The Word – 5th January 2020

Readings: Gen 1:1-5, John 1:1-18.

5, 10,15,20,   and the next number is…..?     25

1,10,2,20,3,30,4,40,5,   and the next number is?  50

0,1,4,9,16,25,    and the next number is?    36

1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34   and the next number is?    55

INTHEBEGINNINGGO   and the next letter is  D

You can work out the answers because there is order in the pattern.  With a little thought (some find it easier than others) you can work out what comes next.  There is a rational order which makes sense.  The world of science revolves around the reality that the earth is full of observable pattern that we can comprehend.  Our bodies are formed of wonderfully connected patterns and relationships that enable us to be, and enable medical science to make some wonderful discoveries that enhance life.  The world of music is another example of how notes and sounds can be put into patterns that make sense to us and good music will evoke something deep within us.   Of course it’s not always this way.  There is lots of mystery out there, and there is no shortage of chaos and unpredictability, some of you know this  painfully well in your lives.   Sometimes the world feels like this:

21,8, 45, 217, 7, 69   a random collection of jumbled numbers or

XFHATMKWOZ   random letters that have no meaning or

4,4,4,4,4,4,4,4,4, sameness and repetition going nowhere.

One of the great conundrums of our time I think is this:  is there some sort of pattern which makes some sense or is it all random chance.  Is life on earth a confusing cacophony.  Is there really pattern, or is it all random meaningless chance.  And if there is some hints of order and pattern, is there something behind that that we might call God, or are the hints of order just meaningless flashes of coincidence that exist because sometimes if you roll the dice you get 3 sixes in a row. 

Our Christian faith proclaims of course that there is something more to life than coincidence and random chance.  From a single molecule to a strand of DNA, from a bird in flight to the slow movement of a glacier, there’s a logic, a meaning, an unfolding pattern to it all.   Like wood, reality has a grain.  I like the image of the braided river which is so relevant to us in this place.  Our rivers cross the Canterbury plains with channels of water intertwining, but the water travels in complex paths always towards the sea where it will find a home.  If we pay attention, creation has pattern and as we encounter the pattern we can discover something of its source and purpose.   Our scriptures are clear from the very opening lines there is a Creator who is creating.  It’s poetry of course, not text book science, but God carefully creates, light and darkness, and as we read further sea and dry land, creatures of all sorts, and eventually there is the emergence of the first human beings.  We continue to evolve and creation is not a fixed event.   The point of the biblical poetry is that it is not mere random scattering of scrabble letters on a scrabble board and hoping there might be some words formed, but the letters are somehow placed in recognisable ways that form words.  Gods hand, or God’s breath is shaping and calling life into being. Some myself included are happy to see creation as a revelation of God alongside other revelations like our scriptures.

Of course we often struggle to make sense of what is.  Scenes of grief and tragedy as fire rips through vast areas of our neighbouring country.  Senseless violence that destroys life.  I watch a cat slowly play with a bird that has been caught.  A close family member gets cancer and is gone within weeks.  There is mystery but I for one still see a power at work, patterns of meaning.  I for one sense God at work and a universe that is evolving with purpose, heading somewhere.  There is providence at play.

The gospel of John adds insight to our story.  Mirroring the creation stories John has a special word for the pattern and meaning written into the universe by God.  He calls it Logos which is translated in most English Bibles as ‘Word’.   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodLogos is the rational principle or pattern through which life comes to be.  Logos is at work as the waters are separated and the different forms of life emerge in the seas and on the land.  It is if you like the guiding voice that calls life into being.  Logos is at work shaping the patterns of life,  establishing how everything is connected to everything else.  (This word logos by the way is a common word in our vocabulary.  Bio-logos or biology – the science of how natural life works and connects. Psycho-logos or psychology – the science of how minds work and observing mind patterns). 

But in an absolutely stunning statement John tells us The Word or Logos was made flesh in a man named Jesus.  In other words, if we want to know about the logic of the universe and what God is like we should pay attention to the Logos or logic that is found in the life of Jesus.  We should look at the patterns of life, the values, the wisdom found in the life of Jesus.  In his stories, in his wisdom, we will unlock the secrets of how things are supposed to be. 

In Jesus we discover this power at work in the universe we call God can be pictured metaphorically as a loving parent who enjoys connecting with their children.  We see Jesus often seeking to discern the leading and the wisdom of God.  In Jesus we see this power at work healing what is broken, restoring and forgiving.  We discover that we are connected to all life with no us and them, and all life is sacred.  We discover this power invites and rarely forces.  We see logos at work in the way he treated others, in his passion to stand up to injustice, in his concern to uphold human dignity especially for women and those downtrodden in some way.  The logic or patterns we find in Jesus lead us to walking a new path, the path of eternal or true life.

Of course there are other patterns to be found to live by.  We see around us the path of rivalry.  Under this logic the earth is a huge battlefield in which participants can survive only by competing, deceiving, or displacing their rivals.  In this universe the strongest and those who have some competitive advantage survive, the ruthless are rewarded and the meek and poor are crushed.  You fight for your own survival and conveniently forget about others.  We paddle our own boats and we hold tight to the rewards we gain.   It’s not the logos we see in Jesus.

Others live by the logic of compliance and keeping your head down.  Do what you are told, play by the rules, pay your dues, don’t rock the boat.  Taking risks, stepping out of the boat, trusting God or trusting the urgings of your own soul are all discouraged as irrational risky lunacy.  It’s not the logos we see in Jesus.

Another very common logic even within churches is to see the universe as a giant machine.  God has given us rules to live by, but God as a living presence to all intense and purposes is dead.   There is according to this logic no other power at work in our world, no presence of a living God.  Listening for God, inviting God to transform our living, praying or any spiritual practice is of low priority.  It is not the logos we see in Jesus.

The image of our great braided rivers in Canterbury is an image that speaks to our lives and to the life of earth.  They represent not some meaningless wandering but an interconnection of paths heading to the sea.  There is a power guiding shaping, leading.  In our own lives the creation stories of Genesis and of John offer us another alternative to the logic of rivalry, the logic of compliance, or the logic of meaningless mechanism.   They dare us to believe that the universe runs on the logic of God which is a logic of creativity, kindness, grace, and love.   It is a living alive logic seeking to transform your life and mine, and indeed to bring a new creation to birth as Paul reminds us often.   The universe is God’s creative project, filled with beauty, opportunity, challenge, and meaning.  As we step over the threshold into a New Year, a new decade, my plea is that you might take the logic of Jesus more seriously in your lives.  Trust in the power we see in Jesus.  Walk with renewed hope that Jesus is the Way.   Put more time into your spiritual practices and launch your boat afresh into the braided river that is full of life and adventure as it heads towards the sea. God is leading all of history somewhere larger and broader and better for all humanity.  We can be part of that through Jesus the Logos, the Word.

Dugald Wilson  5 January 2020