Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sermon May 28 at United Church of Beloit

From the Beginning 

Genesis 1 New International Version (NIV)

The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning―the first day.

John 1 New International Version (NIV)

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God―13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Creative God Genesis 1 and 2 -the stories of Creation, showcase God's creativity. God created and said it was good. The heavens and earth have great beauty and variety! God's creativity is expansive!

John 1―the prologue, written to deliberately echo Gen 1.
Jesus one with God, part of creation from the beginning. Fulfilling the covenant promises made by God to the Hebrew people hundreds of years earlier.. God's promise so important, it was given to Jeremiah AND to the prophet Ezekiel several years later! “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Jesus said (In Matthew's gospel) And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

LOGOS -Word..

The term “Word” (Greek logos) designates God the Son with respect to His deity; In Greek philosophy, the Logos was “reason” or “logic” as an abstract force that brought order and harmony to the universe. Logos was the core of who a person is. So John is stressing that Jesus, human and divine, is at the core of our being.


1:9 The true light. In this Gospel, “truth” and “true” are often employed to signify what is everlasting or heavenly, as opposed to the merely temporal or earthly. See notes 4:24; 6:32; “Mankind’s Guilty Knowledge of God” at Rom. 1:19.

1:18 No one has ever seen God. It is fundamental that God is invisible and without form (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet Christ reveals God. He brings the invisible and the visible together in a way that has no parallel or analogy.

I chose these passages because of reading Jean Vanier, who began to work with Disabled adults and formed the L'Arche movement, which is now an international organization promoting dignified care of developmentally disabled adults.

In 1964, through the influence of his friendship with a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Philippe, Vanier invited two men with disabilities, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they lived and to share their lives with him in a house in Trosly-Breuil, France.
There, in that small home in Trosly-Breuil, Vanier’s initial urge to “do something for” Raphael and Philippe grew to become a commitment to “being with” and “friend to” these two men. With that shift in heart and consciousness, a core belief of L’Arche emerged: that strength is revealed through weakness and human vulnerability, which given room to grow in trust, creates community. And, Vanier understood, the desire to love and to be loved is something every person longs to experience.

Vanier: The Gospel of John, then, is the story of how the Eternal Word became flesh, was born a Jew, immersed in the Jewish culture. The story of how he leads us all from behind the barriers of fear and indifference into a new unity, a new peace through a relationship with him which flows from God and brings us into the heart of God. 

Unmerited favor,...the love, mercy, forgiveness of God that we, neither you nor I, nor anyone deserves or can earn, that God just gives to us because...well because God is God. God is love and must give us that love, in the form of Grace.
Grace is (from Walter Brueggemann)
-forgiveness in order to start again
-generosity that overwhelms
-hospitality that welcomes .
-justice that protects the vulnerable.

Nadia Bolz-weber puts it this way: Grace isn't about God creating humans and flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace - like saying, "Oh, it's OK, I'll be the good guy and forgive you." It's God saying, "I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

God loves us. So even in our imperfections, God loves us... in fact what we view as flaws, may not be at all! Years back a friend said what if the thing you hate about yourself is exactly what God loves best?!
So those who believe in Jesus, are God's children! Heirs to the kingdom of heaven!

50 years ago. When Vanier began his work.. within the lifetime of most of us here today, a disabled child or family member might be an embarrassment! There are vestiges of that feeling yet today. But we're getting better.

And a place like a church family is a great place to help change these attitudes.
Perhaps, what we think of as differences, even as a disability, is what Jesus loves most!

The introduction of the book recounts the story of Jean Vanier teaching a course on pastoral care. During one class, Vanier asked the students to share some of their spiritual experiences. One of the students, Angela (who was deaf) began to share a dream she had where she met Jesus in heaven. She recalled talking with Jesus for some time and never experiencing so much joy and peace. "Jesus was everything I had hoped he would be," she said, "And his signing was amazing!" Vanier explains to the reader that "for Angela, heaven's perfection did not involve being 'healed' of her deafness. Rather, it was a place where the social, relational, and communication barriers that restricted her life in the present no longer existed."
this woman was not healed in her vision of heaven, Jesus spoke to her in sign language...Perhaps her deafness and her signing is what He loves most about her?

As we grow in God's love, and learn more about Jesus through Worship and bible study and prayer, we learn to love and accept ourselves with all our brokenness and beauty, as Vanier puts it. And in this process, we also accept and love one another, with all of our brokenness and beauty. All of our differences and similarities. We learn to accept and love ourselves and others.

Today in the Presbyterian church is Disability Inclusion Sunday. This is new to me, I only read about it on Friday, after this service was planned out and the bulletin done.
Carol Brown is the Moderator of the Presbyterians for Disability Concerns (PDC) leadership team within PHEWA. She says every Sunday should be Disability Inclusion Sunday.

Brown says churches need to think about every aspect of worship to ensure that people with disabilities are considered.
Communion can be very exclusive, leaving people with disabilities out,” she said. “Little things in worship such as asking congregations to ‘Please stand if you are able.’ It’s kind of demeaning ― like you are inferior if you can’t stand.”
WOW that's a wake up call for me, I have never intended that to be demeaning and I do apologize! Carol Brown says The preferred way of saying that would be ‘Please stand in body and/or in spirit.’”
I will endeavor to remember to use that...

so yes, people who have differing abilities or ways of being, intellectual or physical, or emotional ways of being different than you or me―if they love Jesus, Are STILL Children of God! Our passage says so!

Children are heirs..heirs to the kingdom of heaven! In heaven in which we will be together with God for all time and there is no barrier of communication or relationship or social construct that will impair our ability-or anyone else's to be with God, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit!

God is creative...and God loves variety. Maybe, just maybe, what we view as a flaw, as a handicap or what God loves most about us?
Perhaps that is an expression of God's creativity? Maybe we can think of differences as God's creative powers at work! Because we know that God's Grace is for all.

And when we pray “On earth as it is in heaven”...we pray that our Loving Creative God's heart be lived out here on earth...and that can only happen through us. Sharing Love, forgiveness, generosity, hospitality, and justice.
And so we learn that strength is revealed through weakness and human vulnerability, which given room to grow in trust, creates community. And we can help someone else to achieve their desire to love and to be loved. Because that, from the very beginning, is what all of us want and need.

“― Nadia Bolz-Weber, And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of  it…all of  it is completely worth it.”


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