Tag Archives: John 1:1-5

The Word Reflected in Stained Glass

Sermon given on Sunday, January 14, 2018:  This sermon serves as an introduction to sermons based on the images included in the stained glass window.images

Special note: The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, has a stained glass window that captures God’s story and during a conference the images mesmerized me. The next few weeks, God’s story will be shared based on the artistic images of the window. Thank you to COR for investing in such an artistic interpretation so The Story can live in all who view it or who learn The Story shared by others.  See attached link.

 

Scripture connections:

Genesis 1:1-2, NLT

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

John 1:1-5, NLT

1In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Revelation 1:7-8, NLT

7Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
And everyone will see him—
even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
will mourn for him.
Yes! Amen!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

Reflection through art: The Word Reflected in Stained Glass

Sitting in our sanctuary in rural Missouri, we are wrapped by stained glass windows that share God’s story in brilliant images and vivid colors. The symbolism of the stained glass windows reflects the literature of the Bible; and we are privileged to be surrounded by these windows.

Stained glass windows have spoken to me since a child sitting in my hometown sanctuary where the windows allowed smoky light to filter in during the Sunday morning service as the sun rose behind them. The pew in which I sat each Sunday, I watched the window of Jesus holding the lost lamb. I suspect many recognize that story because they too have seen that picture either in their Bible or in a frame hanging on a wall or in a stained glass window like I did.

My awareness of God’s story and fascination for the stained glass windows probably led to the overwhelming sense of awe as I stepped into the newest sanctuary (hardly an accurate word for the enormous room or auditorium) at Leawood’s (Kansas) Church of the Resurrection. The window is huge and measures 35 feet by 92 feet. [The completed jigsaw puzzle is preserved and on display so others may inspect it as we work through the stories and the meaning of the work.]

Briefly, the window has three primary panels that merge together, bordering along a river path that wraps around the central panel. The first section reflects the Old Testament, the middle section is Christ’s story as found in the New Testament, and the final section is The Church after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The window is packed with images—some very familiar, some less so. But every element of the window carries God’s story forward. There is no time better than today to begin a journey through God’s story as shared in the window.

Let’s begin with Genesis 1:1-2, NLT

 

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

 

These words share the beginning of our understanding of Creation. The world God created is represented as coming out of the cosmos in the puzzle, a dark purple circle of heavenly-like bodies—an image I recognize from sitting out gazing at the night sky.

What better time than these first weeks after Christmas to review the opening of Genesis and consider the relationship of God to this world. How one perceives Creation, or explains how the world came to be, is not an issue for me. What matters is that there is an omniscient being I know as God, and no matter what, I am convinced that God’s story includes the stories of the Old Testament and led to the necessity of God joining us in the human form of Jesus Christ.

Reading the gospel of John, the Story is summarized in those first five verses:

1In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

 

The words we use each and every day are the very tools to carry God’s story forward. The Bible’s words record the relationship of humans to God, provides examples of life challenges and how faith in God makes the human experience bearable. The words shared through the Bible warn, teach, and love us.

John identifies God as The Word. From the cosmos, the Word became the world we know. The Word carries the story forward so all humanity can understand. The Word gives us the ability to tell the story in so many ways—from the visual images as we see in our own stained glass, in the art hanging on our walls, in the sounds of the music we hear, in the words of the literature we read, and in the words we share with one another.

John is one of four different views of Jesus’ story. The middle panel of the COR stained glass window takes The Word and records it visually for us. The Word shared in the gospels tell the stories of Jesus’ life, but maybe more importantly the words provide us the lessons for living in this world with others from around this world.

Interestingly, John’s gospel ends with these last two verses:

24 This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate.

25 Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

The reality of the Bible is that there is no way that The Word is complete. The Word continues as The Church fueled by the Holy Spirit and this is illustrated in the third phase of COR’s stained glass window.

The panel is filled with the images of disciples who have carried The Word forward around this globe in almost every different setting one might think up. As Jesus the man died on the cross, he commissioned his disciples to become The Church. He did not say build a structure to keep the faithful inside, he said to be The Church. The Word continues in the words, the actions, and the story of the disciples that continue following Jesus’ teachings.

The gospel John shares Jesus’ vision for The Church in the book of Revelation. Again the words confirm and continue the timeless story:

7Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
And everyone will see him—
even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
will mourn for him.
Yes! Amen!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

As we continue to review the story of God as shared in the words of our Bible and the stories of the people who illustrate living a life faithful to God and serving as The Church, we will see that the gift of Jesus Christ provides all the gifts that won’t break: hope, love, joy and peace.

