Welcome to worship this first Sunday of 2021. I trust that you had a celebratory ushering in of the new year. Ready for a renewing of body and spirit as we move boldly forward. Today, we are looking at the book of John to learn more about the Word.
Let us join our hearts and minds as begin our time together.
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come today to read and learn from the Word. Word made flesh to dwell among us. To be with us in thought and deed.
Let us pray.
Lord we come before you with open hearts and minds, ready to receive the gift of your Word. Speak to us in ways made meaningful by the presence of the Holy Spirit. For this we give you thanks and praise.
PRAYERS OF FORGIVENESS AND PARDON
Lord we come before you today knowing that we have fallen short of our potential. Knowing that we have said and done things that do not reflect your character. Knowing that we can be prideful and arrogant. Help us to not look others with disappointment or disdain. Forgive us for those times when we have settled for good enough when you have asked for our best. Forgive for the times when we have let you down.
We know that after having asked for forgiveness you have granted it. You have moved it as far away as the east is from the west, not because we deserve it, but because your grace has made it so.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
And now we come before you now to offer prayers of gratitude for those front line workers who continue to provide healthcare in spite of their own personal risk. We thank you for all support workers who keep the hospitals clean and sanitary. We ask for your blessing on students and teachers as they embark on a new semester filled with challenges and obstacles. We come before you remembering those whose Christmas was not a shining beacon of hope, but frought with arguments, disappointments, and violence. For those without food or homes. For those without work or friends. Help us to become your hands and feet, offering tangible support and live giving gifts. Let us become today’s Word of hope and love to those who don’t feel they belong.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
New International Version
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
As a writer, I love these verses. They remind me that the Word was with God and that everything that was and is is a result of God speaking things into existence. The Word with Him. The Word spoken by Him. The Word made flesh to dwell with us. So great.
What do we use words for? I use them to create worlds and characters. To convey messages and themes. I use them to help make meaning out of my many experiences. I use words to comfort. To confront. To challenge and to encourage. Essentially, words are used to share and communicate the thoughts and feelings of one person to another. In communication we know that words are powerful and yet, how they are delivered is even more important than the actual words. When I was growing up, I rarely got in trouble for what I said, but for how I said it. My mother would look at me and simply say the word, “Tone” and I knew that I said something in a way that SAID way more than the actual words.
But in the case of this Scripture, the Word a most powerful communication choice. The word Logos held special significance because John chose it bridge the gap between the Jewish and Greek worlds. The first Christians were Jewish, but the Gospel spread quickly to Greeks, who know nothing of the messiah or the fulfillment of prophecy. John’s task is to record this Gospel in language that both the Greeks and Jews can understand and appreciate.
The Jewish concept of the Word (logos) of God is rooted in the Old Testament. To understand what that means here, we need to look back to the Old Testament, which uses the Hebrew word dabar to speak about “the word of God”—some sort of message from God to humans, whether a command, reprimand, or announcement—sometimes spoken through the agency of a prophet, but at other times spoken directly (Genesis 15:1, 4).
How much more directly could God have spoken than to send his Word to live “among us…full of grace and truth” (v. 14)? How much more visible could God make himself—without consuming us in the process (Exodus 33:23)?
I also appreciate that the Gospel of John weds theology to poetry. It is poetic prose—prose with the soul of poetry—prose that, like poetry, packs layers of meaning in a word or phrase. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Those few words have inspired theologians to write books—and musicians to compose music—and artists to paint masterworks—and all of us to understand Jesus in a profoundly larger way.
We get to see Jesus as having been around since the beginning, with God. We see his relationship to the Creator and the creation. And we get to see an overarching theme of this Gospel that the Word, was “in the beginning with God, and…was God” (v. 1), “became flesh and lived among us….full of grace and truth” (v. 14). The Word becoming flesh is the zenith of God’s revelation. God, who spoke earlier through the prophets, now speaks through his son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
“and lived (eskenosen—tabernacled) among us” (v. 14b). The distance between God and humans would seem so great as to be unbridgeable (see Luke 16:26). However, God, in love, bridges these worlds, using himself as bridge-building material.
And because He was with God in creation then it isn’t a surprise that all creation is His, yet “those who were his own didn’t receive him” (v. 11), generally, all creation, but more specifically those who had been assigned the spiritual welfare of the Jewish community—scribes, Pharisees, and priests—men who should have seen the light in Jesus’ life—who should have welcomed him with open arms. But many did not see his light or receive him. In fact, they were furious that he was insisting on living life differently; changing the focus of their work, and caring for the marginalized or trivialized – like the shepherds and the elderly (remember Simeon and Anna)
The blessing is that “as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children” (v. 12). That’s where we come in. If we receive him, we are changed, shifting our focus from self to other, self to God.
Then we read in verse 14 that the Word was “full of grace (Greek: charis) and truth” (Greek: aletheia) (v. 14e). It doesn’t say that the Word had a sprinkling of Grace. Or a teaspoon of Grace. But FULL of grace. Grace (charis) is a significant word in the New Testament. It speaks of God’s lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness and the Word embodies that grace; giving it freely and fully.
The Word also embodies full Truth. Jesus is truth personified—“the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus promised, “If you remain in my word, then you…will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32).
And then we move to verse 15.
15John testified about him. He cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.’” 16From his fullness we all received grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
“we all received grace upon grace” (v. 16b). This is another “packed-full-of-goodness” phrase—probably best translated “grace upon grace” or “grace on top of grace.” It tells us that we draw grace from the total resources of God, an inexhaustible warehouse. Regardless of our need for grace, the supply is greater.
Think about something that exists in abundance without your influence or participation. Maybe it’s the waves rolling in at the seashore. They come every few seconds, and the supply never fails. If you had been there the day before—or the year before—or a thousand years ago—you would have seen the waves maintaining their steady tempo. If you were to return tomorrow—or a thousand tomorrows—the waves would be rolling in as faithfully as when you first saw them. So it is with the grace of God—faithful—inexhaustible, without your influence or participation.
And finally in verse 18, we read: 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
To help people understand God’s intent for their lives, God gave the law to Moses and the people of Israel as in verse 17, but in verse 18 we see that Jesus Christ took the revelation of God’s will to the next level, where all people could experience the fullness of God’s grace and truth. Jesus has made God known to us as never before, directly giving us the message of love, compassion, social justice, and forgiveness. The Word communicated God’s desire to be in relationship with us and the choice is ours to reject or accept.
Help us to accept the gift of your Word full of grace and truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.