The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 1st Chapter
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.
When I leave my house and start driving toward the church, somewhere in the middle of my drive a pass a sign that points toward Augusta. Now, if I were to pull my car over at that sign, stand in the middle of the road and declare to the world, “I am now in Augusta!” what would you think? You’d probably think first, “You better get out of the road before you get hit by a car” and then you’d think, “Dude, that’s a SIGN that points TO Augusta. That’s not Augusta.” And then you’d think, “How much eggnog has this guy been drinking this morning anyway?” A sign that points to Augusta, isn’t Augusta. It’s a sign. It might be an awesome sign. It might be an accurate sign and it might even be a beautiful sign. But it’s still only a sign. It’s not Augusta.
Today we read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word this passage is talking about is Jesus. John does not mean for us to mistake the Bible for the Word of God. The Word is Jesus. The Bible is not worthy of our worship and praise. It’s Jesus that’s worthy of our worship and praise. John is not calling us to follow the Bible. John is calling us to follow Jesus, the walking, breathing, healing, feeding, dying and rising Son of God who has been around from before time began and is the source of all light and life.
When people talk about following the Bible, or believing in the Bible or treating the Bible as something that should be worshiped and praised, they’re talking about following a sign, believing in a sign, and worshiping a sign… and NOT following, believing or worshiping the ONE to whom that sign points.
Martin Luther put it this way, “The Scriptures are the manger in which the Word of God is found.” The Wise Men we will celebrate coming twelve days from today on Epiphany didn’t take Jesus out of the manger, give him to Mary and then proceed to present gold, frankincense and myrrh to the manger! They came to see and worship and honor and follow the Word made flesh, the ONE lying IN the manger. Jesus, the Messiah... the Christ.
You and I are called to nothing less than to follow the ONE found lying in a manger. That’s why we don’t pull over our lives and just stop at a sign that points to Jesus. That’s why we don’t stop today’s activities with prayers for the hungry alone. We don’t stop at the sign. We keep walking the road Jesus walks… today that means after we pray for the hungry with our eyes closed and hands folded, we then prepare a meal and fill the hungry with good things, both with a meal for the belly but also with the dignity due Children of God.
The last bit of today’s reading from John says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” A better translation of that is that, “the Word became flesh and pitched a tent among us.” The Word of God… Jesus… isn’t a destination. It’s not a book or a building either. The Word of God is always on the move, pitching the Divine tent among God’s most vulnerable people who are here today and over on Summer Street tomorrow and at Bread of Life on Monday and in countless places around the world every day.
May we never find ourselves hung up, transfixed by a sign or stuck in one spot. May we always stay on the move, following the One to which the signs point and live our lives like he lived… On the move, constantly seeking out and finding the ones most in need and pitching our tent with theirs. In doing that, we will most certainly see God’s glory, full of grace and truth. Amen.