Monday, January 5, 2009

In the Beginning Again - A Sermon

First of all, I want to thank you all again for the wonderful gift of allowing me to go home to my family for Christmas this year.  It was fantastic, though I spent the entire Midnight Mass wondering what was going on at St. James’.

When I got back, I learned that Fr. Schmidt got sick and couldn’t take the service last Sunday, and that Fr. Schnitzer jumped in at the last second but didn’t have a chance to prepare a sermon.  You heard the gospel but no commentary on it, and that won’t do. 

So, you get “In the beginning” again.

We can deal with Epiphany next week.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.

You might not guess how important that passage is to Christianity, but it changed the way people saw Jesus.  Because what it says is that Jesus always was.  

You’ll notice that John doesn’t give a birth story like Matthew and Luke do.  Mark doesn’t either, but that’s because he doesn’t care -- all that’s important for him is what Jesus did.  But John cares.  He writes this remarkably beautiful, poetic preface that mirrors the opening lines of Genesis -- In the beginning.

Only, what he wants you to know is that in the beginning, Jesus was.  This was no mere man.  Through him all things were created.   John believes that Jesus was born, but that’s not the important thing.  What’s important is that Jesus was there before the beginning of time. Jesus always was and always will be.  

Jesus is God.

One big reason for John writing this Gospel was that there was dispute going on at the time about whether God created Jesus.  Sort of like a perfect robot that would follow God’s orders, do God’s will perfectly -- but is a creation of God.  If you saw that movie Get Smart, then you remember Hymie -- looked and acted like a person who happened to be bigger, stronger, and faster than everyone else.  But Hymie was a robot operated by two scientists with a remote control.

John says Jesus is no robot, no creation -- Jesus is God at work.  

What does that mean for us? 

It means that God is personally involved in us.  When God saw the need to become involved in his creation, he did not send a surrogate to do the job for him.  He came himself.  He invested himself in our lives by becoming one of us in every way.  

Which means that God is personally invested in you and me.  That’s what is so important.  It means that God does not see us as mere objects that can be dealt with from a distance.  No, he invests every bit of himself in us.

In these difficult financial times I hear people talking about the corporations they work for -- how there used to be loyalty to the employees, but now how all employees are expendable the moment they no longer serve a purpose.  

What John is saying to us is that God is no soulless corporation, jettisonning us when we become inconvenient.  God is fully invested in what happens to you and me because we aren’t employees, we are God’s children.  

We should note, however, that this investment does NOT mean that God is here to serve us.  No, we are the servants.  We are the children, while God is the parent.  But it is something different to serve a parent who loves us rather than one who sees us as expendible.  It is something different to serve one who desires us to be in joyful relationship with him -- rather than one who only needs us until we no longer can fulfill our function.

So you choose: serve that which sees you as a function or serve one who is totally there with you, totally committed to you.  The one who was always there right from the beginning.  Amen.