Preacher: Julia Baker-Swann
Scripture: John 1:1-18
“In the beginning was the Word…”
To speak is such an embodied act.
First there must be an impetus of desire to communicate something,
a need, a welling up from somewhere within us.
Our heart yearning to whisper “I love you”
our fear yelling “stop” when we see a young one running into the street,
or our simple need asking another to “pass the salt.”
The neurons in our brains engage our lungs to lift filling with air
that rises, as if pushing the word up through our bodies,
the cave of our throats opening, the petals of our vocal cords
unfurling. The tongue rising as our lips begin to form the shape
of the first syllable. Breath and voice then spilling from us to be heard
by ourselves and another.
I invite you now, let’s speak together on the count of three,
saying “In the beginning was the Word…”
noticing what is happening in your body as you do.
1, 2, 3
“In the beginning was the Word…”
Our pronouncing these familiar words right now, is an embodied act.
Let’s try it again together feeling the words’ vibration through us….
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
What did John mean by these words that bend our sense of the linear?
What have they come to mean to us?
What does Word here mean to you?
In Greek the word for Word is logos
Around the time John wrote
greek philosophy dominated the thought of the day.
Gnostics, including Christian gnostics,
thought of logos as special information that would save.
If we know it all, then we will be free.
John borrowed the term from this philosophy.
In logos we hear the root of the word logic.
I see a static word on the page written in black ink, fixed.
Information, the mind, our thoughts, ideas, and reason will save us.
So imagine some early readers of this text would read
the first lines of John about the Word and be nodding along
as it aligned with their views of special information that would provide
relief from entrapment in the body.
But then their is the shock of verses that follow
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…”
It flips this whole idea of logos.
It takes the straight lines of the Word off the page of our propositions
and makes the Word incarnate, with curve, breath, skin, emotions, a particular body.
It takes God from abstract idea out there to right here breathing like we breath,
speaking like we just spoke.
Translators of the most commonly used Spanish Bible
made an interesting choice, they felt and saw the inadequacy of word – palabra
“En el principio era el Verbo, y el Verbo era con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios.”
In the beginning was the VERB and the VERB was with God and the VERB was God.
A verb – something active
not a proposition, or data, information, not something fixed but
God as an active presence through time, from the very beginning.
This translation for me opens what I sense when I hear John 1:1
“In the beginning was the Creative Energy and the Creative Energy was with God and the Energy was God.”
To me this all rings with such resonance through my body
as I feel the rising of words, of life-force in and through me.
In the beginning there was not something static and fixed but swirling over the deep was a profound action and creative energy. A desire for engagement…
As I have been thinking about John 1 I remembered a poem I wrote a few years ago….
Maybe it began with
the sigh of a lover
a need to express
unable to hold back
the rush that expands lungs
caressing the throat cavern
that yearns vocal cords open
pulsed, unfurling like silk petals
breath soaring through the fullness of time
And this Energy was not just “in the beginning” at one moment
and it was not just born in a stable in Bethlehem.
But we see God’s active Verb presence and the 2nd person of the trinity
“He was in the beginning with God.”
throughout the narrative arch of scripture.
In the burst of energy of creation,
in the speaking burning bush,
in the conversation with Moses on Sini,
in the visitation to Abraham and Sarah
in communications with the prophets.
We did not and still often do not recognize the Word, the Verb, the Energy, God’s active presence.
“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.”
We needed God, need Jesus to become embodied.
It is hard being a body. This being human.
Full of contradiction, the pains of scraping our knees,
hands twisting with arthritis as we get older, heart-break from loss and betrayal, body bending grief and heart-pounding, gut twisting fear.
And it is beautiful to be a body, to be human. To eat watermelon on a hot summer day, as juice drips down your hands and face. To hug another. To laugh. To feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. To feel the relief after a body-wracking cry.
God reveals Herself to us through becoming human.
Birthed into the wild, gorgeous mess of it.
My Dad and I have talked about the lyric in the song “Away in A Manager”
“The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes”
I don’t think this is true. And that it is actually quite problematic theologically.
It keeps Jesus where the gnostics wanted, in the “clean” separate place of the mind.
Aren’t there so many ways we still do this today?
We keep Jesus in a tidy place on our book shelves,
keep the Word in our intellectual lectures and sermons
clothed in our Sunday best.
We keep the Creative Energy in the suffocated place of pleasing,
of “not overstepping” saying the “right” thing.
We keep God boxed trapped in the overthinking mind.
We keep Jesus as a blonde child wrapped in the manager.
But Jesus was born right into the fullness of being human.
The Word, the Energy, the Verb became flesh.
I imagine like all of us a cry from his lips upon leaving the womb’s cocooning hold. Arriving just like us covered in blood and vernex.
I imagine little boy Jesus with scraped knees, acne at puberty and the stomach flu. Jesus who felt the fullness of all the emotions.
To me this is such a comfort
God knows what it is to experience the complexity of being human.
In Spanish there are two words for know
that have subtle but powerfully different meanings
Saber – to know about
Conocer – to have experienced
Before this summer I knew about the Grand Tetons.
This summer I lived there I concur the Grand Tetons,
God doesn’t just saber what it is to be human,
in a removed way of the intellect.
But God conce, experienced, profoundly knows, meets us.
God came into the messiness to show us
in an embodied form The Way to be a whole human, the Path.
God came as human so that we can concer, experience God
and ourselves and each other as we live in the fullness of our humanness.
Out of desire, out of such love God came as affirmation to it is to be a human. Saying it is all okay. So that we also can flourish and thrive and feel our own Energy within your humanity. That is salvation.
It feels to me that the more I open myself up to feeling all the dimensions of being human. Allowing the contradictions, complexity, the both/and.
That then more I am then able to live more fully in the kin-do of the here and now, to embrace living from an integrated whole embodied place.
I invite us to sit in the vibration of the silence after I finish speaking and think about where it is that you are most profoundly feeling the challenge of being human.
Where is your pain and longing?
Where are you maybe staying in your head in stagnation with an emotion or situation and could bring action to it, the compassion of moving it through you.
Where in your life are you invited to come into full embodiment?
Jesus the human one the Divine one is holding you right in the fullness of all you are feeling in your bodymindheartspirit.
For God conce, has experienced it also, experiences it with us now.
For in the beginning and right here and now is the Energy
and the Word was with God
and Verb was God.