By following The Word, the Teacher and the Holy Spirit as all those before us and those reflected in the COR’s stained glass, we will met Jesus Christ personally. We will see that God is “the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end . . . the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for all your disciples

Who share the Word in the Bible,

In the visual arts of stained glass,

And in the auditory arts of music.

 

We ask for your presence in our lives

As we find you speaking to us

In so many different ways:

Through written words

Through visual arts

And through music.

 

Guide us, too, as we continue your work

Sharing The Word in new and surprising ways.

May we be the Church

Sharing the gifts of hope, love, joy and peace. –Amen

 

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Mother Nature prompts apology

The last Sunday morning of 2017 and Mother Nature is getting our attention.  The churches in our area have canceled primarily because of the risk involved in getting the parishioners out.

I have one more sermon from the Advent study, Christmas Presents That Won’t Break, by James Moore and Jacob Armstrong.  Christmas does not really conclude until Epiphany, January 6, therefore the last sermon will be on January 7.  I apology for the interruption, but Christ’s birthday is just the beginning.

My Sunday morning sometimes begins very early and I listen to Dr. Charles Stanlely, In Touch Ministries, and this morning he was speaking about Isaiah 64:4.  We are to wait on the Lord.  That is so difficult, and I needed to hear his words about waiting.

We live in such a state of immediate gratification for almost everything in our lives.  I opened up my Bible and read through the verse, and decided I needed to read the Christmas story again.  I read Luke 2, and then turned to Matthew also.  The references in my Life Application Bible kept noting how Jesus’ birth fulfilled the prophecies.

The prophets spokes at different times in different settings, but the message remained the same.  I am reminded how long the Jewish faithful waited for the Messiah and wonder why we think answers from God have to be on our terms.  We must place our faith in God and then wait for him.  The key, though, is to be open to his speaking or showing us what he wants for us–not from us.

Therefore, as 2017 ends and Mother Nature reminds us that we are just part of this world.  Maybe canceling church reminds us that we are subject to all of God’s creation.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May you find peace with God.

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Know what you believe: What does your God look like? (theology)

given on Sunday, September 18, 2016

Scripture connections:

  • Genesis 1-2:4
  • John 1:1-5
  • Revelation 1:4-8

 

This week the moon reached its full glory: The Harvest Moon according to the calendar. Stepping out at 2:08 in the morning, I witnessed the Harvest Moon in a unique setting.

Fog was moving in on the ridge and I could literally hear it. I could not see any stars but the moon was shining so much that the fog acted like it was trying to sneak around.

Looking around the back yard, I could hear little sounds as though it was trying to rain, but it wasn’t. I watched the fog creep in. With it came the tiny little clicks, yet there were no drops of rain and the moon lit up the yard so clearly that I began to see the fog moving in closer.

These moments in nature bring me closer to God than any other time. I can sense the presence and witness the awe of creation, knowing God is with me. As I stood watching and listening, the eeriness of the scene might frighten one, but I was frozen in fascination. God created all of this and I am blessed to be part of it.

God is life. God is love. God is the beginning and the end not to mention all that is in between. God identified himself as I Am. God is The Word. God is the Alpha and the Omega. God is Jesus Christ. God is the Holy Spirit. And I am part of it all.

The full moon at 2:08 in the morning shown at 4:08 in the morning just as brilliantly as it did earlier, but this time no fog. This time it shone through the closed blind in the dining room enough that I could put out the pet food with no other light. God is always present much like the full moon during the night.

At times like this, I know I need to sleep but the world is so alive and so private to me. The early morning hours are fresh; the mind has slept enough to be crisp, too. And in the quiet of our busy world, I am in the presence of God. How can anyone question the omnipotence of God the creator?

Knowing what one believes releases that person to be fully part of God’s world. Witnessing God in the manner that best matches any one of us independently is God’s presence in our lives. For me, the early mornings before the world wakes up is holy.

Yes, my body needs sleep and I am cranky when it seems the pets are demanding more than I want to give at that very moment. Yes, I wish I could sleep another uninterrupted hour or so. Yes, I fuss because I am up and ready for the day to begin even though no one else is. But, when I am honest, these early, early morning hours are my best moments with God.

Do you know what you believe? Do you know when and where you are truly with God? Do you let God speak to you?

Turning to scripture, I often struggle to find clarity in the words. Yet each time I tackle a reading, I find wisdom. I read the study notes and discover new ways of thinking about the verses. After witnessing the moon and the fog, I woke up later with words dancing in my mind: I Am. The Alpha and the Omega. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.

