February 4, 2024

And the Word became flesh

And the Word became flesh

Sermon 4 Feb 2nd before Lent
Readings: Prov. 1. 22-31; Col. 1. 15-20; Jn. 1. 1-14
Theme: And the Word became flesh

All our readings today invite us to reflect on the creation. The reading from Proverbs speaks of wisdom being the creative power of the Word of God who calls us into being. We are called forth out of nothingness into life, so that we may share in Life itself. This Life is identified as the Son of God in our reading from Colossians and it is a Life which has been restored to its fullness through the death and resurrection of Christ. In Christ we have become a new creation and through the creative power of the Holy Spirit, we share in the reconciliation of all things with God that has been brought about through Christ.

These themes of creation through the Word and reconciliation of all things with God through Christ are brought into particularly sharp focus in the Prologue of the Gospel of St John that we have as our Gospel reading today. What does it mean to say, “And the Word became flesh”?

We can single out three elements to this statement that speak to us about the specificity of the God of Jesus Christ that we should reflect upon. The first is that this New Testament account of the creation draws upon the Old Testament. It does not arise out of nowhere. When we read the New Testament, we are reading a commentary on the Old Testament in the light of the death and resurrection of Christ. In other words, the creation account that is given in our first reading from Proverbs and that we also find in the Book of Genesis and similarly in that other Wisdom Book, the Book of Job, spoke to the ancient Israelites about the uniqueness of the God of Israel. Gradually, as the Israelites began to find their own identity they realized that their God was not only one God amongst many, but rather that their God was the only God. In other words, they came to the belief in monotheism that we share with Jews and Muslims. There is only one God and that God is the creator of heaven and earth.

The second element that we should reflect on today is that God creates through the Word of God. What does that mean? It means that creation, the act of God bringing forth Life, is a speech act. It is through God speaking that something comes into being. And, that which is brought into being shares in the very Life of God through God’s Word. God literally speaks existence into being through God’s own Life. You might think of this in terms of what we ordinarily do when we make a promise to someone. When we say, I promise to pay you tomorrow, that speech act brings into being the promise which is made. This means, of course, that the way that God creates is not merely to create an external reality, though the creation is clearly not God, it means rather that the way that God creates involves God in a commitment to the creation. In this sense, you might think of the creation as the promise that God makes to us. God promises to give us his Life. A life which participates in the very Life of God through God’s act of speaking us into existence. This is why we can think of the Holy Spirit as the “breath of Life” as Basil of Caesarea, one of the early Church Father spoke of the Holy Spirit. When God the Father creates he creates through the Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

This brings us to our third element that we should reflect on today, namely, that the act of creation, through the experience of the New Testament is now understood as an act of the Holy Trinity. When God creates, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in this act. We might picture this in the following way. The Father is the one who makes the promise of creation which is embodied in the Word of God and this is breathed forth through the power of Holy Spirit. And, that word “embodied” is a key dimension of this third element that I would like to invite you to reflect on. That beautiful phrase in the Gospel of St John, “And the Word became flesh”, means that the creative promise of God, through whom all things were made, has now in Jesus become embodied in the Son of God. God has, if you will, taken on the flesh of creation, and united it with God’s own very self. But why? What is the point of God taking on the flesh of the creation? It is so that it can now be reconciled with God in Christ. The long history of sin and disobedience, told in the various stories of Israel, such as the great flood, the deportation of the people of Israel to Babylon and so on, all speak of our alienation from our creator. The coming of Jesus is the start of this reconciliation of the whole of creation with God in the act of the New Creation which is the resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus, the power of sin and death has been overcome and we are called forth to share in the eternal Life of God through sharing in Jesus’s death and resurrection.

So, you might even think of the creation as a play of three acts. The first act, depicted in the Old Testament is the original act of bringing forth the creation out of nothing. The second act, depicted in both the Old and the New Testaments is the story of this promise of God being rejected. As the Gospel of St John today says, “He came to his own people did not accept him”. The promise of God, the Covenant, is continually rejected and this rejection is brought to a climax in the rejection of Jesus which takes place in his crucifixion. But the creativity of God is such that this very rejection is used as the supreme act of the new creation. So, the third act of the creation is that through the rejection of Jesus in his crucifixion, God the Father will raise the Word up through the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe new Life into the creation, as the New Creation. It is this new creation which we are called to share in through the Word made flesh. It is a creation which is no longer subject to the power of sin and death, due to our disobedience, but which is now shared with us through the obedience of the Son of God, the Word made flesh in Jesus. Through his wounds we have been healed and it is a marvel to see. Thank you Jesus.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.