“Where Do We Go From Here?”

This was the title of the September 16th sermon at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church by Senior Pastor, Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen. Below are photographs of the church’s late 19th century sanctuary and its Westminster Hall in the 21st century addition.

 

 

 

 

Scripture Passages

 Deuteronomy 30: 11-14 (NRSV)

“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”

John 1: 1-14 (NRSV) 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

The Sermon

“One of the chief purposes of religion is to create communities of memory. . . . We come to worship to remember, to tell the story again and again, to rediscover and re-claim what our forebears in the faith found to be true about life. We come to address big questions, as they did: Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? What is the purpose of life? How did it all begin?”

“The gospel of John opens determined to respond to such questions. . . . ‘In the beginning,’ he says, ‘Was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’”

“This is the story of Jesus, son of Mary, but told through a cosmic lens, with echoes of a deep memory of the beginning of all time. . . .’He was in the beginning with God,’ John says of Jesus, the Word. ‘All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. . . .’”

“The gospel of John connects the genesis of the Messiah with the origins of earth itself. ‘What has come into being in him was life,’ John says of the Word, ‘And the life was the light of all people.’”

“This Jesus, as presented by John, breaks free of the limitations of a certain time and a definite place. The Word, in John’s view, is universal, the source of light and life for the entire human family, indeed, for all creation. . . .”

“In the beginning was the Word, with a capital W. If we search the lines of Genesis for that Word, and listen carefully, we will hear it in the ancient story of God’s handiwork, in the repeated refrain and it was good.”

“The creator completes a day and delights in the emerging earth’s splendor and declares it to be good. The division of time into night and day. That was good. The splattering of stars across the dome of darkness. That was good. The pushing up of mountains and the shaping of hills through which rivers began to flow. That was good. The first green plants stirred to life by the warmth of the sun and the nourishment of water. That was good. The  animals, the fishes and the birds. All of that was good. And then the ones formed in the creator’s own image, the earthlings. That was good.”

“The word at the start of the story is good, and that goodness permeates all creation and links it, links us, to the Creator. Julian of Norwich said that we should think of ourselves as made not by God, but ‘of God.’ Everything springs from the same, one source.”

“When the Word becomes flesh all life takes on new meaning and is woven into a singular whole. The Creator and the creation share the same matter, the same life. . . .”

“The Word of John’s gospel is not so distant that we might not discover it for ourselves in our time. Here the writer of Deuteronomy – many generations, centuries before John – anticipates the fourth gospel. ‘Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.’”

“God says through the writer of Deuteronomy. ‘No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.’”

“We need not cross the sea or ascend to the heavens or climb a mountain or recite the Bible to encounter God’s word. . . .”

“That’s essentially what John tells us in the gospel: ‘And the Word’ – the Word placed in the human heart at the beginning of all time – ‘The Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.’”

“Jesus is the living memory of the goodness of God.”

“The church is the community in which that memory resides and is carried along. And so the church gathers to remember and reaffirm the baseline of what it means to be human. All our efforts at justice and equity, all our attempts to end racism and alleviate poverty and eliminate disparities begin with that good word – that God word – about every human being, that each of us bears the word of God – the love of God, the image of God, the life of God – within. Each one of us.”

“The world is acting as if it had no memory, no remembering of ancient truths, no recollection of insights beyond those of our own immediate invention. What are the deep, abiding affirmations about life? They’re found in the religions of the world; for us, they’re found in the pages of scripture, in the stories that have been passed down over the ages, and in the communities that have conveyed those texts and those stories along…that there is a creator…that the creation is good…that each member of the human family bears the creator’s image…that God’s love comes to life in Jesus…that God has already given us all we need to live just, peaceful, and sustainable lives.”

“When we remember that, then the Word becomes flesh not only once, but over and over again, in your life and in mine, as we let the light that was placed in the human heart at the beginning of all time shine in the world.” (Emphasis added.)

“A hospital chaplain told me recently about a visit she made to an older patient who had just survived a ‘Code Blue’ – meaning she had almost died. . . The chaplain talked with her about her experience and their conversation turned to a familiar passage from Isaiah:

  • ‘Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31)

“‘That’s the Word of God made flesh!’ the woman who had nearly died said from her hospital bed, with a spark of light in her eyes. That’s the Word of God made flesh. She had remembered . . . . that the Word of God – the same Word present at creation – is within each of us.”

“A few days ago I met a young woman whose company had worked on our wonderful new addition.. . . I invited her to Sunday morning worship. She smiled and said, “I’m busy every Sunday morning. I volunteer with a woman with a debilitating disease. She needs help. So I go every Sunday morning to do laundry for her, and clean house, make meals and visit.” That’s the Word made flesh. It may not be what we think of as traditional church, but it is certainly the goodness of God coming to life. Serving others as an act of worship on a Sunday morning – if that’s not church, what is?”

“What happens when the Word becomes flesh? The light of God, present at the beginning, that light breaks into the world anew. The love of God takes root in our communities and begins to grow. The justice of God becomes more visible. God’s dream for the earth comes a little closer.”

“That happens most fully in Jesus, but it also happens in each one of us. The light of God shines in the world through us, and through communities like this one.”

“When the Word becomes flesh we remember. We remember the goodness of God visible in all creation and planted deep within our hearts.”

By the grace of God and by how we live, we – you and I – help bring that Word to life, give it flesh, in the world.” (Emphasis added.)

“Thanks be to God.”

Reflections

This sermon gave me a new perspective on this familiar passage from the Gospel of John.

When we remember that there is a creator, that the creation is good, that each member of the human family bears the creator’s image, that God’s love comes to life in Jesus and that God already has given us all that we need to live just, peaceful and sustainable lives, then the Word becomes flesh not only once, but over and over again in your life and mine, as we let the light that was placed in the human heart at the beginning of all time shine in the world. (Emphasis added.)

By the grace of god and by how we live, we help bring the Word to life, give it flesh, in the world. (Emphasis added.)

This sermon also gave one answer to the question posed in the prior Sunday’s sermon, “What Is Jesus For Us Today?”that was discussed in a prior post.

 

Published by

dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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