And, then I saw the light of the moon shining even more brightly because the fog was gone. God is with me. God speaks to me even as I feed the pets, turn on the lights, and open the door to listen more closely.

Theology is a word scholars use to categorize the study of God. Yet theology is not simply a study, it is a format for any of us trying to learn more about God. Theology can be God in our lives. In fact, one source defines theology as how God works through Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

Consider this quote:

 

If faith is the direct response to the hearing of God’s word of grace and judgment, theology is the subsequent but necessary reflection of the church on its language and practice of faith. (Migliore, p2)

 

With that definition of theology, each one of us is a theologian. We are all responding to God in a way that makes sense to each one of us. The key to following God is how we use God’s direction in our lives right here, right now.

God is. God creates. God loves. God gives us grace. Whether or not we can explain our personal theology, we live it. We are God’s creation even though we altar our own world in so many different ways, and we tend to make mistakes. God’s grace is ever present, also.      Whether we recognize our errors or not determines the closeness we experience to God. When we do wrong, we must recognize the error, talk to God, ask for forgiveness, accept God’s grace, and then resume life in a Christ-like manner.

Personally, I accept God’s reality when I witness the glory of creation. As I attempt to understand my personal theology, I must admit that nature speaks to me. I see God’s wonder in the world he created. I understand that this world we live in is ever changing. I appreciate that God’s creation included the possibilities of evolving naturally or evolving through any realm of reasons due to human interaction with other humans or animals or any other facet of this world in which we live.

Why do we think that God is not part of science? God is in all that exists in this world. God created a world with all the possibilities that life can and will change. The fact that God created caretakers for this world shows that as a creator change would occur. The caretakers may have received instructions, but even the caretakers had freedom to think.

Scholars have categorized theology into a study of God with a range of perspectives. Creation theology is just one that speaks to me personally. It helps me to understand how humans are simply part of this world and we have a way of messing it up but also of preserving and even improving it.

Theological studies include various methods to understand how God is part of our lives. Biblical theology in emphasizes how the recorded stories and words explain God. Historical theology follows the Christian story through time, people and place. Philosophical theology tracks the various ways people have reasoned and explained Christianity experience. Practical theology analyzes the practices of the church, including the different forms of ministry. And there is the systematic theology. Systematic theology might be viewed as a broader study as it includes “. . . rethinking and reinterpreting the doctrines and practices of the church in the light of what the church itself avows to be of central importance—namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ that liberates and renews life.” (Migliore, p 11)

Knowing what you believe is not necessarily easy, but it makes understanding how God works in your life much clearer. We struggle to manage our daily lives, but knowing God is present with us through these daily struggles defines the quality of our life. Once we are comfortably living our theology, we also become God’s presence in this world for others.

Knowing what you believe, beginning with the Triune God and then on through how God works in our world, brings us closer to God. Living the Christian lifestyle also puts us into an outward-thinking mode so that we reach out to serve one another as God wants us to serve. We truly become caretakers of this world one person to another, one home to another, one community to another, and even on to other communities around this world.

The sun has not yet risen, but the glorious sounds of God’s world surround me even at this very moment. My theology may begin with creation, but it has continued throughout history. I see God in the context of the moment. I see God in the beauty but also in the misery of human life.

God is love. God gives grace. God created, but he also gave his creation the freedom to continue evolving. Knowing what I believe helps me to serve one another in love so that God’s creation can continue to grow.

Closing prayer

Dear Father, creator of heaven and earth,

Thank you for life itself.

Thank you for freedom to think and to do.

Thank you for your grace and forgiveness.

 

Guide us, day in and day out,

To learn who you are.

Guide us in seeking to understand

The story of Jesus Christ.

Guide us to accept the Holy Spirit

So we may follow Jesus more closely.

 

Be with us along our journey

Learning about your love, grace and forgiveness.

Be with us as we struggle

To manage life challenges.

Be with us as we reach out in love

To others needing your love and grace.

 

May we find peace and happiness

In the glory of your creation.

May we find the joy of serving one another

In the same way as Jesus did.

May we deliver grace through the Holy Spirit

So others may know the promise of everlasting life.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

 

Citation:  Migliore, Daniel.  Faith Seeking Understand:  An introduction to Christian theology, 3rd edition.  Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI.  2014.

