By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
January 5, 2020
John 1:1–18 (ESV)
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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
In the beginning. The opening of John’s gospel is worded in a way sparks the imagination. I love this gospel. It is my favorite of all the gospel accounts of Jesus. In the beginning. Where does that phrase direct your attention? When I think of the beginning my mind goes back. And as I consider it my mind continues to go on back. When did the beginning begin?
There is something about going to the beginning that can be amazing. Of course, we often jump to the story of Genesis when we hear about the beginning, and that is alright because that is what Genesis is about. But what about your beginning? This is an idea that I want us to really consider today. What has gotten us to this place in our lives, and who has been with us?
The past few weeks I have thought about these things, I have thought about it for several reasons the first is because I have had a couple of very important people in my life that have passed through the veil of life to death this year. When people pass away, those of us that remain grieve because we often do not know how to live our life without those individuals in our lives. That process is one that never really stops. My little sister has been in heaven for about twenty-two years and I still have moments where the grief just takes hold. Certain words will spark a memory and I will laugh, and then all at once the loss is very real again. This year Albert really got excited to give gifts for the first time, he wanted to pick out what to give to the individuals were giving gifts too. That action reminded me of my little sister, because she loved to give gifts and she always wanted to make sure it was something we would like. To make sure we would like it, sometimes she would…well she would basically steal our stuff and wrap it up so she could give it back to us. It made us mad, but it also made us realize the great love she had in her heart. But I lost two in my family over the past year, my grandmother and my aunt. These losses sparked my mind to remember life with them. And both of those women have had a significant place in my life and in my faith.
The other thing that has caused me to think back is because Kristy and I have been pastors in this Meeting for ten years. As I talked with my family over the holiday, we could hardly believe that it has been that long, because so often it seems as if we have just started our ministry here, and at other times it feels like we have been here forever.
These things in my life have caused me to remember, to consider the beginnings of my journey. How did I become the person I am, and what prompted the various directions I have chosen in life?
This opening passage of John says in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. As I thought about these words this week and as I remember the various contemplation, I have had over this passage throughout my journey of faith I am often challenged by the concept of word. It is such a seeming simple word, but have you ever really tried to define the word, word? How can you define this concept using words? It is like using a word to define a word, which when defining the word word makes things very confusing. Our entire culture, our entire human history is built on words, the construct of language is often the very thing that people use to determine intelligence in animals, and since humanity in our perspective is the highest or most intelligent creature on earth we often determine intelligence from the basis of our use of words. In the beginning was the word.
This opening phrase tells us something very important. The concept of Word in history is wisdom and knowledge, but there is so much more to this word. The root of the word means to gather or to collect. To most of us that does not really lead us consider Word to mean wisdom, but what do we gather and collect?
I find this to be an interesting place to start, especially when we consider the concept of intelligence. The more social an animal species is, the greater the intelligence of those animals. We can observe various communication and social structures among groups of animals. When animals gather communication seems to be very important to their survival. It might be grunts or howls, it might be hand gestures we often call it instinct, but knowledge has in some way been passed from one to another. And that knowledge has allowed for the generations to exist.
Humans gather. It is important, it is necessary for us to gather. Science has found that our brains cannot function to its greatest capacity without other brains around us. We are social beings, and when we are isolated it often has detrimental consequences to our health and well-being. We must gather. The root of wisdom comes from the gathering and it builds from there.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. It is interesting that this word that so often is associated with knowledge and wisdom with the root coming from gathering is explained in a relational way. The word was with God, and the word was God. The concept of with is interesting. There is a relationship present, cooperation, or even a symbiosis in this concept. When a concept is described in this relational way, one cannot really separate the things that are with each other. They exist only together. The word was with God and the word was God. What is being said is as scripture often tells us the beginning of wisdom is God.
I know that is a bunch of abstract thinking, and mainly the stuff that bible geeks get excited about. But this is the Christmas season, the time we celebrate God with us. Yes, Christmas is more than just a day. Christmas is God with us, that is why it is such an important season. We gather to celebrate with others. We share what we have with others. God is with us.
