In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. These words have echoed through the naves of our churches for two millennia now. And they still carry as much mystery and depth of profundity as they used to.
This passage also serves to stand as a prologue to the whole book. The great theologian Karl Barth used to teach a class on the Gospel of John and the entire semester was spent focusing on the first 20 verses or so. That is because so much of the Gospel is simply an expansion on this initial philosophical stance.
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us – full of grace and truth.
What do these words say to our church today – churches who are struggling to share the gospel? John is anything but simple, and yet, the images are often rooted in simplicity. The Word was with God. Logic, rational, understanding. These things are with God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Jesus is the Word. Ergo – Jesus is all that is logic and understanding. Later John takes up these concepts of grace and truth and expands them into light and sharing the light.
From time to time I lead a discussion about the “I AM” statements in John. Since our narthex windows in the chapel are I AM windows, I often get this opportunity. It is interesting to see the depth of those “I AM” statements come to life in the midst of a community of disciples. We all relate to or see different things: living water, I am the good shepherd, I am from above, light of the world, I and my Father are one.
Every time I think I have grasped the depth of John’s gospel, I am set back by the mystery of it all. It is far more complex and mystical than I ever thought. The centrality of the mystery comes at the cross, of course, but that mystery is even alluded to today.
What a strange book we have on our hands. And what a wonderful book that speaks to the complexity, and yet the simplicity we all must recapture if our church is to have a chance.
John speaks to faith in a different way. And in a world that is increasingly disconnect from Christianity and suspect of just about any religion, I wonder if John’s mystery and different way of talking about faith isn’t exactly the medicine this world needs.
Mystery – elusiveness – profundity – this is at the heart of the gospel message.