Words Matter. Word and Matter.
Preparing for the Fourth Sunday in Lent: One Day before Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 23
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 15:32-34
Gospel: John 1:1-9
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It was 1977 at the Los Rodeos Airport in the Canary Islands. Two Boeing 747 airplanes—one a KLM and another a Pan Am were on the runway preparing for takeoff. It was extremely foggy and neither pilot could see the other plane. The pilot of the KLM 747 misunderstood the communication from air traffic control and thought he was cleared for takeoff. As it began its run, the plane crashed into the Pan Am plane still sitting on the runway. The crash killed 583 people.
Words matter. What is said and heard can be a matter of life and death. John begins his Gospel with the most important word of life in all creation. That word is the Word itself. “In the beginning was the Word,” starts the Fourth Gospel. John begins with echoes of creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In Genesis 1:1, the beginning of the entire Bible starts with creation. God creates by God’s word. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light’ (1:3). “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so” (1:9). God’s word is action.
That creating word has become the Word made flesh in Jesus. The New English Bible translates the first part of John 1:1, “When all things began, the Word already was.” The creating word has become the recreating Word in Jesus. It doesn’t take long for John to say directly what he is clearly implying in the first clause of 1:1. This creating word of God is the very expression of God himself. “The Word was God.” Jesus is God with a human face. Let’s pause to ponder that for a moment. Right from the beginning of his Gospel, John is saying to us that if we want to see God as clearly as is humanly possible, we have to look to Jesus. Jesus reveals the nature and character of God. Jesus doesn’t reveal God exhaustively—nothing or no one in all of creation can do that—but Jesus reveals God decisively. Jesus is the unique revelation of God.
That Jesus is unique means he has no rivals, no parallels. Jesus doesn’t just offer one way to salvation as just any old recipe will satisfy human hunger. He is not just one spoke in a salvation wheel where the hub can be reached by any number of paths. Yes, it is true that God will judge each person based on what they have done with the light they have been given, but to claim Jesus as Lord is an exclusive claim. The road to salvation proceeds only through him.
Let me state again emphatically that it is not my job nor your job to judge others; only God has that right. But to claim that Jesus is Lord is shorthand for saying Caesar is not Lord, nor is Buddha or Mohammed or Vishnu nor any contemporary leader who desires absolute authority and unquestioning allegiance.
The Lord, the Word made flesh is the God of the universe. If we want to know who God is, we must look to Jesus. There are no others.
PRAYER: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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