Monday, November 28, 2011

God Speaking: The Message of Himself

Preached on Sunday, November 27, 2011.

Scripture Readings: Genesis 1:1-5; John 1:1-2

John knew what he was doing when he used the words, “in the beginning.” (Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1) They are the very first words of the scriptures. They take us back to the start of the creation when there was nothing but God. “In the beginning, God….”

That was all there was before “God created the heavens and the earth.” Even after God created the heavens and the earth, in the order of the story, everything was “without form and void”. Whatever was there was shapeless and empty. There was no order and there was no substance.

There was no time, because not one single day was named. So the words “in the beginning” tell us that there was a time before time; a time before space and matter. There was nothing to move, and nowhere for anything to move.

There is a saying that goes like this. “Time exists to keep everything from happening at once and space exists to keep everything from happening to you.” But, in the beginning, there was nothing but God, and there was no time, and there was no space.

John has told us the same thing. In the first two verses of his gospel there was nothing but God.

But he names God in a strange way; not the Genesis way. Genesis says, “In the beginning, God….” John says, “In the beginning, word”. Well, literally, he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Still, with that odd name for God, there was nothing but God, but the first name John uses for God is “Word”.

The scriptures tell us that there is only one God. The prophet Isaiah spoke these words which the Lord gave to him. “Before me no God was formed; nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11)

We know that John will go on to tell us that the Word, who is God, will also become the human being known as Jesus. Jesus will call himself “the Son” and will speak of someone he calls “the Father”. And he will say, later in this gospel, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

When we go to the time and place where there was no time or place, and nothing but God, we find that God was alone, and yet God was with; with God, with himself. When God was alone, God was not solitary.

The first thing John sees (and wants us to see), at the beginning of all things, is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word”. The Word was, at the same time “with God” and “was God”.

Later on, John will introduce us to the Holy Spirit, and will teach us about the same principle of oneness. (See John, in chapters 14, 16, etc.) There is an original oneness in the essence and the heart of God; and, at the same time, there is a fellowship, a partnership (an involvement) of personality and relationship in the essence and the heart of God.

John, in his first letter (1 John 4:8; 4:16), tell us that “God is love”. So John, in his gospel, tells us about the time before time and space, and says that, even when there was nothing but God, God was love, and God was not alone in his aloneness. God was never lonely.

When the scriptures say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we can understand that God did not create out of a sense of loneliness. He did not need to create in order to find happiness. God did not create us out of need, but out of happiness. God was full of a Word that enriched him and fulfilled him.

A little child can play in the dirt, or with cardboard boxes, or with the funniest, littlest, simplest things, and be brimming with happiness. All of that play does not come out of need, but out of the fullness of the child’s heart and creativity.

The child is probably chattering away to himself or herself while that creation is going on, but that chattering is not nonsense. In all that talk you can often hear the story of the creation.

There is more than one Greek word for “word”. One of those is a word that means individual words, like those you find in a dictionary, or a spelling test. The other Greek word for “word” (as John uses it) tells us about a “speech” going on; a “speaking” or a “message”. We use the word (“word”) that way when we say, “I want to have a word with you,” or when an advertisement is about to appear on the television, it says, “And, now, a word from our sponsor.”

What God is in himself is a kind of word. God speaks the message of himself and his happiness. God speaks and sings that message, within him self, and enjoys the beauty of what he feels in his heart. In creation God makes his message come to life outside of himself.

The Greek language has more than one word for “with”. (Greek is a rich language.) One of those “with” words means the “with” of being simply together: side by side.

But, when John says that the word was “with God”, he uses a less common word for “with” that is more like “towards”. So Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not with each other in a kind of idle togetherness. They are with each other in a kind of movement toward each other. They are eternally coming together, and they are never done, and this is a part of their perfection and their happiness.

God speaks creation into existence and, even there, his words are more like a message than a construction of definitions from a dictionary. God says, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) And it means something in the message of God. And God speaks the “day”, and the “night”, and “time” itself into being and they compose part of the message of God and his happiness within himself.

If the Word is the message that is always being spoken within the heart of God, and that message has placed you in this world, then the same movement that goes on within the heart of God is going on in you. Or it should go on in you.

God’s message, around which your creation is organized, is about “withness” and “towardness”. Your existence is about “towardness” towards God, and “towardness” toward others.

For instance, when people function according to the message, they will move together instead of moving apart. A story about people moving apart is not a story that takes place in God. Distinct identity exists in God, but not division or separation.

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes about a reality that God has set in motion through Jesus. Paul says that God, “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment: to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-10)

We will see that God has created everything by the Word. Everything, when it is acting according to the message, is created to come together. Everything is created for love. Everything is to be created to give love and to receive love, to give pleasure and to receive pleasure, and to give fullness and to receive fullness.

Sin is the reality that destroys the “towardness” of creation. Sin creates separation and division between us and God, between us and our fellow humans, between us and nature, and between us and our true selves.

