You Raise Me Up to Walk on Stormy Seas

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:22-33

Part of my problem with biblical literalists is that I think they often fail to see the forest for the trees. They get hung up in trying to prove ( in the case of believers) or disprove (in the case of nonbelievers) Biblical stories, as if that were the most important thing about them. John, the writer of the fourth gospel, was very clear about the purpose of the miracle stories he chose to include in his telling of the Jesus story: miraculous events were important not because they were miraculous, but because they were “signs” attesting to who Jesus was and what the kingdom of God that he proclaimed means.

The message- or “sign”, as John might phrase it- is more important than the medium in today’s gospel reading. I think it’s also helpful to consider the context, which follows roughly the same sequence in Matthew, Mark, and John: Jesus learns of Herod’s execution of his cousin John the Baptist.. He tries to withdraw for a little alone time to process his thoughts and feelings about this horrific event, but is prevented from doing so by throngs of people wanting free healthcare. He spends the day helping them to the full extent of his powers, and when evening falls, his disciples urge him to quit for the day and send the crowds away so he can catch a break. Instead, he feels the need to provide not only free healthcare but free food, and multiplies loaves and fishes in order to feed the hungry crowds. Jesus tries again to withdraw and be by himself, but again his prayer time is interrupted, this time by his own disciples. They attempt to follow his instructions to go home and allow him some private time on the mountaintop, but get into trouble when a sudden storm arises over the Galilee. Jesus rescues his frightened disciples by walking across the stormy seas and calming the waters. Interestingly, John omits Peter’s near-drowning in his version of the the walking-on-water story.

If we try to understand these stories as “signs”, as John calls them, what are the signs telling us? First of all, Jesus cared about people- “he had compassion for them” and put their needs above his own. As Paul put it, “he, being in very nature God, did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave born in human likeness, and made himself obedient to death, even death on a cross”.  Jesus healed sick people without asking them if they had done all the right things to keep themselves healthy. He fed hungry people without asking them why they weren’t working to earn their daily bread. And he rescued his frightened disciples from the stormy sea, including boastful, impetuous Peter, whose own impulsivity led him into trouble more than once.

Secondly, these stories tell me that God is able to do what we think may be impossible, although he generally prefers to work through people to work his wonders. As a science fiction fan, I don’t find this at all beyond the range of my imagination.  I really do not have the problem with the miracles of Jesus in the way that some of my friends do; just because I can’t understand how something might have happened doesn’t mean it couldn’t have. Rather, it demonstrates my incomplete understanding of an observed or reported event. If someone living two thousand years ago were suddenly time-transported to my house today and watched me illuminate a dark room with the flick of a light switch, what might they think? Arthur C Clarke, who was not a theist, observed that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“. Maybe Jesus had an understanding of and control over reality that we haven’t figured out yet.

As the leaders of the US and North Korea engage in increasingly escalating rhetoric this week, as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and others engage in violence on the streets of Charlotte, NC today, as who know what will happen tomorrow, I can’t think of a better message to share with a frightening and frightened world than today’s gospel passage. Just as Jesus walked through the storm on the sea of Galilee, he walks toward our storm-tossed world today. I often find myself thinking like the frightened disciples, huddled in the bottom of the boat, hoping and praying that the storm will abate before I and all those I love are destroyed. Sometimes I find myself behaving like Peter, impulsively jumping overboard,  trying and failing to vanquish the oncoming storm on my own. What I ought to be doing is trying to think like Jesus. Where are there needs, and how can I help?

 

Are Souls Gendered?

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

The BBC television series “Doctor Who” recently created controversy by announcing that the role of the Thirteenth Doctor would be played by a woman. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the Doctor is an alien from a planet called Gallifrey whose species have not only the ability to travel in time, but also are able to “regenerate” into a new body instead of dying. The ability to regenerate was originally invented by the writers in order to keep the show going when the actor portraying the original doctor became too ill to continue working. (This literary tactic reminds me a bit of the “invention” of the transporter in Star Trek, which happened because it was less expensive than filming a spacecraft landing on different planets.) “Doctor Who” has been around since 1963, changing actors in the role every few years, and until now, the Doctor’s character has always been male. And some people object very strongly to that kind of gender fluidity, even in a fictional alien from a fictional planet. I have one Facebook friend, a fan of the show from the beginning, who says she will never watch it again.

