Straight
St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
27 December 2017
St. John the Evangelist did not waste any ink when he penned his Gospel. Unlike many sermons, he did not give us a long and shallow introduction to ease us into the deep water of the divine mystery. He does not begin with a treatise explaining how God the Word becomes incarnate of the Virgin Mary. John knows full well that this is a fact to be proclaimed and stated in its raw form, not carefully led up to. It is not to be cut with verbal water or mixed with rhetorical rice to keep it from offending our theological or literary palate. No, he gives it to us straight at 150-proof. There is no way of proclaiming the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, without serving it straight.
 
Perhaps much of our Christmas merrymaking is calculated to cut the strength of the divine Word. We want to blunt the mystery with the mundane. Taken at 150-proof the mystery leaves a trail of fire and burns through our pious misperceptions, leaving us with throats seared silent. Our gasping silence enables God to speak. And speak He has in the person of His Son, who was made flesh and dwelt for a while among us.
 
St. John just set before His readers the sublime fact of our faith, that God the Word was always and that He saw to our salvation by becoming flesh. No possible explanation of such a mystery could ever be taken to be sufficient. Human reason will never look upon the Child of Bethlehem and recognize Him as very God of very God. Only God the Holy Spirit could lead us to confess the mystery of our faith; that God was reconciling the world to Himself through God the Word. He did. And so we confess. Straight.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church
   Martin Luther
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (Jn 1:1-3).
 
"From the very beginning (Jn 1:1-3) the evangelist, John, teaches and documents most convincingly the sublime article of our holy Christian faith according to which we believe and confess the one true, almighty, and eternal God. But he states expressly that three distinct Persons dwell in that same single divine essence, namely, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father begets the Son from eternity, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, etc. Therefore, there are three distinct Persons, equal in glory and majesty; yet there is only one divine essence.
 
"The Second Person, the Son, and neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit, assumed human nature. He was born of the Virgin Mary when the day of redemption was to dawn. This Son of God, born of the Father in eternity, John first calls 'the Word.' He says: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.' Later he speaks of His incarnation when he says: 'And the Word became flesh' (Jn 1:14). St. Paul speaks similarly in Galatians: 'But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman' (Gal 4:4).
 
"I am accustomed to submit a rather plain and crude illustration in an effort to make this birth of the Son of God somewhat intelligible: As a human son derives his flesh, blood, and being from his father, so the Son of God, born of the Father, received His divine essence and nature from the Father from eternity. But this illustration, as well as any other, is far from adequate; it fails to portray fully the impartation of the divine majesty. The Father bestows His entire divine nature on the Son. But the human father cannot impart his entire nature to his son; he can give only a part of it. This is where the analogy breaks down.
 
"Thus a painting of wine may possess the semblance and likeness of wine, but wine it is not. It does not quench the thirst and gladden the heart of man (Ps 104:15). Likewise, a painting of water may have the appearance of water, but it is not real water which can be drunk or used for washing and cleansing, similarly, a human father imparts his nature to his son, but not his complete nature, only a fragment of it. In the Godhead, however, the entire divine nature and essence passes into the Son; yet the Son, who remains in the same Godhead with the Father, is one God together with Him. Likewise, the Holy Spirit partakes of the same divine majesty and nature with the Father and the Son.
 
"This must be accepted by faith. No matter how clever, acute, and keen reason may be, it will never grasp and comprehend it. If it were susceptible to our wisdom, then God would not need to reveal it from heaven or proclaim it through Holy Scripture. So be governed by this fact and say: 'I believe and confess that there is one eternal God and, at the same time, three distinct Persons, even though I cannot fathom and comprehend this. For Holy Scripture, which is God's Word, says so; and I abide by what it states.'" 

Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, 1.1-3

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
 
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
 
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
(ESV)
Collect for St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
Merciful Lord, cast the bright beams of Your light upon your Church that, being instructed in the doctrine of Your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John, we may come to the light of everlasting life; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 
For Barbara Dube, in thanksgiving for a successful lung transplant, that the Lord who grants life and breath would guard her life and sustain her
 
For all those who are suffering from slavery to substance abuse, that they might be rescued by their heavenly Father who wants to be their Lord
 
For all the men and women in uniform who are far from home stationed in harm's way, that they would hear the message of peace from God
Art: MARATTI, Carlo  The Holy Night (1650s)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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