In the beginning. God gathered with God, and God made everything. Without this symbiotic relationship nothing would exist, because without that relationship there would be no gathering. God is with God, and God is with creation. This gathering together is life.
There is something poetic and beautiful about that idea. For life to exist we must gather and in the gathering life expands. This is biology and theology meeting together telling us that for us to truly live we need relationships. For life to thrive we others around us. And John says that this life is the light of man.
Light, like word is often associated with wisdom and knowledge. More accurately it is associate with revelation or the gaining of knowledge. The revelation to mankind that gives life is when we recognize that we need relationships.
This brings me back to the beginnings. How did you get to the place where you are, and who was with you? As I have thought about my journey through life and faith, I have recognized that my journey began before I ever really knew anything. There were people involved along the way. I mentioned my aunt, my grandmother, my sister, but those are only a few. This past week, I enjoyed some time with my parents, and my grandfather. These people were directly involved in pretty much every aspect of my growth as a child. They taught me how to many things. They showed me how to live with others and how to let others know how much I care for them. I spent time with my uncle, who taught me how to work because he was my first boss. I spent time with my brother and sister. I spent time chatting with friends on the internet and I even checked out a few sites that were shared by one of my favorite teachers from school. The most important aspects of life are life. Those individuals we live life with.
This brings us to the tenth verse, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” I consider this verse to be one of the most depressing passages in all of scripture. He was in the world, the world that he made, the world that he gathered to him and created life through, yet the world did not know him.
Have you ever been involved in something, contributed to the success of something, and not been given credit for your participation? It is one of the most damaging things to a relationship. The lack of acknowledgment, or when others seem to make us feel insignificant. This is one of the reasons relationships are so difficult, because we are often distracted. Bills need to be paid so we go to work, and we are distracted from life with our family. We have a schedule to keep so we are distracted from spending time with those around us. We are distracted and, in our distraction, we often lose sight of life. He came to the world, the world that was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
Over this Christmas season I came across an article that said that I do not need a church to be a good person, and it gave a list of the reasons why. I have heard the argument many times over the past few years. And over the past few years I have seen many things within and without the church. I have seen churches say they do not need the Yearly Meeting; I have seen Yearly Meetings say we do not need some of the churches. They make arguments for or against. And I have sat back and observed something. Most of these arguments miss something, with. Sin is distraction. Sin is the things that distract us from life with God and others. Sin is those things that divide us and cause us to disrespect the life of those around us. Sin is us in the church failing to see that of God in those outside these walls, sin is those outside these walls failing to acknowledge the importance of the gathering. Sin is us not seeing that life is with not without.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God came to live with us. Jesus came to show us life with God, and life with others. He came to live with us, because we as humans forgot how to live life. He came to be with us, because He loves us.
What brought you to this place today? Who was with you along the way? Where was the beginning? I stand here today because someone loved me. I am here because my wife’s family accepted me as one of their own. I am here today because my parents encouraged me. I am here today because my parents were encouraged by their parents, my grandparents. I am here today because my great grandparents loved and encouraged their children. I am here today because… the list could go on down through history. I am where I am today because of lives lived with others. I am here today because Jesus became flesh and lived with others. I am here today because the Word was with God and was God, and that word gathered everything together to make life. I am here today not because I must be, but because it has been revealed to me that I can only truly live if I am with others. I am here today because… Why are you here?
Jesus loved the world so much that he could not bear to see the scattering of what was gathered in him, so he became flesh, he lived with us. He showed us what life with God and others looked like. He showed us truth, and that truth revealed the sin we all embrace. And we rejected it because we believed the lie that we are enough in ourselves, and we do not need to be with others. Jesus took that sin on himself and he died alone on the cross, and he was buried alone in a tomb. He took our sin, our rejection, our shame. But the story does not end there because he rose on the third day and he entered a room and ate with others. And he told those that were gathered to go to the ends of the earth and share life. He commanded them to go and make disciples, to walk with others through life. Why are you here? Because in the beginning the word was with God, and the word was God. And that word dwells with us.