One of the reasons I enjoy fantasy and science fiction is that it invites speculation about the nature of ultimate reality. What makes us human, and what is the essence of our individuality? “Star Trek”, which began its run about the same time as “Doctor Who” often dealt with these questions. In “The Wrath of Khan”, Kirk eulogizes the alien character Spock, “Of all the souls I have known, he was the most human.”  Several episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” dealt with this question in the character of Data.  In The Measure of a Man”, Data’s personhood is put on trial. Is he a person or a thing? This question is revisited in “The Offspring”, where Data creates another android, Lal. He considers Lal to be his daughter after allowing her to choose her own gender and species. “Star Trek: Voyager” pushes the question a bit further in the ongoing character of the holographic Doctor. Do aliens have souls? Do androids? Holograms?  I suppose it depends on your definition of “soul”, but if you understand “soul” to mean the essence of a person, what makes “you” you, a unique individual, the answer  in all three cases is “yes”.

Fictional characters aside, what is the soul, and is gender an intrinsic part of it? The first creation story in Genesis says that humanity (Hebrew adam) was created in the image of God in both male and female variations. If God created both sexes in his own image, then either God is both male and female, or gender is irrelevant to personhood. I’m inclined to the latter interpretation as I do not understand God to be some kind of anthropomorphized hermaphrodite. “God is Spirit”, Jesus taught,  “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth”. 

Matthew relates a story in which some of Jesus’s theological opponents try to entrap him by setting up a hypothetical scenario in which a woman marries seven brothers in succession in accordance with the Mosaic commands for levirate marriage. If there is life after death as Jesus claims, then whose property will the woman be? Jesus responds by saying that at the resurrection, marriage will no longer exist because people will be “like the angels in heaven” The woman won’t be anyone’s property because gender roles are apparently irrelevant in life after death.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul states that one’s relationship to Christ is not dependent on ethnic origin, gender, or social status. Faith (not intellectual belief, but trust in and loyalty to) is what is essential to that relationship. There are no second-class citizens of the kingdom of God. The kinds of things we like to use to categorize people into neat binary boxes are irrelevant.

Are souls gendered? I think not, and I’m looking forward to meeting the Thirteenth Doctor.

 

The Beatitudes: Alternative Blessings

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5)

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6)

There’s been quite a bit of talk this week about “alternative facts,” an unfortunate choice of words coined by Kellyanne Conway to describe President Trump’s understanding of the size of the crowd attending his inauguration. As I understand it, “alternative facts” are based on a perception of reality that differs from observable evidence to the contrary. “Alternative facts” are not objectively true, but reflect the point of view and/or political purpose of the person promoting them. The whole brouhaha reminded me of Pilate’s question to Jesus at his trial, “What is truth?”  Is there such a thing as objective truth, or is truth malleable, and like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?

The whole Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes in particular, seem to run counter not only to observable realities of life, but to theological understandings which equate God’s blessings with material well-being and comfort. Luke’s retelling of Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Plain is even stronger than Matthew’s version.  It describes not only blessings for things people wouldn’t normally think of as blessings, but woes for those things that people normally do think of as blessings. And of course the Beatitudes are only the beginning: Jesus goes on to say that “the last shall be first and the first last”, “the greatest among you will be your servant” and “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but he that loses his life will find it.” Clearly the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus does not follow the same rules as the kingdoms of the world as understood by Pilate. The Beatitudes are a window into an alternate universe with different rules and different expectations.

In much of the Old Testament, material prosperity was seen as God’s blessing for the righteous. If someone was poor or sick, it was because they had done something to deserve their misfortune. There are plenty of Bible verses that support this view, with the book of Job being a notable exception. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day certainly seemed to understand the world in this way, for when the man born blind was brought to Jesus, they asked “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responded, “Neither one” and proceeded to heal the man. What the Pharisees saw as a result of God’s curse, Jesus saw as an opportunity to offer God’s blessing. Whose perspective is the correct one?