Christ, the Word (the Message), died on the cross to erase the destructive message that sin plays in us. This, too, is a part of the eternal message of who God is. The dying and rising of Christ, the cross and the empty tomb, record a new message; but really it is the old message that we were created for.

It is the old, old story. Jesus and his love tell us the old, old story, and make it come to life within us and through us.

We can tell if we have truly heard the message by whether our lives are playing the message. Are we part of the message that leads us towards each other?

The church is the “sound studio” where we test-play our message. Then we go out and play it for others. Our families, our communities, our nation, and the whole world, are places to play out the message. The most important thing in the universe is to play the message that the Word has spoken to us, through the creation, and even more through the gospel, the good news of Jesus.

The message is not just words. The Word creates the reality it represents. The Word made the universe a reality. The Word, acting through us, plays its message in order to create a new world around us. The Word makes us a “new creation” so we can do the work, and live the life, of a new creation.

There is one more discovery to make about what happens when the Word that was with God speaks itself into our heart. When we realize that the Word was directed “toward God” and “was God”, it gives us the picture of the Son and the Father living face to face beyond time, in eternity.

They are always facing each other, and taking each other in. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was face to face with God, and the Word was God. He was, in the beginning, face to face with God.”

When we are not moving along with the message we stop looking at each other and taking each other in. We stop looking for ways that will make the “towardness” and the “face-to-face-ness” of the message of the Word to come true.

I remember once, when I was in the third grade, when I was sitting at my desk after we had just come in from recess. I turned around to look at some kids (boys and girls) who were talking and laughing together at the back of the classroom.

Something in me wondered about them. I wondered what they were thinking about while they were talking to each other and laughing. Were they just talking and laughing without thinking?

Maybe because I have always been really shy, I always think hard about what I say before I say it. I always think very hard about what I want to do before I do it. Sometimes I think about what I want to say or do until it is too late. When I don’t think first, it seems like everything goes wrong.

I wondered about these other kids. What was going on inside them? Where was their talking and laughing coming from?

Ever since then, it has been a matter of interest to me. I wonder what goes on inside of other people. I am always trying to understand them. What goes on inside of you?

I often think about you that way. If you are shy (as I am) you know what I mean, and you know how this feels.

So I spend a lot of my time trying to understand. I even try to understand myself, because I am often a mystery to myself. You might not see much benefit coming from all my effort to understand people, and to think things through; but I am sure it would be much worse if I didn’t make the effort.

What I find is that there are people who don’t want to understand. They reach their limits too fast. They say, “I have had enough of this.” So, they stop trying to figure things out.

We are tempted to react and judge, instead of to understand. We don’t want to face people long enough, patiently and creatively, until we reach some kind of an understanding, for good or for bad.

I think that if we remembered that we were all created by a message called “the Word” then we would be constantly trying to read the message in other people. Would we hear that message in a familiar way? Would we find it all garbled and distorted?

Would we hear it sound like the music it is supposed to be? Would we listen until we found that the confusion of the music was really in us, and not in them?

Sometimes we are like a radio tuned between two frequencies, and two messages are playing at the same time. They jumble each other, and they make no sense; or else the jumble ruins a beautiful song so that no one can hear it properly.

Let’s contemplate the message. Let’s try to tune into it as Jesus (the Word) plays it for us in his life, and his sacrifice, and his defeat of the powers of sin and death.

Let’s listen as we try to play it ourselves. Let’s listen for it in others and try to figure out exactly what it is that we are hearing (or not hearing), what we are saying (or not saying).

There is a Word that has been speaking to us from the very beginning of creation. Christmas celebrates the coming of this message into our world in a visible way, with humility and compassion, to set the message straight in us. Let us listen to it.


  1. "Sin is the reality that destroys the “towardness” of creation. Sin creates separation and division between us and God, between us and our fellow humans, between us and nature, and between us and our true selves."...

    Yes, Pastor, I agree! But sometimes we do not listen! Or we do not want to listen the "word"! So we go far and far from God...and near sin!
    If we do not listen to the Lord we become more and more siners everyday!

    Pastor, it is always a blessing to read you!
    I can't comment you properly because my english is poor; but I understand the message...and I Think a lot after reading your preaches! Thak you for beeing there!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I was a little nervous this time because I was making up words (like "withness" and "towardness" from "with" and "toward") even though those words do not exist in English because because there seemed to be no other way to say what I wanted to say. You are right about the temptation to not listen. I am grateful to have readers like you.

  3. Pastor Dennis.
    Agradeço sua visita.
    Quando criança, ouvia o hino Castelo Forte-Strong Castle, na Igreja Batista.
    É um dos meus prediletos.

    Strong castle is our God, refuge and strength.
    With His power His claims, and delivers them promptly.,
    Furiously dogged in following Satan,
    With such tricks and gimmicks so cruel
    That there is no equal on Earth.

    God bless you.

  4. Hi, Pastor.
    Do not worry about the words: very well said!
    Thank you.
    Have a nice and blessed week end.