’ – a bunch of newspapers rolled up into a tight log, soaked in various poisonous chemicals and dried until you could light them on fire in your fireplace.  They would burn bright blue, orange and red and make for nice Christmas fires.
Lots of people gave little gifts of things they made to people in the neighborhood, cookies, potted plants, or tree ornaments. It was a nice little neighborhood, Westwood in Cincinnati.
I share these nostalgic memories with you partly because it’s Christmas, but mostly because of our reading today from the gospel of John and the unique translation of this passage from “The Message.” Eugene Peterson translates verse 14 this way, “The Word was made flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory own eyes. the one-of-a-kind glory…”
Can you imagine the Word made flesh moving in to your neighborhood, into your home? The gospel of John makes an outrageous claim here – that the Word was present at the very beginning of time, that the Word was God and was and always is present with God and that this same Word, this same Spirit, this same Energy cares about my home, cares about my neighborhood, your block, my home, your home
Compared to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, which describe the birth of Jesus with such narrative flair and warm family feeling, this “birth narrative” in John sounds almost academic or theological “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It’s a stretch to understand what he means.
Yet, when you work with it just a bit, John’s gospel surprises you – “The Word was coming into the world—was in the world—and though the world was made through the Word,  the world didn’t recognize it. Though the Word came to its own realm, the Word’s own people didn’t accept it. Yet any who did accept the Word, who believed in that Name, were empowered to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor urge of flesh nor human will- but born of God.”
If we didn’t have Matthew and Luke, we wouldn’t have Christmas pageants and a lot of our carols, but if we didn’t have John’s poetry, we would have a poorer understanding of God made flesh, God who was born into our lives and into our homes, into our neighborhood, God who won’t laugh at us if we say soda-pop. In fact, I think Jesus said soda-pop just the way I did since John said he is born into my neighborhood!
As we look forward in 2014, we can look forward to developing a richer and fuller faith through understanding how God lives with us – in the sacraments, in the bread and cup, in baptism, and also in our homes, in our prayer, in our church, in our friends, in strangers. and with us in all creation since, “Through the Word all things came into being, and apart from the Word nothing came into being that has come into being.”
I’m looking forward this year to exploring how Jesus is with us through the community of deaf people, through the community of dwarves and folks with Downs Syndrome, through the community of prayer, through the growing community of people working to end gun violence, through this community in our renovation of our buildings, and making our buildings more accessible to all people.
Oh I’m looking forward to this year. And just as much I’m looking forward to this first communion of the year, because I know God is here.  You know, God is very impressive. Some people are most impressed by God’s power – that God could create something out of nothing. That’s very impressive. Others are impressed by God’s omniscience, that God could know everything all at the same time.  That’s very impressive.
You know what I’m most impressed by? I’m most impressed by God’s love. That God loves us so much, that God moves into our neighborhood, that God moves into our homes, that God is here with us today, in this bread and in this cup, that God has been born into our lives this day.  That’s seriously impressive.  This is God’s good news.

Communion Hymn: 2096 Rise Up Shepherd and Follow