SERMON FOR EVENSONG at St Mary’s 4.2.18

As we look at the astonishing words at the beginning of John’s gospel, we need to grasp the fact that in the first decades of the Christian church was confronted with a very basic problem. Christianity began in Judaism. Ali its original members were Jews, as Jesus was, in human terms. Jewish words, Jewish thought were inevitably at its heart. But by about AD60 it has been estimated that there were a hundred thousand Greeks for every Jew in the new church. But the Greeks had no sense of a promised messiah, which was at the centre of Judaism. How then was Christianity to be presented to the Greek world? Somehow the Christian church needed to create a predisposition to receive its beliefs. About the year 100 a man called John, living in Greek Ephesus, was fascinated by the challenge to make Christianity intelligible, and welcoming.

Suddenly he realised that concept of the word was common to both Jewish and Greek thought. And so John said to the Greek people: If you wish to see that word of God, if you wish to see the creative power of God, if you wish to see that word which brought the world into existence and which gives light and life to everyone, look at Jesus Christ. In him the word of God came among you. Greeks knew all about the word, the Logos, the creating, guiding, directing power of God, making the universe and sustaining it, and giving people the mind of God, enabling them to reason, to think, to know. John said to the Greeks, the word has become flesh. We might say instead, the mind of God became a person.

We have just heard the magisterial introduction to the fourth gospel in which the Evangelist gathers together the great themes which he will be using to tell his story of how God came in human flesh, as God’s Word. We shall hear of light and darkness, of life, death and rebirth, of truth, of witness, of seeing and believing. Each of these fundamental themes will be used in his profound interpretation of the life and death of the person called Jesus. The most important point all made by the evangelist is that though no-one has seen God, we have seen and will see his glory. This glory is what God’s only-begotten son has made known to us.

During the Christmas season which finally ended two days ago at Candlemas, our eyes have turned towards the infant Jesus in a manger, who is of the Father’s heart begotten. But when John goes on to write about glory he is taking us to Jesus as a man upon the cross, a man showing us the depth of God’s love in an extraordinary act of self-giving. This part of the glory is not just something that exists purely or exclusively between the Father and the Son. This glory also exists in all to whom Jesus has been given: in John 17.10 we read that Jesus says that all mine are yours and all yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. As Jesus’ followers, John draws us to the astonishing conclusion that we are called to make this glory our own as well.