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Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. Headshot

John 1:1-14 -- "The Word that Walked Around"

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During the Third Sunday of Advent, I preached from the fourth gospel this text. I make it no secret that the Gospel of John is my least favorite gospel but was enlightened more than I've ever been before in seeing the significance of the Logos in the "word made flesh and dwelt among us." I have come to see the Logos in the reality that ideas are powerful. Books make a difference even with the invention and popularity of kindle. Words on a page; spelling important notations; telling dramatic stories are terribly important.

But this passage is not about words; ideas or stories. But it rather tells of a birth, an event, a person, the coming in the flesh of the world's most life-changing word, idea and story. If Luke tells of a young mother, of angels and shepherds and a manger; and if Matthew lets us in on a visit from wise men; and if Mark is silent about the whole thing; the writer we know as John seems formal and dull.

Jesus came to a world which he made, yet in such manifestation and concealment that the world as such did not apprehend the wondrous presence; and he is said also to have been continually coming to his own people in prophetic visions and angelic and even theanthropic form or fashion. Elsewhere in the Gospel we hear that Abraham "saw his day," and Isaiah "beheld his glory;" but it not said that he became, i.e. entered into permanent and unalterable relations with these theophanic glories. The question is how can the Logos become flesh? has been a debate in very early Christological discussions, even so far back as Praxeas whom Tertullian sought to refute, and by Apollinaris the younger in the fourth century, it was said that this passage asserted that, though the Logos took or became flesh, he did not become or take upon himself the human, the reasonable soul or spirit of humanity, but that the Logos took the place in Jesus of the mind or spirit. Apollinaris explained, in vindication of his view, that this Christ was neither God nor man, but a blending of the two natures into a new third nature, neither one nor the other.

As an ELCA Lutheran pastor, I affirm that the flesh of Christ is constitutive and inclusive of his entire humanity. Flesh itself is not human flesh without the human, nor can there be a human soul without human spirit. The two terms are used interchangeably, and their functions are not to be regarded as different factors of humanity so much as different departments of human activity. There is a complete humanity; therefore, included in this term, not a humanity destitute of one of its most characteristics features.

What is interesting is that Christ became an ordinary human being, and further took on what is considered the lowest kind of occupation -- a servant. The incarnation, the transition from divine nature to human nature, was divine marginalization. However, when divinity takes on human form and lowly human occupation, it becomes the margin or marginality. Christ became the margin of marginality by giving up everything he had. Becoming a servant often means to become nothing, to become non-human being. To be a servant means to have no personal worth, any innate value. Christ even in the Gospel of John is still the servant of the world at the margin or marginality, and Lord of all Lords. John's prologue symbolically retells the Christmas story on a cosmic scale and provides a description of Christ's cosmic marginalization. The process of divine marginalization occurs from above, while in the Christmas story divine marginalization occurs from below. Thus, they complement each other. Thus, Jesus-Christ is identified as a new marginal person who lives in-beyond by totally affirming the words that negate him.

There is a Chinese Restaurant in Columbus, Georgia where I reside called Chef Lee's. Notwithstanding to its world class food, they have inside of it a coy pond. This pond contains a glorious assortment of tropical fish with colors so extraordinary that only God's personal coloring set could have decorated them. It takes a lot of work to run a coy pond. The owner monitors the oxygen and nitrate levels and the ammonia content. The water is filtered. Vitamins, antibiotics and sulfa drugs must be pumped in. The fish have to be fed regularly. Now with all that care and attention, you would think that the fish would adore the owner. But they don't. Anytime he comes around, they dart away in fear. The owner is like a god to those fish, too big to comprehend, too frightening to love. The only way to change that would be for the owner to somehow become a fish and communicate the true message. Similarly, God had to become a person to communicate with us. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." This passage has awakened me to know that the logos became like us and donned a robe of human flesh, experienced the pang of hunger, suffered the trauma of thirst, endured the agony of loneliness, tolerated the shame of nakedness, faced the struggle of poverty, encountered the humiliation of blasphemy, in order that he might reveal to us the splendor of God's eternal glory he is the Word Made Flesh. Why did Jesus come? He came because sin had to be confronted and defeated but the Logos came to display his love.

I wonder as persons that are from the African descent communities of faith, how are we identifying ourselves with those who are displaced in our communities. How are we availing ourselves to those who live below the poverty line? How are we being fiscally responsible in not flaunting our wealth provided by the benevolence of those who tithe in our churches in purchasing the latest car or making residence farther away from the masses of people we serve? How can we respond to the length of Christ becoming the Logos is through our joining the struggle for causes that opposes anything on earth that dehumanizes people? We must know that the Logos favors anything that promotes justice, mercy, reconciliation and righteousness. When we recognize that the Word that walked around as we celebrate the Season of Advent will transform our circumstances because the Word walks through our market-places, our homes and the systems around which we organize life. We are called to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. Our thanks is displayed in our openness which will allow us to let God work within us and make us whole for the coming of the Lord Jesus who is truly the Word Made Flesh-a word that walked around.