“The New Way”
John 1: (1-9) 10-18, January 5th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel according to John, chapter one, verses one thru eighteen.”
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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
“Having heard the words of our lesson today, with our ears, let us now open our hearts to grasp their meaning to us in this present time.”
“The New Way”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” /John 1:1/ The ‘Word’ in the context of our lesson clearly refers to our understanding of Jesus. Our gospel writer is the first to move into theological discourse regarding Jesus and how he fits into our understanding of the Triune God: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Our author took this bold step at the time of this writing, which was somewhere between the end of the First Century and the beginning of the Second Century, to clarify who Jesus was. Cleary, John wanted to strengthen the faith of both Jews and Gentiles a like, helping them to believe that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. As our studies of this gospel unfold, we shall learn of the seven signs, miracle accounts, which are meant to reaffirm Jesus’ identity to those who perhaps were struggling in their faith.
John has written about Jesus in an entirely new way; not like the writings we find in the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew and Luke do a beautiful job portraying the birth stories and Jesus’ family tree seeking to clarify his place in the prophesies of the Old Testament. And they used common material in their writings, the source of which has never been found. Mark, of course, unlike his counterparts is simply focused on the ministry of Jesus, believing that Jesus would soon return in their lifetimes, as did Matthew and Luke. But this was not to be. This fact clearly motivated John into his methodology of writing about the life and works of Jesus. A process that theologians have been writing about and discussing for nearly two thousand years! The writer of the gospel of John was approaching his composition in an entirely new way.
When I think of a ‘New Way’ I am looking to do or speak of something differently than it has been done before. John does not seem to be concerned about the story of Jesus’ Birth, unlike the beautiful picturesque writings in both Luke and Matthew. Rather he is more interested in putting Jesus into the larger picture of the worldly/universal order – rather than ‘proof texting’ his lineage within the written timelines of the Old Testament writings. Yes indeed, the gospel of John’s writings takes a ‘new approach’ to speak of ‘who’ Jesus is and how he ‘fits’ within our understanding of the Godhead; Creator, Word, and Sustainer, verses: Father, Son and Spirit. His free methodology of writing gives us moderns more latitude in our theological musings.
Especially, as we seek clarity surrounding literal interpretation of scripture verses educated interpretations of ancient works which have been re-interpreted and re-edited for Centuries. Where are we headed in this discussion? John has given us a new way, a new approach to interpret and understand these ancient writings. At the same time, he was meticulously vigilant to leave us with, not one, but seven, ‘signs’ that clearly point to who our Jesus was and is! His writing is a focused document meant to cause the modern students of Jesus to become clear about their faith as they read the strong and clear accounts, with pointed certainty that Jesus is the Son of God! Turning water into wine at Cana, healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum, healing the paralytic at Bethesda, feeding the 5000, walking on water, healing the man blind from birth and raising his friend Lazarus from the grave. /numerous commentaries/ Each of these signs clearly point to powers far beyond human capability and strongly point to Jesus as the heavenly one’s Son, empowered in the forces of Nature itself. When coupled with the teachings of Jesus, his Words which give humankind the best look into the thoughts of God’s conscious and sub-conscious mind, it is hard for those seeking God – to not come to accept Jesus as the pathway – to knowing God more fully.
We need to hold onto the fact that when we change the way we do something, especially, if we have done it the other way a long time; we need hold on with ‘new’ and ‘revitalized’ faith that it can free us to take a new look at how to approach not only a scripture lesson, but virtually everything we are involved in. By now, everyone who listens to me regularly, you know I am not a literalist! Therefore, know that there are somethings we will always do the same way! Not sure what those things are… but I’ll leave that door open.
But I am suggesting to you that we may wish to be a bit bolder about how we creatively tackle things which have blocked and baffled us in the past. Take for instance this simple example. While working in a high-tech marketing group a young marketer, and his peers, were charged with coming up with several forecasts, for products their clients would order during the year. The young man in this event had no desire to work long late hours like his coworkers, to get the job done, so he took a risk! Consequently, he learned how to use an experimental ‘prototype desktop’ computer that had ‘demo software’, including a ‘spreadsheet’ calculator of which neither he nor the others in his group had ever seen or used before. The year was around 1983. Trying something new saved numerous hours of unpaid overtime and the man… well he received a promotion for his efforts. He was then charged with teaching others how to do likewise. It’s a simple concept: look for a new way to approach an old task or problem. Now and then you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary gives us an interesting and insightful look at today’s gospel lessons use of the ‘Word’ to refer to Jesus. “The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word, seems to be, that as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father’s mind to the world.” When said this way – it is obvious that John’s use of ‘The Word’ opened-up a new thought path for understanding the earthly ministry of the man Jesus. A great many theologians would agree – viewing Jesus as the ‘Living’ Word of God has greatly enhanced and unlocked our understanding of the Gospels, especially in the Gospel according to John.
It seems truly amazing how old ancient scripture writings can have ‘modern day’ truths. Seeing a new approach, a new way to understand and ultimately ‘solve’ an old problem or simplify a difficult task has been used by countless famous inventors. During our own time period there are numerous entrepreneurs who have revolutionized technologies across a wide range of industries and fields. Knowing this ought to give us pause at the new ‘possibilities’ we may want to consider as we continue to pursue new ways to understand God’s love, grace and mercy. Our gospel writer has given us permission to look at our understanding of who Jesus was and is. With this we can use some of our collective gifts, our intelligence, our intellect and our God given creativity to see more clearly things that have been there for us to grasp all along. The ‘key’ that shall unlock the mysteries of our God are within our reach. We simply need to stay focused on our personal relationships with God. It is through the portal of our God consciousness by which the answers to unsolved mysteries shall be solved. May it be so.