John 1.1-14- In the beginning…

Fr Alec
Sunday, February 8, 2015 - 9:30am


When I was boy, I was especially keen on Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Not only was it extremely funny, but in its way it succeeded in raising any number of fascinating questions for its, (mostly young) readers. Conceived originally as a radio series, before becoming a series of books, it followed the baffled character of Ford Prefect, the last remaining inhabitant of Earth, in his travels across the Universe, sustained only by advice from the eponymous Guidebook, which had the words DON’T PANIC written in large reassuring letters on the cover.


The entry for ‘Space’ in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide ran thus…


"Space," it says, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindboggingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen…’


…and so on.  One of the central themes in the series was the search for meaning in the midst of an existence which seemed so often to be random, chaotic and senseless. At one point, for example, an inquisitive alien race build a mighty super-computer called Deep Thought to find the answer to the Eternal Question- the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. For centuries it grinds away at the problem until the fateful day when its program has run its course.  The answer, it declares, is 42.  Discerning the exact nature of the question, however, is an altogether more difficult proposition.


Similar questions of scale and meaning are raised by our passage today from the Gospel of John.  We are used to hearing this passage at Christmas time, when our focus is, quite properly, on the Incarnation. The fact that ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us’.  However, approaching John’s Prologue afresh, as we draw close to Lent, it is helpful to consider how it begins…‘In the beginning…’


When faced with the vastness of the Universe, the overwhelming scale of everything that is, and perceiving that humanity is less than a speck in the cosmic whole, and its history but the tiniest point in the infinite progress of time we feel appropriately humbled.

As we gaze up at stars that are so distant that their light has taken millennia to reach us, it is easy to question whether our fate is of any particular importance in the scheme of things.


Indeed, we may find ourselves asking whether the salvation of humanity is anything more than a parochial event- a sideshow in the grand design.


But our gospel today challenges this. The Son of God is identified with the Word, the logos.  The intelligence or organising principle behind all things.  By declaring that ‘In the beginning was the Word’ he establishes the primacy of God. This Word, this Christ, is not solely a human being locked into time and change, but belongs to the very essence of God. The man Jesus whom we worship is one and the same with the eternal mind of God which has always been and ever will be.


The opening words of John’s gospel

‘In the beginning…’

invite us to continue with the familiar lines from the opening of Genesis

‘In the beginning…God created the heavens and the earth.’


In Jesus, God begins again, he renews, his creation.

Just as in the book of Genesis, God speaks and things happen…

‘Let there be light! And there was light’

…so here in the gospel of John, the same creative Word that he speaks takes flesh and lives among us.


Far from being insignificant, humanity is the place where God chooses to enter into the whole material realm- to reboot His creation and bring it to fulfilment. For us this is the transformation and Transfiguration of our lives, the forgiveness of our sins and the revelation of unforeseen possibilities for human fulfilment, but Christ’s resurrection at Easter has a broader Cosmic significance. It is the redemption of everything that has been brought forth by God since the very beginning from futility and chaos and destruction.


As we approach Lent and prepare our selves for the Easter mystery, this vision of God’s creation offers an important opportunity to readjust our perspective. To look beyond the narrow bounds of our own lives, and to see the Grace of God at work in every atom of the Universe. Jesus comes to establish the Kingdom of God – His overall mastery and Lordship of his creation.


The new creation in Jesus Christ is concerned with the resolution of tensions, and reconciliation of divisions. Just as in the beginning, God separated light from darkness, water from dry land, woman from man; so in his new creation, he gathers all things to himself creating unity from division, and harmony from discord. Through Jesus, God involves us in his creativity, and we experience it as healing, being made whole, as forgiveness, being reconciled, as communion, being made one.


As we look forward to Lent, we should be preparing ourselves to experience this time of fasting, prayer and self-denial as an opportunity. A chance to still ourselves, tune out the background noise from our lives, and observe God’s healing at work within our own souls.

This, after all, is why we are here today. To find at God’s table a place to bring our pains and fears, our wounds and disappointments, and lay them down, and be healed in an encounter with the Word made flesh for us.