Sermon Ideas For John 1:(1-9), 10-18 Part 2
"He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him."(v. 10): This is a familiar theme in the Gospels, especially in the parables of Jesus. It suggests that the great spiritual truths for which humans search are not hidden or even far off from everyday experience, but "right under our noses."
It is the case, however, that humans are notorious for having disparate interpretations and opinions concerning what is right under their noses. They are also notorious for their selective inattention. Therefore, one person's "plain and simple truth" is often far from obvious to another.
The Gospel of John emphasizes the immanence of God's thoughts and intentions in the life and ministry of Jesus. To the author of this gospel Jesus reveals who God is and how humans are meant to be. It is as plain as the nose on your face!
Yet, he recognizes that many people do not see this obvious truth. For some, it is probably too obvious and too familiar to be true. For others it contradicts cherished and/or unconscious prejudices about the way God is or the way life is. For others it appears at the wrong time for them to take in fully or at all.
Those of us who minister to troubled people know well that we have to start "where they are." We often have to restrain ourselves from imposing what is obvious to us on them. For while it may be clear to us that much of their suffering is due to ways they are misinterpreting or selectively attending to their experiences, we know that to tell them this prematurely will only make matters worse.
They need a more understanding response from us. They need us to put ourselves in their shoes and try to see the world through their eyes before inviting them to consider another perspective. This often involves listening to their stories. For these stories usually contain clues to why they tend to see and relate to the world in peculiar, painful and self-defeating ways. They reveal why it is not plain as the nose on their faces that God is not punishing, perfectionistic, capricious, distant, depressed, neglectful, or impotent.
Sadly, when we listen to people's stories, including our own, it becomes less surprising why Truth so often "walks among us" unrecognized or misperceived. The pastor's job is to proclaim the plain and simple truth that God is love without an attitude of superiority or impatience to remove the blinds from other people's eyes. The most helpful attitude is one of humility, concern and understanding—one that conveys in kind the truth we hope will one day be received.
"And the Word became flesh and lived among us... (v.14). The author of this gospel has a very high regard for the power and importance of words. Words are for communication and communication is for relating. It is in God's nature to communicate and to relate. God created the world by speaking. God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness... (Genesis 1:26)," and it was so. "In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1)."
This is why language and communication are so essential to what it means to be human. Modern infant research suggests that infants are genetically programmed to be activated by the voices of their care-givers. In one experiment (Stern, 1985), pregnant mothers were instructed to sing lullabies to their embryonic infants. Shortly after birth, the infants were observed to respond with recognition when these same songs were sung for them again.1
Pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott (1965) suggested that a mother's words of love, comfort and encouragement gradually take the place of physical holding as the child grows bigger and more independent. The child who has had a "good enough" experience of being held physically in a parent's arms and emotionally with a parent's words learnsto have confidence in the words of others and in his or her own words.2 The connection between word and flesh remains strong and provides the basis for believing and trusting in the language of relationships.
Thus, there is a good reason why it is so devastating when people break their word to one another. There is also good reason why words that do not match actions undermine the power of all words to hold the human community together.
In John 1:14, the gospel writer emphasizes the connection between God's words of grace, God's essential being and God's actions. God's word has integrity and, therefore must become flesh. Jesus shows the relationship between God's words of love and acts of love. The message of John 1:14 is that God is as good as God's word. So, must the Church be as good as its word.
Pastoral care is one of the places where the authenticity of our words is most critical. For it is when people are hurting most that they need most to feel held by others. The issue is not so much saying the right words as conveying the emotional and spiritual communication that God's love is present and genuine.
Samaritan Counseling Center
1. Daniel N. Stern, The Interpersonal World of the Infant (New York: Basic Books of Harper Collins Publishers, 1985).
2. D.W Winnicott, The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment—Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development (Madison, Conn.: International Universities Press, Inc., 1965).