Preacher: Nathan Hosler – Scriptures: Jeremiah 31:7-14, John 1:1-18
Throughout my childhood—from at least age 11—I would go to the jobsite to do the work of a carpenter. Presumably, this started more as a carpenter’s assistant than a carpenter proper. In the summer of 1994, we were building a house for the Williams family and I remember carrying along a telephone with the stretchy coiled cord to plug in when needed since there were no cellphones yet…or at least not commonly enough for us to have one.
I would work holidays and summers. On the last day of work, I think just before finishing grad school and heading to Nigeria, we were working on the Heisey’s barn. Repairing a large door and some rotten siding. I was crouched down working low to the ground and one of my brothers was somewhere higher up on a ladder. Suddenly I was on the ground on my side. It wasn’t quite severe pain, but I knew I’d been hit. Hit in the back of the head. Was it a hammer, chisel, piece of wood? Was I severely hurt, bleeding, or just a glancing but inconsequential blow? I laid there a bit—probably only seconds—assessing what happened. What just hit me? What happened? Was I okay? Should I try moving? Waiting a moment to decide if I was hurt and if I should try to get up. It was the wood—a chunk of 2×4, and an inconsequential glancing blow. I was fine and was back to work quickly.
Making any theological point or statement is risky. Making one based off an illustration is perhaps riskier. Drawing any lesson from a story (that is negative) concerning Jesus (which is positive) is even riskier. However, I’m going to trust both the grace of the congregation and God and go for it. The parallels are dicey but, hey. In a story about me and getting bonked by a piece of wood– Who is the disciples? Who or what is Jesus?
Mary, confronted with the news of the coming awaited savior via her body cries out in a God glorifying and world rending song. Making sense of a startling revelation.
The shepherds, the least glamorous of workers, are met with a heavenly host and rush to the scene proclaiming the presence of God. Speaking and proclaiming boldly—presumably before figuring out all the theological details.
30 odd years later would-be disciples are called, and leave, their lives to follow. But then have their dreams crushed—at least for a time. They expected a seismic shift but it all just ended—at least for 3 days. And even then, it was different. They expected the risen Christ to come back quickly but there is a delay and then more. The early church continued to work to figure out what this means. We continue to try to figure out, through the gathered body of believers (and even those who only sort of believe or who are drawn in but can’t quite believe) what hit us. The church has, for centuries, sought to work out who Jesus is and what the risen Christ means and is for us an in relation to God the Father/parent and the Holy Spirit.
This Gospel, written perhaps around the year 100, was written—as stated in later in the book “so that you may believe.” So that you, future followers or potential followers of Jesus may believe.”
Seemingly simple words and phrases—lived among, was in the beginning, in him was life, only son, full of truth, children, power to become children. Simple enough for children to understand and yet complex enough to be contemplated for a lifetime and centuries. One commentator notes of the words in this passage that they “carry whole realms of significance” (Sandra M. Schneiders, Written That You May Believe, 27). With references or allusions to Greek philosophy and deep connection to the Hebrew scriptures this gospel—the Gospel of John—has a much different feel than the “Synoptic” Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
When the writer writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” With its “cyclical repetition” and preacher’s cadence is this exploring (being the first years of the church) or gushing (what is more properly called doxology). Is this confident and making bold philosophical statements or poetic encounter with an almost indescribable reality… that is, with the one who “was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Into this life we are invited and drawn and while we seek understanding of what this means—both theologically and practically—we do not need to understand it all in order to dwell with the one who came to live among us.
This passage asserts and suggests. It proclaims and explores.
Jesus, who came a to very temporal and specific time was also somehow part of the very creation of the creation into which he was born. Hovering over the water, over surface of the deep and then growing in the water of the womb. Though creator of all, these—the creatures (us humans)—didn’t recognize him (though clearly the lamas in our nativity set recognize him).
In the part of the year with the longest, darkest nights, of what many would call one of the darkest years “The light shines in the darkness” and was not overcome.
“The light shines in the darkness” and was not overcome.
“In the beginning” echoes the creation story of Genesis and “the Word” (ὁ λόγος) was “with” God and “was” God. Early explorations and assertions about a theological and philosophical knot which continues through today. Wonderment at how the Creator came to and through the created. How the sustainer of all things was fed and sustained by Mother Mary. “C’mon Jesus, eat just one more carrot!”
The teaching that we are to love our enemies—which is, by definition, difficult and seems very much against our nature and the grain of the universe, takes a different tone if we hear it from the one who was present and animating and knitting together that same universe.
(“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?)
When we hear, “Do not be anxious about anything…look to the birds and flowers of the field they do not sow or reap and are so clothed…” We may very well become anxious about trying to muster up sufficient non-anxiety. How might we match the bobolink (yeah, that is a bird name) or trio of periwinkle blue-blue birds on the dry milkweed in the meadow or the toddler watching an eagle “eat meat!” up in the tree? Surly the bright (almost neon) green moss on the dark log in mid-winter hasn’t read the economic analysis that I have and as such it makes sense that the pink-white quartz stone along the path is at ease.
But anxiety is somehow put to ease in the presence of the Holy One. For we hear, “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.” Being close to the heart, even if mysteriously, quiets us.
What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
May this shining one, the one whose coming we tracked to and through the Christmas season, light our hearts with the love of God. Resting in the embrace of the mothering Spirit and filled with the Holy rush of the one who both calms us and agitates us towards a different world.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[b]
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,[c] and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[d] full of grace and truth. 15 (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.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,[e] who is close to the Father’s heart,[f] who has made him known.