Sunday, January 4, 2015

“To Walk Among the People” (John 1:1-18)

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to His face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make Its way home
If God had a face
What would it look like?
And would you want  see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like Heaven and Jesus and the Saints
And all the Prophets
(What if God Were One of Us by Eric Bazilian)

In 1995 Joan Osborne had her biggest hit as a singer . . . What If God Were One of Us . . . in which she asks the listeners to consider the musical question of what they would do if they encountered God and it turned out that God was just like them.  At first that sounds like a ridiculous proposition, but consider the words of our reading this morning: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him . . . The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.”

According to the Gospel of John, God was one of us.  For a short time, God came down and walked among the people as “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.”  That is what the writer of John’s gospel is telling us . . . that is what the four gospels in their totality affirm and confirm . . . God was one of us.  God was one of us in the form and life of Jesus . . . God walked among the people. 
So, as Ms. Osborne asks, if God were one of us what would we do?

That is a big question for Sunday morning . . . actually a big question for any day of the week.  Yet, the author of John’s gospel tells us that we probably wouldn’t do a whole lot as we are no different than our forbearers of the faith . . . we wouldn’t recognize God. 

The Christmas story is about “God coming among us” . . . God becoming one of us and showing us “the way” . . . the way back to the re-establishing that original relationship between us and God . . . of re-establishing the Kingdom.  God became one of us, walked among us, and showed us a better way through loving God and one another.  God was among us . . . and, I would argue, is still among us.  Because of that I cannot buy into the notion that those before us and us today do not recognize the presence of God among us.  I think that we do.  I think that our problem is that we do not accept or acknowledge that presence in our world or our lives.

Over in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the story of the “sheep and goats”.  You know the story . . . it is the end times . . . the people have been divided into groups of sheep and goats . . . the sheep are awarded entrance into the gates of heaven, while the goats are banished to eternal punishment . . . all based on whether or not they helped Jesus during their lifetimes.  Of course the question that the people on both sides ask is, “When did we see you?”

Remember what Jesus told them?  “Truly I tell you, whatever you did (or did not) do for one of the least of these, you did (or did not) for me.”  Sounds like God is among us . . . it is a matter of whether or not we are willing to accept or acknowledge that presence among us.  As the writer of John’s gospel states: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God walks among the people as one of us . . . that is what the writer is telling us.  The Christmas story brings to us the presence of God among us and shows us the way through Jesus . . . the way to get back home.  God is one of us, “Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make Its way home.”  And, for it to work we have to believe in the story . . . acknowledge the gift of presence . . . and, accept it.  We need to embrace it.  If we can embrace the gift of presence, we will see the presence of God around us in the world in which we live.

Now, I do not know about you, but I find great comfort in knowing that God is among us as one of us . . . that God is like us—or at least experiences life like us as a human being.  This is comforting because God understands through Jesus how tough and difficult life can be . . . understands the struggles and hardships . . . understands the weaknesses . . . understands where we are coming from.  God can identify with us and know us . . . all because God came to dwell among us through Jesus.  Just knowing that God understands where I am coming from makes it easier to embrace this gift of life.  I think that all of us would rather be in a relationship with someone who understand us than with someone who has no idea where we are coming from . . . God knows us because God is one of us . . . one of us in Jesus.

Now, back to that original question: If God were one of us what would we do?  What would you do?

Well, I hope that we would do what Jesus did . . . that we would live our lives in such a way that it reflected a relationship with God that is intimate and wholly or holy encompassing all that we are created to be . . . that we would live our lives in such a way that it reflected a relationship of diversity that embraces our fellow human beings in such a way that it emanates the love and grace we receive from our relationship with God.  I would hope that we embody the love and grace and witness of Jesus.

Yet, at the same time, that is a pretty tough question no matter when it is asked.  We can answer it with our minds, but it is with our hearts that we must really answer the question.  Our hearts will reveal the truth to us and the world around us. 

Thus the writer of John’s gospel throws it right into our faces . . . God is among us . . . what you going to do?  It is a matter of the heart . . .

The chorus of the song is one we can easily echo with our minds:

Yeah, yeah God is great
Yeah, yeah God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah

In our minds we all agree . . . God is great, God is good . . . but is that truly reflected in our hearts and lives?  As the song concludes at the very end:

Back up in Heaven all alone
Just trying to make His way home
Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

God is waiting.  Amen.

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