“What is truth?” asked Pilate. As John later writes in his gospel, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Truth isn’t malleable, but is personified by Jesus. So I’m inclined to believe Jesus’s description of what it means to be blessed, not that of the proponents of the prosperity gospel. If Jesus is the truth, we can safely assume that his perspective is the correct one, and we’d better pay attention to what he says. Following Jesus is the doorway into the alternate universe we call the Kingdom of God, an upside-down kingdom  that is the opposite of the survival-of-the-fittest world in which we live. There the weak are made strong, the poor are made rich, the wounded are made whole, and the hungry are filled with good things.

Jesus opened the doorway to the Kingdom of God, which is not pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by-when-we-die. It is here now, among us, like an alternate universe visible to those with eyes to see reality from Jesus’s perspective. It’s up to us to follow him in, and to hold the door open for others, until at last the wall of separation dissolves, and earth and heaven are one. Who’s with me?

Joshua, Jesus, Constantine, and Christ

It’s interesting to me that Joshua and Jesus have the same Hebrew name (יְהוֹשׁ֫וּעַ in Hebrew; Ἰησοῦς in Greek, meaning “Yahweh saves.” The meaning of the name accurately describes both Joshua and Jesus, but their approaches to carrying out God’s salvation were quite different. Joshua is portrayed as a military leader who led the conquest of Canaan, killing every man, woman, child, and animal in cities under the ban, along with those of his own people who did not follow those instructions to the letter. Jesus is the suffering servant and good shepherd who  taught nonviolence  and demonstrated God’s love by “dying for us while we were yet sinners.” The two approaches seem quite opposite to me, and I wrote about this in an earlier post on the book of Joshua. How exactly does God save? Through power and control, or through love and service?

One of the reasons many first century Jews had such a hard time accepting Jesus as the promised Messiah is that he did not fulfill their expectations of a conquering military hero who would toss the Roman bullies out of Israel and re-establish a Davidic dynasty. Instead of using his divine superpowers to control people and perhaps strike a few of them dead, he healed the sick and fed the hungry. Instead of living in luxury in a palace and demanding obeisance from cowed subjects, he lived the lifestyle of a homeless itinerant teacher who told his followers that the first shall be last and “the greatest among you shall be your servant”   Instead of calling down ten thousand angels to rescue him and strike down those who tortured and mocked him, he prayed “Father, forgive them.” Paul makes the contrast clear in his letter to the Philippians when he describes Jesus as someone “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

It’s pretty clear to me that most of the early Christians tried to apply the example and teachings of Jesus to their own lives and situations.  In fact, that’s where the descriptor “Christian” came from, and it was not originally meant as a compliment. “Christians” were people whose first loyalty was to Christ, not Caesar, and that was a very dangerous thing to do in the Roman Empire. “Christians” also tried to emulate the behavior of Jesus in their interactions with others, and that was considered a very foolish thing to do. In spite of, and probably also partially because of, continuing antipathy from those in positions of power, the faith continued to spread throughout the Roman Empire.

By the turn of the fourth century, political factions threatened to split the Roman Empire into East and West components, with several contenders jockeying for power on both sides. There were two schools of thought on the part of these would-be emperors on how to deal with the exponential growth of Christianity: doubling down on persecution, or assimilation.  In 312 AD,  legend has it that Constantine, one of the contenders for the Western throne, had a dream of a cross and the words “In this sign you will conquer”. He directed his soldiers to paint their shields with a sign of the cross, the battle went his way, and he converted to Christianity. Although the historical jury is out as to whether his conversion was genuine or practical, Constantine made Christianity the official state religion, and assimilation began. The persecuted were now the powerful, and Constantine was their Joshua, the hand of God who saved them and led them into the promised land.

However, in the retrospect of centuries, it seems to me that Constantine’s conversion was one of the most spiritually dangerous things that ever happened to the church. Those in power generally want to stay in power, and the threat of hellfire and damnation became quite a useful  tool to ensure forced obedience. Christianity and Christendom are not the same thing. Christians are followers of Christ, whose ultimate loyalty is to God alone. Christendom is a conflation of Christianity and empire, and its subjects have divided loyalties. The way of Christ is the way of love and service. The way of empire is the way of power and control. Where Christ transforms, empire compels. They are not compatible. There’s a (probably apocryphal) quote attributed to Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” I can’t help but think that the Christians to whom Gandhi was referring were more ambassadors for Christendom than ambassadors for Christ.