 

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1. Laying the foundation: Scripture, The Word

Building Our Christian Foundation: a sermon series on the basics of Christianity

  1. Laying the foundation: Scripture, The Word  given on Sunday, January 11, 2015

 

Over Christmas or on birthdays, I expect many discovered Legos or Mega blocks wrapped in the pretty packages. Or maybe it is a set of Lincoln Logs that trigger the imagination of building log cabins, houses, and forts. Kids love to create all kinds of structures with these blocks; and whenever kids begin playing with the pieces, the imaginations take off.

Just ask them to tell you what they are building. The stories show just what is going on in their minds while they pick the pieces up, lock them together and buildings, towns, or even cars, trucks or airplanes appear. Telling the story of what is being built can be as entertaining as simply watching the structures grow, shift, fall and rebuild.

Building Christian faith is very similar. The very foundation of our faith begins with the stories of the Bible. The characters and their stories are the very bricks and mortar that build that foundation of our faith.

The stories can be as entertaining as any high drama found on the television or in the movies. As we listen to the stories, we begin wondering how we would act if we were in those situations. Of course the settings can be very different than what we are experiencing now; but as in all literature, the stories are timeless because the message is the foundation, not the setting.

The verse from I Peter appeared on the opening screen when I clicked on Biblegateway.com, which is my primary source for scripture searches. I did not plan on using it, but I was on the search for today’s scripture and this was Saturday’s verse (January 10, 2015):

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”1 Peter 1:15-16 NLT

 

Those words confirmed the very thought I was gelling into today’s message. The scripture is the direct link to God.

Scripture is the foundation for all Christians as they begin building their faith. Each book is included after very thorough review by theologians and educators. Some might wonder why the Old Testament is included since the New Testament is the story of Christ, but the foundation begins developing with those first words of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

 

Before everything, God existed. Life is filled with mysteries, and it is easy to get trapped into the arguments concerning whether or not God is real. There is no evidence that science can provide to prove or to disprove that God is real and proof is simply not necessary. The scripture tells us that the “Spirit of God” was the creator, existing before everything.

Being Christian begins with the story shared in the Bible. The United Methodist Church has defined the Bible as “sacred text” and googling what Methodists believe, the website about.com makes this simple statement: “The Bible is considered inerrant and inspired in its original manuscripts, and it contains everything one needs for salvation.”

The Bible and all the stories provide the foundation of Christianity. As John Wesley continued his ministry, he also identified the value of the Bible as the very foundation of Christian faith. He included in his works of piety the study of Scripture. The same about.com website listed among the descriptors of Methodist doctrine this statement: “Close adherence to the teachings of Scripture is essential to the faith because Scripture is the Word of God.”

The opening words of John also makes the definitive statement:

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

 

Scripture tells the story, it provides the lessons, and it speaks to us whenever we read and study it. The church began with the first Apostles that Jesus called to ministry, and the stories from the New Testament share how God wants us to live using the New Law rather than the Old Law found in the Old Testament.

Learning how to live a Christian lifestyle is not easy, but through the words of the Bible, we can. Wesley read and studied the Scripture daily and expected his followers to do so even holding them accountable during class meetings (now referred to as small groups). The essentials of the Methodist beliefs were stated in the website article in very clear words:

  1. Shun evil and avoid partaking in wicked deeds at all costs,
  2. Perform kind acts as much as possible, and
  3. Abide by the edicts of God the Almighty Father.

 

The scripture provides all the examples, the methods, and the authority needed for us to live by these three simple rules. The hard part is practicing it enough to get it right but most importantly that it becomes habit.

Practice, practice, and practice some more. Laying a foundation takes careful planning, using the best products, and making adjustments as needed in order to erect a building that can withstand all the storms that nature can slam into the outer walls. Creating a Christian foundation for our own lives takes the same care. If we do make the foundation strong, it will last throughout the generations yet to come.

Practice building your foundation. Share the secrets with your family and friends. Shun evil that surrounds you. Practice random and planned acts of kindness. And keep adding to your foundation by reading the scripture. The stronger your foundation, the more you can tell the story to others—whether in modeling the story, telling it in your own words, creating a piece of art, or even singing a song. God’s message is as strong as your Christian foundation.

Closing prayer

Dear God, the Word,

Speak to us through the scriptures,

Through the work of others,

Through the visual arts,

Through the melodies of music,

And through the models of faith.

We all want to build strong foundations

Of Christian faith.

Guide us to plan ways

To build our own foundations.

Keep us focused on the process

Of reading and studying scripture.

Then let us share the story

In all the ways that we can

So others may discover the Word

And how it creates a strong foundation

On which to build one’s life

And to bring others to know you, too.

Amen.

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