The Gospel of the Day – 2016.01.03 (Sunday)
The Beginning of Doctrine
In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’
Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
Faith and Dogma
John’s Gospel is unlike the others. Its authors were the farthest removed from the life of Jesus; writing the narrative between 120 and 150 years after his death. It is also the furthest removed from the actual ministry of Jesus, concerning itself with the cosmic identity of Christ as the Word of God, more than the lives of actual people, and the ministry of healing, mercy, and justice that was Jesus’ actual occupation.
The gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew are commonly referred to as the synoptic gospels. The events that they narrate are closely linked to each other and follow the same basic pattern; even though there are differences. Luke and Matthew rely largely on Mark for their structure; Mark being written first.
Luke came second, and took a step a little further back in time than Mark. Whereas Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by John. Luke begins with the story of his birth.
Matthew, coming third in the sequence goes a little farther back in time, and tell us of Jesus’ descent from Abraham. While John, coming last, takes the reader all the way back to the beginning of time.
John narrates some of the same events as the other gospels do, but with a markedly different character, all designed to tell us who Jesus is; God’s own self.
The historian in me objects to this treatment of the life of Christ, but it is what it is, and this fiction having taken hold of the Christian Consciousness represents a historical reality all of its own.
The prolog tells us very little about the persons of Jesus, and John the Baptist, but a great deal about what Christians believed about God, the creator of the Universe, and creation itself.
Even though it was a common view in the ancient world that our material condition was essentially corrupt; as evidenced by our experience of pain, sickness, and death. The Christian community of John was articulating a faith in its essential goodness.
It affirms the unity and oneness of all creation; having been brought into being through the Word of Logos; meaning the rational will of God. This tell us that life itself has purpose, it is not random, it not the product of chaotic forces. Creation comes from the goodness, and light of the eternal God. And not one thing or being exists apart from that.
The Gospel encourages us in the hope, that no matter how bad things are in the drama of creation, the darkness will not overcome the light. Also, that the world and humanity itself are worthy of the love of God, so much so that God becomes a human being, lives and suffers with us in the spirit of compassion, and solidarity with the universe that God created.
This teaching is at the same time both remarkably esoteric, and deeply personal. While encouraging the believer to have hope, it also reminds the reader that they must also persevere in the face of rejection and violence. Many people to not want to hear the truth. They prefer their own cozy view of the world, their tribal and national gods, and totems, their neat philosophies, and their magical realities to the sober understanding of what it means to be a child of God. God’s own self was taken and killed for suggesting that there was a different way to live than the ways of the world.
It was the Romans and the Judeans who rejecting the teaching then. Human being have not changed so much in the intervening 2,000 years. It would likely be American Christians who would be quickest to reject God now.
The Second Sunday of Christmas