Monday, October 06, 2008

The Word became flesh: looking again at Jesus VII

A sermon from John 1.1-14: Part VII
Verses 9-13 then give us a condensed version of the plot of the rest of the Gospel. It’s like the trailer, giving us glimpses into what is to come in the main feature.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

This story seems to be a tragedy. The source of all that is going unrecognised, unthanked, unreceived. The creator entering his creation and being overlooked. The director walking on set and being ignored. But in the end, it will not be a tragedy. The ignorance is not total, the distraction is not universal. Some recognise him, believe in him, are welcomed into the conversation as loved children.

As readers, the pressure is on: are we going to recognise him? John is making sure we’re given plenty of warning. We face a strange situation: in the pages of this text we are to meet the one who is the light of all people, who gives light to everyone, who is the source of life and through whom all things were made, and yet, who ordinary enough to be missed. The single most amazing figure in history, but blink and you might miss him.

How is this possible? It’s as though people were walking around outside in broad daylight and didn’t notice the sun shining in their faces. The very light that enables them to see is almost too bright to look at directly. They don’t want to look at the light.

A few chapters further in, John has an even stronger explanation of how people can miss the sun shining in their faces: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3.19b-21)

Light doesn’t just illuminate, bringing warmth and the possibility of life. Light also exposes. To keep reading, trying to gain a fresh look at Jesus, might not only mean being dazzled, but it might uncover things we’d rather stayed hidden. Talking with God, being addressed by his Word, having his light shine on you is dangerous. Very dangerous. Much safer to stay in the dark. Much safer to close the book, to walk away. Is your life comfortable? It will be easier if you stop coming to church. Or if you do keep coming, then better make sure Jesus stays safely familiar as a friend, or securely distant as an inspiring historical figure. Try not to take his words too seriously, because he lived in a different culture don’t forget. Don’t pay too much attention; don’t become fanatical. Cultivate a healthy cynicism. Make sure there are always excuses to not get too involved. If you want to keep your feet on the ground, then please ensure that you don’t try reading the Bible for yourself, you don’t make more than small talk at morning tea, stick to people you know, treat the liturgy as a nice ritual, the songs as a chance to stretch your legs, the confession as a vague generality, communion as just a beautiful quiet moment. Really, it’s much safer for everyone that way. Don’t open the door, it’s much nicer in the dark and we don’t have to face one another. We don’t have to be honest with ourselves. We can avoid hearing God’s unsettling query: where are you?

Plato allegedly once said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X.


the don said...

byron, you're the man