Three Simple Words

John 1:1-5                    Three Simple Words                June 2, 2013             

If you could take the entire biblical story; from the very first act of creation to the incarnation to the resurrection and beyond…

if you could take the whole of our human experience; the challenges we face every day; the choices we make between good and evil; the eternal consequences that stem from our actions…

if you could take the whole scope of God’s infinite love and being throughout the ages, across all dimensions both known and unknown, and if you could equally take the broad scope of our humanity with our spiritual thirst and our longings and our brokenness and all our ways of seeking fulfillment that consistently leave us unfulfilled…

if you could take all of that; this strange mixture of that which is divine and that which is human; all the strangeness and the beauty and the horror that there is to be found within our experience of this world…

if you could take all of that, and and if you had to condense it all into three simple words…

Which words would you pick?

(pause)

…I’m not going to pretend to know which words you would pick, and I’ve read enough books and heard enough of other people’s sermons to know that you could make a convincing case for lots of phrases.

“God is Love” comes to mind, or “God Loves You”,

…or something about forgiveness would seem fitting…or something about reconciliation and peace being possible.

Well, if I was going to try this impossible task this morning, I think I’d choose the three words “In the Beginning”.

I’d pick those words partly because you can almost hear the “dot, dot, dot” that come after them, right?

It’s not a complete statement, so it would be my hope that after hearing those three words, you’d want to hear more of the story, right?

“In the beginning…” 🙂  It’s a phrase that kind of draws you in and makes you want to hear more.

Of course, there’s more to my choice than wanting a simple “hook line” that draws people in.

The Bible itself uses those three words at least twice to draw us in and introduce us to a story that changes everything, ourselves included.

The beginning of Genesis, and the beginning of the gospel of John use this phrase to introduce some pretty radical concepts.

From the very first line of Genesis to the very first line of John… from the very first breath we draw through to the very last exhalation we make…

We inhabit ‘the beginning’.

Sometimes it can feel like the beginning of the end, and in a very real sense, endings are just as much a part of life, and they’re just as important as the beginnings that they lead to…but still, I would argue, we ‘the church’ are not a people who inhabit “the end”…we are the people who live and breathe and even die “in the beginning”.

Our lives are filled with firsts, choices we make that set the tone for months, years, and even lifetimes of choices.

We have a first crush that sets in place how we act towards our significant others, and in some cases becomes a life-long commitment.

We have a first job that teaches us how to work, how to show up on time, and how to take care of our money.

We have a first faith commitment, which sets in motion how we think about God and the world and our place in all of it.

 

All of these “firsts” are significant events because they represent beginnings, not just one time events, right?

I think I’ve shared before, that my first car was a Ford Tempo. It was a piece of junk, but that’s beside the point.

I bought the car, and that was the beginning of what has become a lifetime of choices, each one being a beginning in itself.

I bought my first car, and so I needed a job to pay for gas, and registration, and insurance, and maintenance…

Having a car also meant I needed to know how to get places, and setting some boundaries about where I would and would not go, or who would or wouldn’t come with me.

I had an enormous amount of new freedom and independence, but I had an enormous amount of new responsibilities as well.

I started organizing my life around this vehicle I had purchased…sometimes I knew it, and other times it was unconscious…but these choices were beginnings in themselves; I had never had to think about those things before.

And as the years passed by, I fell into those patterns that were set into motion back in 1994, or whenever it was that I bought my first car.

The deeper I lived into the reality of car-ownership, the harder it was to imagine life without a car.

It was like I had become blind to alternatives

What was so freeing at first, having a new form of transportation and independence and the responsibility that went with it…today it has become something like a prison.

I say that because even if I wanted to get rid of our cars, it’s nearly impossible to imagine life without them.

I say all that to make this point: our choices have consequences.

In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

I take that to mean that God is in our beginnings.

when we choose to be faithful, when we choose a new start, when we choose to try something new; it can be invigorating, and fresh, and just plain Holy at the start…

but after a time, even the most Holy and righteous beginning…it can become kind of stale, right? Like choosing to own a car, after a time you start becoming blind to alternatives. The longer you live into that particular reality, the harder it is to imagine a different way of life.

So I’ve been talking about my first car and the lifestyle it’s led to, because that’s relatively safe and it’s an experience I think everybody can relate to.

We all find ourselves wrapped up in lifestyles that stem from choices we made long ago; for the better and for the worse, we all have habits and traditions and ways of living that can start to feel like prisons, even though at one time they were so freeing and fresh and new.

When you started to date someone, or even when you got married it was a new beginning, right? It was exciting, it was fresh, it was a Holy moment. But then the honeymoon ends and you have to start working at your marriage.

When you bought your first home or rented your first space, it’s the same story.

When you started your first job, or when you changed careers mid-life.

When you moved, or when your children came or went or moved on themselves.

When you fell ill, or when a loved one passed away before their time…

All of these and more represent beginnings; chances to re-organize our life around a new reality; sometimes it’s a welcome change, other times not.

But God is there, in the beginning; no matter what kind of beginning it is!

So it’s no stretch when I say those are three of the most important words in a Christian’s vocabulary, because they open the door for our story to be told.

We are the people who live in the beginning!

We inhabit this place, where anything can happen…if we listen to the Word of God who is, was, and always will be “in the beginning”.

It’s like an eternal beginning, because we always have the choice about who we will become through the choices we make as we live in relation to this Creative Word that is and was and always will be.

And the beauty is that when you wake up to realize that something isn’t working out, you always have the chance to start over. You always have the chance to begin again.

All it takes is a choice.

Amanda (and Aleks), you’re at a point in life where you’re undoubtedly hearing the message that you can and will achieve great and wonderful things…that you have the potential to change the world, and that you will achieve whatever your dreams might be…

That might be true…but the darker side to that truth is that every decision you make has a consequence, and an opportunity cost.

So I would tell you to base your decisions on who you want to become, and how you want to relate to the God who formed you, and loves you.

And that’s not just a message for the graduates.

We can be generous if we want to…which means we won’t be greedy.

We can be kind…which means we won’t be mean.

We can be loving…which means we won’t have the time to be hateful.

Do you see how this works? There is spiritual fruit that God wants to grow within us, and it’s rooted in the choices we make every day, in every beginning we find ourselves in.

The Living Christ of abundant life calls each of us to be faithful, no matter what transition we’re going through!

For what has come into being in Christ was life, and the life was and is and always will be the light of all people.

For this light forever shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not, is not, and will not overcome it.

Therefore choose life!

Choose also the struggle that comes with it.

Amen

 

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