Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


“The Word”: Jesus Epithets

“In the beginning was the Word.” -John 1:1

Words tend to matter less these days.  Talk is cheap.  If the Republican presidential nomination process hasn’t convinced you, take this for an example: apparently you can buy an iPhone app that puts words in your mouth- in this case, “Status Shuffle” will update your Facebook status for you, so that you at least sound funny, creative or interesting (when in reality you may be a conventional, personality-less bore).

But the Gospel writer of John calls Jesus “the Word.” The same Word that God spoke when God creates the world, saying “Let there be.”   “Word made flesh.”  The cosmic, life-giving, energizing force that was present at the very beginning of the universe and which still “speaks” all creation into being has in the person of Jesus become a human being.

I often meet people who say with certainty that they believe in a life force or energy of some kind, if not a Higher Power, because they have experienced it. They see it in nature.  Or they sense it in the birth of a child.  Or in the union between two people in love.  Or in great works of art, or movements that change the world.  But the notion that this same force might be embodied in a person is harder to wrap one’s mind around, isn’t it?

Yet the Gospel of John would claim this very thing about Jesus.  Which is a claim not only about Jesus’ divinity- that Jesus is God incarnate- but a statement about Jesus’ very trustworthiness.

Most of us have met people who speak eloquently about all sorts of things, or make claims on us or promises.  Claims in the form of “I love you” or “You can trust me.”  Or promises like “I won’t say a word” or “Til’ death do us part.”  Some times we are the ones who make these assertions only to discover that we can’t live up to them.  Our words fail to create a reality that is lived out in our character or actions.  Similarly, when our politicians, spouses, lovers, pastors, or parents fail us, it is usually because somewhere along the line their words proved untrustworthy.

But someone who lives up to their word honors a personal relationship with us.  And in turn makes claims on us, too- claims that many of us would prefer to ignore, or resent.  In some ways, it is easier to reduce God to nothing more than an impersonal cosmic energy force, because it means that God is ultimately disinterested in how we live our lives (which we often would prefer to live on our own terms, anyway).

So the boldness of the claim that Jesus is the Word is really twofold: that Jesus is God Himself; and that this God by definition has to live up to what He promises. Whenever God speaks, God’s words are not just an extension of God’s breath.  They create reality.  They speak into and shape human hearts and the unfolding of history.

Pretty mind-blowing, eh?  A claim like this requires not just a suspension of disbelief but personal surrender.  Or at the very least a handshake.

It can also lead us to throw darts in the dark whenever we attribute certain words and actions to God and not others.  And we Christians have been doing this sort of thing for centuries, often mistakenly in big and little ways.  Not long ago, for example, I was convinced God was telling me that my husband and I would be moving to Singapore to start a new job.  It didn’t happen.  I was wrong.  Somewhere along the line God and I must have gotten our lines crossed.   (All good fodder for another post about disappointment and discerning God’s will.) And it seems by implication here that the Gospel writer John would attribute that miscommunication to me.

 



Previous Posts

Writing Sabbatical—and "The Departure of the Prodigal Son"
I'm sorry: my absenteeism at this intersection can be attributed to a number of things lately, the most pressing of which is my forthcoming book with author and Christian addiction specialist Jonathan Benz. The book (Prodigal Church or a version of it) is now officially under deadline and by April 1

posted 10:55:10am Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Restless Soul Hall of Fame: Sister Corita Kent
Since NPR's recent segment, Sister Corita Kent has come to mind a few times this week as someone who d

posted 10:23:30am Jan. 16, 2015 | read full post »

"I Am Charlie Hebdo"
I struggle to know how to greet you after such a long hiatus from posting here—and in light of how much has happened in the world since Christmas

posted 4:42:48pm Jan. 12, 2015 | read full post »

A Christmas Homily
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. —Luke 2:6,7 The sheer physicality of this picture strikes me this Christmas. The ba

posted 1:54:50pm Dec. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Mental Health Break—Sprawl II
My favorite band these days is Arcade Fire, and I've featured the Canadian indie rock group before at this intersection between God and life. The lead singer studied Kirkegaard in college and their songs, like this one, are often subtle but brilliant critiques of the least aesthetically pleasing thi

posted 12:58:15pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.