Who is God?
Our Gospel reading this morning is my favorite passage of Scripture. In this 18 verse passage, you get almost the entire doctrine of God, who God is, that is; and a summary of who we are in relationship with God. So who is this God of ours.
John tells us that God is revealed fully in Jesus Christ. So when we look at Jesus’s own life, we are looking at the fullness of who God is. Moreover, we’re looking at the fullness of who God is for us and with us. The first thing we hear is that this Word, who is Jesus Christ, was in the beginning with God and is God. This means that Jesus Christ is God; God who has, is and always will exist: the eternal God. This means Jesus didn’t become God at some point in time and so it also means that he didn’t lose his Godliness when he took on our humanity.
What does this mean for us? Well it means that because he is God, he has the capacity to create all things from nothing, as we hear in John, “all things came into being through him; not one thing came into being without him.” So anything or anyone who exists, exists because the Word, Jesus, who is God, created them. You could think about all the people in the past who have ever existed, and all those alive today, and all those who will be born in the future … every one of them and all those things that exist from Pluto and Black holes, to you and me, are here because God made them in and through Jesus.
Now here’s the next part of our story, if you think about it as a story, the ‘problem’ that needs resolving so to speak. We spent Advent talking about humanity’s turning away from God, and the purposes for which he made us. The fall we call it; or the act and continuing actions of sin, “his own people rejected him, is how John puts it.” Not only do Adam and Eve sin, but so does all of Israel, as we heard in our Isaiah reading and we know from our OT and Gospels, but so too do even his new followers all the way up to our present day: his own people rejected him … that’s you and I my friends, not someone else he’s talking about. So this Word, Jesus, comes into the world at a particular point in history right?
You think to yourself, well jeez, what about all the people who came before him in time. What an arbitrary date that happens to exclude them. That’s not really fair. But then you’ve got to go back to our first point above: this Jesus was “in the beginning,” eternally we’ve said, with God and he is God. Well if God is and Jesus is before everything is made and if God is and always will be, then whether you were born 1000 years before Jesus or 1000 years after we all die, Jesus has got you my friends because we all came into being or we all came to exist through this guy.
Now the last few weeks I talked about the importance of procreation to the Christian story: marriage, as traditionally understood, is primarily about creating new life, a next generation through the physical, mental and emotional sacrificial union of a man and woman, literally the giving to the other of bodily fluids to create new life. Jesus creates new life in shedding his own body and blood, sacrificially, to create new life, and so marriage and procreation within it served as an analogy of witness for Jesus’s own act. This is true. However, it isn’t complete.
For you see John tells us today that actually, that procreative self-giving in marriage is insufficient to reconcile people to God: “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” Our epistle reading summarizes it in this way, “just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ ….”
We have no capacity to get to God ourselves, human beings are in relationship with God when they are adopted into Jesus Christ. It’s his faith, lived out in a human life, that raises all human beings who have, do and will exist from the death that results from being separated from God, to life with God. It’s actually adoption that is the core witness to Jesus Christ. For ‘before the foundation of the world, God plans to adopt both Jews and gentiles to him through Jesus’s faith.’
Jesus’s own lineage is not one of mere procreation but of adoption as we hear in the book of Ruth, recounted in Matthew’s Gospel concerning Jesus’s lineage: “and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of Kind David, and so on to Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Second, Jesus’s own birth is not an act of human procreation, for Joseph is not the biological but would be considered the adoptive father of Jesus; Jesus’s birth is the act of pure divine self giving to a woman, Mary, and an adoptive father, Joseph.
This points us to the most amazing revelation: first, that well before anything existed, God desired us, and planned to gather us to himself, whatever circumstances might unfold. Second, no matter how bleak things seem, no matter how many trials we face, no matter how many times we fail or how frustrated we get, how hurt we feel, how useless we think we might be, or become, whether because of a disability, one or multiple failures, doubts, or because we just get old, God sees in us infinite value and worth and claims us from the beginning. Therefore he does not ever give up on us. We are never expendable; never unwanted; never lacking in use or purpose or meaning, even when we feel this is so.
From the very core of our souls, the very beginning of our lives, to their very end, God is with us, in us, calling and provoking us to walk in his faith through our trials, all the while grounded in his eternal love for us. John put it like this, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
In Jesus we have inherited the Kingdom of God which is an eternal relationship with him. It is in that security of love for us, that we are set free to live out our days, not hunkered down in fear, not responding out of frustration, bitterness, envy or jealousy, not chastising people when they don’t do what we want when we want it and how we want it – these are the ways of sinful flesh of people who still live in fear – we are set free in Jesus’s perfect love and faith – to treat others with love, kindness, gentleness, patience and self-control. I leave you with this question: when you were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit in your baptism and likely your confirmation, you said to God, “I will allow myself to be transformed into Christ’s likeness, this will dictate how I treat other people and how I treat myself, no matter what I’m thinking or how I feel.”
So I ask, were you to meet Jesus tomorrow, how would you say you’ve fulfilled that promise to God? AMEN