Joshua is recorded as saying in his farewell speech to the Israelite people, Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house I will serve the Lord.” Jesus warned his followers, “No one can serve two masters.” Which will it be, the way of power and control or the way of love and service? The way of Constantine or the way of Christ?

As for me and my house, I choose Christ.

 

 

 

 

Sin and Separation: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If you were to ask Neil deGrasse Tyson, he’d probably say “the egg” because evolution presupposes it is mutations in parental DNA that eventually result in the appearance of distinct new species. If you were to ask Ken Hamm, he’d probably say “the chicken” because instantaneous creation presupposes that God created adult chickens on the sixth day. It is a person’s underlying belief system about how the very first chicken got here that determines their response to the question.

Especially during my Baptist decades, I was told many times that sin is the cause of separation from God. I don’t dispute that, but lately I’ve been thinking about the converse- that is, separation from God is the cause of sin. During one of my nightly meditative sessions, the thought came into my mind that it isn’t a matter of cause and effect: sin is separation from God. Sin is not essentially what you do or don’t do; it is a state of being, of being disconnected from the divine.  As Tillich understood it, “In any case, sin is separation. To be in the state of sin is to be in the state of separation. And separation is threefold: there is separation among individual lives, separation of a man from himself, and separation of all men from the Ground of Being.”

Which came first, sin or separation from God? Depending on which Scriptures you choose, you could make an argument for either one. The “sin comes first” perspective was the basis for for Bailey Smith’s rather infamous opinion that “God doesn’t hear Jewish (or Muslim, or any non-Christian) prayers.  I also remember hearing a “talk” (women are not allowed to “preach” in most SBC churches) from a Child Evangelism proponent who demonstrated this concept with tin can telephones and clothespins. The two tin cans are said to represent a person and God, while the clothespin is sin. When the clothespin is placed on the string between the two tin cans, communication is interrupted because “sin’s in the way”. With this perspective, there’s a lot of emphasis on confession, which includes ferreting out and confessing any unknown sins, before a person should dare to approach a holy God in prayer. And of course, as corollary, any time a person feels distant from God it must be because of some known or unknown unconfessed sin. This viewpoint has caused a great deal of spiritual angst in many people, including myself. Isn’t that exactly what Job’s “comforters” told him? And maybe I’m going a bridge too far here, but it seems to me that the idea that I must eliminate all sin from my life in order to connect with God is veering rather close to a theology of works rather than one of grace.

I’m inclined to agree with Tillich about sin being primarily separation. If a person is connected to God, the “law is written on their heart” and they are unlikely to make a habit of egregious sinning. If a person is connected to God, they will have “the mind of Christ” and want what God wants.  If a person is connected to God, positive behavioral and attitudinal changes are bound to follow. I think that’s what Jesus meant with his vine-and-branches metaphor , and I think that’s what Luther meant when he wrote “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” It is a mistake to direct all our spiritual energies toward eliminating all “sins” from our lives, because we can’t do it. Instead, I think we should primarily direct our spiritual energies toward connecting with the God who is already and always reaching out to us. It is by grace alone, which God supplies, that change happens.  Concentrate on ending the sin that is separation, rather than obsessing about everything you’ve ever done/are doing/will do wrong. Connect with God, and you will both be changed and begin to change the world around you for the better.

Colossians: May the Force Be With You

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,
things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Like Ephesians and Philippians, Colossians is one of Paul’s last letters, written while he was in prison in Rome prior to his execution. It’s similar to Ephesians in that it contains a mix of theology and practical advice, including a reiteration of the household codes he included in his letter to the Ephesians. It’s the richness of Paul’s theology, especially as expressed in the poem cited above, that strikes me most in the letter to the Colossians.

The poem begins by saying that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and I can’t help but think that the highly educated Paul was deliberately invoking Platonic philosophy in his word choice here. We can’t see God, and as my atheist friends will remind me, have no scientific evidence that God is real. But with the coming of Jesus into our world, we can know what God is like. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.

In language reminiscent of the first lines in the gospel of John, Paul goes on to say that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation“, “before all things“, and that “all things have been created through him and by him“. He is the glue that holds the universe together- “in him all things hold together“. The geeky part of me can’t help but think of Tillich’s ground of being, or perhaps the wilder speculations of  quantum theory, or maybe even the concept of “the Force”, which according to Obi-Wan Kenobi, “surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Poetically speaking, I think Paul wants to say that the universe is neither geocentric or heliocentric, but Christocentric. “In him we live and move and have our being.” If you want to understand the meaning of life, look at Jesus.

Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things“. The world is not as it should be. People have different ideas of how it “should be”, of course, and often it seems that our very attempts to “fix things” lead to unexpected and negative consequences. We can’t fix ourselves, much less the world. But fortunately for us, it isn’t up to us. God has already taken care of the problem in a very surprising and unexpected way. What once went wrong has now been reconciled- put right- through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” If you want to have a part in helping to make this world a better place, look at Jesus.

The Force, as it is understood in the Star Wars mythology, may be a fictional construct necessary for the telling of the story. But like most lasting stories, it nevertheless tells the truth. “It’s true; all of it.”  There is a God, and we come to know and understand and become empowered by that God through Jesus. And like the Force, He is always with us.

And that’s good news.

John: The Word Became Flesh

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 were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Most scholars believe John was the last of the four gospels to be written. That makes sense to me, for John’s perspective is quite different from that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I can imagine the author having access to the other three books and writing his in attempt to “fill in the blanks” and clarify the meaning of Jesus’s life and teachings. Where the synoptic gospels tell of Jesus’s miracles, John tells of Jesus’s signs, and most of them are different. Where the synoptic gospels record Jesus’s teachings in parables, John uses metaphors. Its theological sophistication and depth makes me think the author had many years to mull over his remembrances of what Jesus said and did, and what those things meant. John is very deliberate in what he chooses to include and exclude, and in his purpose for writing his gospel: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”

The book itself identifies the author only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, which has traditionally thought to have been the John who was one of the twelve disciples. However, some have put forth the intriguing idea that it might have been written by Lazarus, who is also referred to as beloved by Jesus.  That certainly puts a new spin on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, which is included in John, but not in the other three gospels. (And for some reason I’m seguing to this conversation in Star Trek 4.)
McCOY: Umm. Well, I just wanted to say it sure is nice to have your katra back in your head, not mine. What I mean is I may have carried your soul, but I sure couldn’t fill your shoes.
SPOCK: My shoes.
McCOY: Forget it! …Perhaps we could cover a little philosophical ground? Life, Death, Life. Things of that nature?
SPOCK: I did not have time on Vulcan to review the philosophical disciplines.
McCOY: Come on Spock, it’s me, McCoy! You really have gone where no man has gone before. Can’t you tell me what it felt like?
SPOCK: It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.
McCOY: You’re joking!
SPOCK: A joke is a story with a humorous climax.
McCOY: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?
SPOCK: Forgive me, Doctor, I am receiving a number of distress calls.
McCOY: I don’t doubt it!

The word translated as “word” in the passage above is the Greek word “logos”, which means much more than a symbolic representation used in speech or writing. If John had wanted us to think of “word” in such a literal way, he would have used the Greek word “lexis” instead.  In Greek philosophy, logos was the principle of rationality, logic, and reason, and John’s first readers would have understood that. “Logos” represents the meaning and purpose of not just life, but all creation.  Richard Rohr uses the word “blueprint” in an attempt to clarify its meaning to the modern reader. It also appears that John chose to begin his gospel with a deliberate parallel to Genesis 1:1, where “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

I have great respect for the Bible. I love to read and study it, and find that it says something new to me continually. I think that God guided the canonical committees responsible for selecting which books should be in it, and I think every part of it has something important to say. The Bible can lead us into a closer relationship with God. However,  I think it is a mistake to refer to the Bible as “the Word of God” because I think that phrase should be reserved for Jesus. Isn’t that what John is saying here?.”Logos” cannot be put into “lexis”; therefore “logos” took human form in the person of Jesus.  Jesus is the ultimate personification of the teaching mantra “show, don’t tell”. There are some cases where words are too confining to communicate reality, and the nature of God is one of them.The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is not 42: it’s Jesus. If you want to know what God is like and how God would like for us to behave, look at Jesus.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”   God is not absent or distant or uncaring, but present in the form of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The nature of the universe is not random, but inherently rational. The nature of God is not capricious or cruel, but like Jesus. who loved us and gave himself for us. And that’s good news to me!