John 1:1-18

January 4, 2015 by Ken Dale

The great temptation this morning was to wear this lovely blue sweater that Jane Najim and the Janells gave me years ago ? it?s a cardigan sweater that we called my ?Mr. Rogers Sweater? and hangs in the office closet for when my office gets chilly. It and the sermon title came to mind when I read Eugene Peterson?s version of our gospel lesson in his biblical paraphrase The Message. I love the opening of John?s gospel ? it is a hymn and a wonderfully different way to report Jesus coming into the world. Matthew and Luke have those wonderful stories of the baby and all the goings on that came with that birth. Mark, as we know, opens with John the Baptist coming out of the desert dressed in camel?s hair with honey and locust on his breath.

But John is abstract ? going all the way back to creation ? In the beginning was ?the Word? and that Word was with God, the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Pretty profound thought wouldn?t you say? The Word ? with God and was God. And John writes All things came into being through him. This Word is the Creator and is with the Creator.

And John says that this Word became flesh and lived among us?full of grace and truth. I don?t know about you but I love mystery and it seems to me that John really captures the mystery of it all with the language used in this writing which speaks of God ? the greatest of mystery.

Anyway – Eugene Peterson writes it this way: The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the gory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true start to finish. Peterson?s choice of ?neighborhood? is powerful. Though my experience of neighborhood today isn?t what it was when I was a child growing up ? the memory of experiencing neighborhood adds to the meaning of this verse.

Neighborhoods were safe, intimate, people new each other and there was a sense of togetherness and connection that maybe doesn?t happen anymore. If not ? maybe it could!? Neighborhoods gave one sense of place ? it was where we lived. I moved out of the one I grew up in at the age of 20. I can still tell you next door were the Webbers, then Murphys, Macalousos, Lynches, Dyotts, Kendricks, (elderly couple ? started with M – can?t remember name), Banisters and Valentines. There was all kinds of interaction going on in that neighborhood. Most of it good ? yes we kids were typical kids and had our differences that sometimes resulted in throwing rocks at each other ? but more often than not it was good. There was an intimacy and there was a looking out for each other that was so good.

I cannot help but think of life in this church as sort of neighborhood. Christian ministry needs a local place ? a neighborhood if you will. It is a place where Christianity ? faith ? and the big questions of faith – can come alive. Not all churches are called to be mega churches. I believe the beauty of a church this size is that we can know each other, sort of in that neighborhood setting. I?ve mentioned to people that have experienced mega-church that I love knowing ?my peeps? ? I think we are an ideal size church ? maybe like the smaller groups that form within those mega-churches. And we are called to be a witness to our faith in that neighborhood and make a difference in and through that neighborhood. In that setting people can really see that they are cared for and that caring can and must extend beyond the church or ?neighborhood? into the community.

The good news is that what John is saying is that in the life of Jesus, God has moved into the neighborhood. What does that mean? First and foremost it is an expression of God?s love, of God?s care. Moving into the neighborhood can be a risky thing ? and it was for God, that?s for sure. But that distant far away unconnected God is no longer when God has moved into the neighborhood. And when God moves in God becomes known in some news and we experience God in new ways. Looking at the life of Jesus we learn about God. We come to know God who lived, laughed, loved, lost, made friends, had enemies, taught, and made a difference ? even died ? God who moved into the neighborhood and experienced life in that neighborhood to the very fullest. And continues in many different ways to live in the neighborhood.

Are we willing to introduce others to this neighbor? This God ? God of the universe and infinite space ? has moved in ? in a way ? to the house down the street. The distance between us and that God is no longer infinite space ? it is intimate space. Maybe there is still a wonderful mystery about this God ? we cannot grasp those infinite complexities of Creation and the universe ? but we can look at the life of Jesus who walked among us, ?full of grace and truth? as John captured it ?generous inside and out, true start to finish? as Peterson captured it. By word and by deed Jesus taught us about life and about light.

Knowing ? believing this about God ? how can we not sing ?It?s a beautiful day in the neighborhood?? How can we not be intentional about sharing that God and the life we believe that God calls us to? As we look ahead to the opportunity of the New Year may we find the experience of this neighborhood something worth sharing with others.???? Amen.