Words of Worth         John 1:1-9, 10-18     January 3, 2010

There are words that describe. There are words that question. There are words that motivate, that amuse, that call for attention. We all use words like these every day.

When Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet is asked a question about what he is reading, he responds, “Words, words, words” — implying that the words in front of him are meaningless. No doubt, you have heard people say this; maybe you have said it yourself.
 
We have all been told at one time or another that what is important are deeds, not words. The Latin expression is facta, non verba. but, when we strictly favor action, we miss the creativity of verbal expression. The undeniable fact is, words have real power.

As Christians, we should get this. From beginning to end, the Bible gives testimony to the power of what God accomplishes through a word. “In the beginning was the Word,” says the gospel of John — in the beginning was the Word, not the Deed. And “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Genesis reports, “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (1:3). God didn’t manufacture light on an assembly line, but instead spoke light into being. Then God did the same for the sky, the land, the seas, the plants, the animals and even humankind itself. On each day of creation, God spoke a truly creative word.

Godoffers all people a way out of an existence focused on merely existing by revealing the nature of true life. This life is so much more than simple physical existence. It is, in fact, the reason the Logos became Incarnate - to bring this life to all creation.
 
John envisions the role of the Logos as continuing the divine creation that Genesis 1 narrates. At the beginning of creation, God proclaimed, "Let there be light." Now with the person of the Logos Christ, John wants humans to hear the call, "Let there be life." Light becomes Life. (Fiat Lux becomes Fiat Vitae.)
 
According to the prophet Isaiah, God insists, “my word … shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (55:11). The Lord does not have to make a distinction between deeds and words. For God, words are deeds; God’s words actually accomplish his goals.

The significance of God’s word reaches its peak in the New Testament, in which we learn that God’s “Word became flesh and lived among us” as Jesus (John 1:14). No longer limited to speech, God’s Word actually takes human form, becomes incarnate and begins to walk among us as a living and breathing expression of God’s grace and truth.
 
Word, deed, flesh and spirit all come together in Jesus, to show us most clearly what God desires for us. “No one has ever seen God,” claims John in his gospel. “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (v. 18). God’s word becomes the Word.

 
God's Word. It shall not return to God empty but shall accomplish God’s goals.
God's Word. It became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth.

 
Receiving and believing the Word is the beginning of transformation.This is the purpose of the incarnational presence of God in the world. Transformation.

“But to all who received him,” says John, “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” (vv. 12-13). Transformation begins when a word is received, and a person starts to believe it.
 When we receive what God is saying to us through Jesus and believe in him, then our lives are changed forever. We become nothing less than the children of God. We discover that we are eternally loved and guided by the One who has created us.

 
Then, as members of God’s family, we’re given an intimate glimpse of his world-changing work. “We have seen his glory,” says John, “the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). Jesus brings God’s grace and truth into the world and shares it with us and with all who believe. Suddenly we have a fresh new perspective on the Lord and his desires for the world.
 
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (vv. 16-17). The Word of God has come to us in Jesus to do the work of transformation, shifting our perspective from law to grace and truth. This word will not return to God empty but will accomplish God’s goals. (and those goals are to make us children of God)

 
Grace and truth. Those are not just words, but the new reality that God is creating (in us and in the world) through Jesus. Believing God's Word, God’s promises to us, can transform us from discouragement to hope; fear to faith; estrangement to acceptance. . .
Words have creative power to change us and the world.
 
How do we receive and believe?
So how do we receive these words, believe them and put them to work to change the world? As we start a New Year, there is no more important focus than focusing on God’s creative word, whether through Scripture or through Christ.
 
Since we just celebrated Christmas, here’s another kind of Christmas story:
There was a gift for each of us  left under the tree of life 2000 years ago by the one born in Bethlehem. This gift was withheld from no one. Some have left their packages unclaimed. Some have accepted the gift and carried it around, but have failed to remove the wrappings and look inside to discover the hidden splendor. The packages are all alike: In each is a scroll on which is written, "All that the Father hath is thine. " Grace upon grace. Take and live! --Anonymous
 
Receiving grace means accepting God’s love as a pure gift — one that comes to us, unearned and undeserved, out of the endless and eternal expanse of God’s merciful heart. God accepts us simply because he wants to accept us, and he offers us his unconditional love because he desires to surprise and delight us.
 
As children of God, there is no good we can do to make God love us any more, and no evil we can do to make God love us any less. The love that comes to us through Jesus Christ is unconditional and overflowing, “grace upon grace” (v. 16).

Never underestimate the power of words. They can be world changing —especially when they are grounded in the word of God.

 
The creative nature of God gave us fiat lux ("let there be light"). The incarnate nature of Christ gave us fiat vitae ("let there be life"). The pentecostal nature of the Holy Spirit gave us fiat ecclesia ("let there be church"). Fiat Lux becomes Fiat Vitae becomes Fiat Ecclesia.

But Jesus was crucified, the world says. His earthly life and mission ended on the cross. Really? Did it? If first-century Jews and Gentiles found it difficult to believe that the gift of Logos-life was being offered to them in the form of a scruffy vagabond craftsman from Galilee. . . . , consider how equally ludicrous a form the body of Christ has taken among us today.
 
Despite all its failings, its flabbiness, its frailty, the body of Christ has been the Church since Pentecost. Fiat Ecclesia: "Let there be ... church." Alternatively, in another translation, "Let there be body-life."

 
Words have creative power and can actually change the world by influencing what people think. Words can be used for good or evil, for propaganda or Truth.
God’s Words have power to bring light into darkness, accomplish God’s purposes and deliver a much-needed message of grace and truth.

On this first Sunday of the calendar year, we have an opportunity to receive, believe, and invite the Incarnational Word to be our word, so that our presence in the world might likewise bring transformation. Amen.
 
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
 
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