Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Word became flesh: looking again at Jesus VIII

A sermon from John 1.1-14: Part VIII
3. FLESH – carnal spirituality

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The light that gives light to everyone came into the world. But not as a brilliant and dazzlingly bright burning star that consumed and destroyed everything it touched. The Word, the eternal divine self-expression, the perfection through which the world was made, became flesh. Sweaty, spongy, smelly, unsightly, weak, vulnerable, graspable, pinchable, piercable, crucifiable flesh. Just like you, just like me: flesh. The infinite wisdom of eternity became limited, ignorant, mortal flesh.

If you weren’t offended by God’s verbosity in the Word, if you weren’t turned off by the promise of public disclosure in the Light, then you probably weren’t paying attention. But if the Word becoming flesh doesn’t make your eyes goggle, then you haven’t understood it.

The Word became flesh. Just as God took the initiative from the start, so he also took the first step in our need, in our disconnection from him, in our love of the darkness.

The Word became flesh. God’s love doesn’t wait for us to become something else first; he runs to embrace us as we are, to show us the hidden depths and beauty of being human.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And so God is with us, amongst us, for us – not distant and cold.

The Word became flesh, without ceasing to the Word, without contradicting who he was. So this man – this humble, loving, gentle, provocative, grace-filled, honest man – this one is what God himself is like.

The Word became flesh: truly, fully human flesh. And so this man lives how humans are meant to live: thankful, trusting, obedient, compassionate, bold, genuine, unafraid, fully alive.

The Word became flesh. And so to be mere flesh is not automatically to fail. Our bodies, our finite, weak and vulnerable lives, are able to hear and touch and begin to know God in the flesh. Spirituality is not just about the mind, or about transcending the physical or the particular. Spirituality is carnal, fleshy; it’s able to be lived. What we do with our body matters. Christianity is not abstract or theoretical.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X.


the don said...

excellent thoughts byron... you've given me a lot to think about this evening and a lot more links to your blog to stuff i've not yet read.

i find myself feeling regret more and more often in my gut for my genuine lack of gratitude towards life and my closest relationships suffer because of this. oh, i've learned to say "thank you" but there's a difference in saying it out of habit, and meaning it-- or even, orienting my life around giving thanks...

the other thing that this post made me think about is how much time i spend trying to put words to what i experience. the experience is previous to my articulation of it. i guess the philosophers call this the work of phenomenology. but here, it's interesting that john says that with God, the Word comes before and in fact becomes flesh. it seems to me, at first glance, to be backwards to how i experience life and try to articulate it.

i guess this is, yet, another reason why it's important for God do show us how to live in the flesh well, and not just tell us from a a distant 'light' of propositional ethics...

it's something that a lot of words are spilt out on pages trying to describe what is and a lot of time is spent trying to wrap our language (and our bodies) around what impact this fleshly Word has made on us.

byron smith said...

Josh - thanks for your honesty here. My 2c worth (though maybe it should be 2p, or less than 1p at today's exchange rate), as one un/semi-grateful failure to another, is that I've found some scriptural repetition helpful here. For instance, a few years ago, my wife and I decided to start each day by saying, "This is the day that the LORD has made/Let us rejoice and be glad in it (/him)" when we wake up. It hasn't fixed our ingratitude overnight, but it hasn't hurt either.

I think our experiences are prior to our articulation of them (which is why we try to find the right words, and it can be so liberating to be given a new description of my experience which is more accurate, and so on. This priority is also true developmentally, of course. There is a place for some good phenomenology!), not least because we are the ones to whom the word of God is spoken. We, as creatures, are first addressed before we can respond.

And yes, we struggle to find words (and bodily actions) to make this response. It is a fumbling around towards obedience in which we join the conversation we didn't start.

the don said...

yes, thanks for sharing that. it is helpful to think in those terms at an intimate level.

thank you :)