What a beautiful day! Isn’t it great to be outside, in this beautiful place, enjoying the sunshine, on a day like this. This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Today is the National Indigenous Day of Prayer, the Sunday that falls closest to the summer solstice on June 21 which is a day of great significance for our Indigenous siblings. Among the many great gifts that the Indigenous people of Turtle Island have given to us is their beautiful and intimate awareness of the spirituality of creation. The lakes and rivers, the trees and forest, the sun and stars, the earth and the heavens, all of these declare the glory of Creator and reveal the workings of the Great Spirit.
For many of us, the spirit within us, our spirituality, is awakened and nourished by being in nature. When we walk through a forest, or encounter a wild animal, when we see the sunlight sparkling on the river or behold the immensity of the stars and galaxies on a clear summer night, it stirs something within us. We are moved. We encounter beauty. We are awe-struck, and perhaps even overwhelmed by a sense of wonder. For many of us it seems improbable, perhaps even inconceivable, that all of this is just a coincidence, some sort of random quirk of an accidental universe. And so we say with the poet of psalm 19, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows the handiwork of the Lord.”
The gospel text which was selected for us today by the Sacred Circle of our Anglican Church begins in this place of awe and wonder, with the big picture of Creation.
Here John begins his epic story, his gospel. His opening poem starts by contemplating the immensity of the universe and the beauty and wonder of a creation that gives birth to life. His opening line echoes the creation story of Genesis:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word, not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
What is this “Word” that John places at the very beginning of the creation story? It’s a curious phrase. To get at its meaning, we start by looking at the original Greek word, Logos.
Logos is a word from Greek philosophy which can be translated as word or reason or design. It is the organizing principle, the rational structure of the universe.
Richard Rohr, who I know is familiar to a some of you, suggests that rather than translate Logos as “Word”, we should translate it as “Blueprint”. In the beginning was the blueprint, and the blueprint was with God and the blueprint was God.
A blueprint is the drawing or plan that is used to build something, the design that conveys the architect’s intent. Of course in this day of digital design, we don’t actually use blueprints anymore. But you get the idea. The blueprint is the “way things should be”
In the beginning was the Blueprint, the Word, the “Way Things Should Be”. That is, right from the beginning, there was intent, divine intent. The universe is to have purpose and meaning and order and beauty. It’s not just random, there is a “Way Things Should Be” embedded right into the fabric of creation, and that includes life itself. Even humanity. We’re not an accident; God created us for a reason. Part of the way things should be.
But of course as we know well, things are not always as they should be. That’s where the Hebrew word ‘Dabar’ comes in. Dabar is the Hebrew word that translates as Logos in Greek. Dabar also means word, but not just any word. Dabar is the word of God. But it’s not just a sound, and it’s not just information. Rather, it is a dynamic reality that is active and charged with power. The word of God is the power that brought forth creation and it’s a power which seizes the hearer, transforms their self-understanding and demands a response. When Isaiah says that “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, that’s dabar in action. Healing, renewing, strengthening, energizing, Dabar is the power to set things right, to restore them to the way they should be.
So when John starts with the big picture of the universe, he asserts right from the beginning that there is goodness, the way things should be, and transformation, the power to get us there. Which is what we mean by the “Word”:
“In the beginning was Word, and the Word, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being.”
How does that sound to you? Does it make sense? This is the big picture, the big picture that affirms that there is purpose and growth and beauty and meaning in this universe of ours. This is the big picture that corresponds to our feelings of awe and wonder when we look at the stars overhead.
But we can’t spend our whole lives simply looking at the stars can we? We need to live our lives in concrete ways, in relationships, in daily activities. How do we take this big picture and make it concrete?
John moves from the big picture of creation to the concreteness of human life in one fell swoop.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
It is rather remarkable to think that the very organizing principle and creative force that gave birth to this vast universe entered Creation and was born as a human being.
Incredible even! But also incredibly helpful!
Because when I want to get a sense of the “The Way Things Should Be”, of God’s intentions, hopes and dreams for creation and for humanity, I have a real concrete flesh and blood expression of what that looks like.
I look to Jesus and I see generosity and compassion. I see him practicing and urging his followers to practice love and mercy. I see him reaching out to those who have been marginalized, eating with them at table. I see the way things should be, what it looks like to be fully human, how I should live my life.
And in the face so much that is not right, in the face of human brokenness, I see him going about making things right. I see him practicing forgiveness. I see him loving and praying for his enemies. I see him healing people and restoring them to community. I see how it is that when things go wrong, we can set things right.
John calls this grace. Unconditional love and goodness, a gift that is not earned but is freely given. From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
In the beginning was the Word, the Blueprint, ‘The Way Things Should Be’. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. No one has ever seen God. But this Word, who is God, became flesh and lived among us. And it is in him most fully that the Creator of this beautiful and vast universe has been made known.
Homily: National Indigenous Day of Prayer, June 19, Trinity, Windsor Park
Readings: Isaiah 40.25-31; Psalm 19; Philippians 4.4-9; John 1.1-18