December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

GodStory, Act IV: Jesus!
Key Event #16 of 37
Reading: John 1:1-18
Title: “Cosmic God in Word in Deed!”

Oh Gospel of John, you are so odd and elusive! Why can’t you be more like the other 3 gospels? Start off with a geneology to set the course for us…or tell us about the humble beginnings of a carpenter and a lowly girl-next-door in the Judean countryside or just jump into the story and get off to the races about what Jesus wanted to get going in the rural regions of Galilee in the first century.
But what’s all this poetry and cosmic imagination stuff..a flare for the dramatic with a whirling symphony playing about in the background?

Is it because you are written by the beloved disciple? You’ve just got to show off your “set-apart-ness”…written by Jesus’ favourite…the one who got to lean on the bosom of Jesus at the supper table. Or is it because you are written post-revelation after that crazy, prison-induced vision on the isle of Patmos? You’re a gospel that’s mutated by the Jesus-dream of dragons, lakes of fire and beasts emerging from blood-red oceans.
Or maybe it’s because you’re not even written by a man at all! With all these women heroes rising to the top chapter after chapter in your gospel, perhaps this is the touch of a woman’s literary skills…imaginative, beautiful, soaring and stunning……..egalitarian! So non-machismo-ish! Where’s the ego?? Where’s the domineering spirit? It’s almost as if you want to make a point that in Christ there is no male or female, slave or servant…echoing some of Paul’s letters! What’s up with that?? Could it be that this good news story wants nothing to do with tiny tales…but wants to try to take into account a Big God. Cosmic God. The God who blows the doors off of our little trappings that we build? The God who’s bigger than our imagination or wildest dreams…the God who breathed life into beings made of dust…formed and fashioned in Eden’s soil…

[stanza 1]

1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.
3-5 Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.

————- break ———-
God had the first Word…billions of years ago, the first Word was breathed by Jesus…he was with God in the beginning…when the community of God hovered over the waters it was Father, Son and Holy Spirit…pushing back the chaos and bringing light and life!
“What came into existence was LIFE, and the LIFE was LIGHT to live by. The LIFE-LIGHT blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out!”

[stanza 2]

6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

———— break —————

We move from the place of eternity and majesty to the place of history and humanity! God doesn’t watch us from a distance…God gets involved in the mess and muck of our lives in “real-time.” God loves to lean on humanity to get his work done…as that one gospel hymn puts it “he could have sent a thousand angels”…but it seems that God is not into “spectacular”…God is into trusting his beloved, spectacularly flawed people to show the way…God will even use a honey-sucking, grasshopper-chompin’, unshaven, wilderness Wildman like John the Baptist as a signpost to point people to the way of light and life!

[stanza 3]

9-13 The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made [them] to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
not blood-begotten,
not flesh-begotten,
not sex-begotten.

———– break ————–
Attention all athiests & unbelievers! God doesn’t give a rip that you don’t believe in God! God is not mad at atheists…nor is God frustrated by our fickle belief or rebellious indifference. He was and is and is to come. It’s a fact of life. God is here. We sing it, we proclaim it…and sometimes, we even act like we believe it! This is one of the most fantastic parts of the good news of God!
God is in the world but is not stressed about whether we believe it or not…it doesn’t change who God is…God is in the world…the world is here through and because of God…and Jesus is the primary revelation of the heart, soul and presence of God. Our reaction to Jesus (be it devotion or rejection) does not change the fact that Jesus showed up for us, to be with us, because he simply wants to bless us, to keep us, to make his face & light to shine upon us!

[stanza 4]

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

————– break ——————-

Jesus was and is the fullness of God’s expression of love and desire to be with us. In the GodStory, since the beginning of time and humanity…God has been moving towards us. Sure, we put the relationship in jeopardy all the time because of our failure, our folly, our intentional or non-intentional ignorance. But God keeps on moving toward us….pitching his tent near to us no matter how far and how fast we wander! What does it mean to be relentlessly pursued by this one who is “generous inside and out”? It seems too good to be true…but that’s what it means to receive and be in relationship with the WORD who is “one of a kind.”

[stanza 5]

15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”

————– break ————————-

“In the beginning was the Word”…God had the first word. And because of that, he is always in the lead. God is always the protagonist of the story. And as God goes, so does Jesus. Jesus is always ahead of us, always has the first word…not in a pushy, pompous kind of way…but in a way that grants us security, safety, surety…what is Jesus’ first word to us today? When you imagine Jesus moving towards you…..what are his first words? Embrace those words and bask in the glory of them today…as long as they are not shameful!
They ought to be words like… “Come to me”…. “Do not be afraid”…. “I AM….the good shepherd….the gate to good pasture. The LIGHT of the World…the One who gives LIFE abundant.
It’s got to be a GENEROUS word!

[stanza 6]

16-18 We all live off his generous bounty,
gift after gift after gift.
We got the basics from Moses,
and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
This endless knowing and understanding—
all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
No one has ever seen God,
not so much as a glimpse.
This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
who exists at the very heart of the Father,
has made him plain as day.

————– Oh, that we might see and encounter Jesus who has been made “plain as day” to us…even in these days of Advent.

What are you looking for in these last days before Christmas?

With only 2 ½ shopping days left…
What might our arriving Lord be calling us to see in these coming 60 hours?

This “one of a kind God-expression who exists at the very heart of the Father” invites us to see him.

Yet…..No one has ever seen God…whoa…., no one! And yet in the face and presence of Jesus, we are told by the Johannine writer that God is fully known and God fully seen.

When we tie this together with Paul’s declaration that the mystery of Jesus is Christ in you & me…the hope of glory…does that not mean that the fullness of Christ dwells in you and me? And thus when we go out into the halls and malls and the highways and biways of the “empire of Christmas” consumer madness today, and tomorrow, and beyond…we carry in us the presence and fullness of the living Christ to brothers and sisters who from the beginning of time have been created in the image of God…they have been created good…and long to be connected in meaningful and hopeful ways to their creator so that they might know themselves as beloved daughters and sons of God.

This cosmic God who we worship today is the one who meets us and shows up for us. So let us press into the “generous bounty” of advent…let us sing, pray, & praise; let us gather up the fullness of hope, peace, joy and love….and let us join God in God’s great work of “joyful distribution”…let’s heap truth upon truth….pile up grace upon grace…let us bless one another, bringing bagfulls of blessing to those places we are called to (sent to) in this Christmas season.

V. 16 “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

Frederich Buechner writes that:
“Jesus, for John, is the Jesus he knew in his own heart and the one he believed everybody else could know too…if they only kept their hearts open.”

Do we have hearts that can receive this grace upon grace today?

Let us pause to sit in silence…as we quiet our hearts, I’d like to slowly read the verses from one of our Advent hymns… “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

If you haven’t yet let Jesus be born anew in you this season of Advent…keep your heart open! Receive grace upon grace.

If you have let Jesus be born anew in you in these past 21 days of Advent…rejoice, and bask in God’s glory and love for you today…

Let’s hear these verses as a prayer:

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us;
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a king,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.