In the Midst of Lent

Easter is a highly celebrated day in the life of the Christian faith and rightly so. The days of Lent, however, are the days of preparation. It’s prayer time, study time, extra periods of reflection and meditation. It is also the time when we carve out something special to do or leave aside. As with all good resolutions and plans, planning and tipping one’s toes into the new water is exciting and meaningful. Staying the course, however, is not easy. At this time of Lent, it may be good to examine your planned spiritual journey. As John Wesley would ask, “How is it with your soul?”

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Image by James Chan from Pixabay

Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Oh Holy One, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by Thee, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”

— Rachel Naomi Remen (from inward/outward May 31, 2012)

Today’s blog post was written by Robert H. Spain. Robert Spain is a retired United Methodist bishop and former chaplain of the United Methodist Publishing House.

 

Today’s Bible Lesson

The Word Became Flesh

by Robert V. Dodd

This bible lesson originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Christian Living in the Mature Years.

LESSON: JOHN 1:1-14

BACKGROUND: SAME

A violent thunderstorm came up one summer evening, accompanied by loud claps of thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning. A little girl who was already in bed and almost asleep was startled by the thunder and cried out for her daddy. He came to her bedroom and sought to reassure her by saying, “Honey, there’s nothing for you to worry about. God is with you.” The little girl said, “I already know that, Daddy. But sometimes I need somebody with skin on.”

Sometimes we need a faith with skin on it, a faith embodied in human flesh. Personal faith can be encouraged and enlivened by a friendly pat on the back, a simple hug, a vigorous handshake, or reassuring words. Sometimes a note, an e-mail, a text message, or a phone call at just the right time is all we need to know that someone cares about us and is praying for us.

In what ways do you embody faith for others? As followers of Jesus, the incarnation of God, we are called to be physical representations of Christ for others. In the Orthodox tradition the Virgin Mary is referred to as the God-bearer (theotokos, in Greek). This refers to her having carried the divine Son of God in her womb from his conception to birth. In a sense, each of us carries Christ within us even though he is not confined to us, to anyone, or to anything else. Martin Luther once said that every follower of Jesus is a “little Christ.” Wherever we go, we carry Christ with us. Christ lives in and through our life.

Because we claim to be followers of Christ, you and I represent Christ to others. This means that the only gospel that some people may ever read is contained within our own character, personality, priorities and attitudes, conversation and behavior. We may be the closest that some people will ever get to experiencing God in this life. That is both an awesome responsibility and a tremendous opportunity. We encounter people every day who need to experience the Christian faith embodied in human flesh. We may be the only opportunity that some people have to encounter the living Christ incarnated.

Neither Creation nor evolution can be adequately proved to those who cling to the opposite position. Since religion and science ask different questions, they will find different answers. Religion asks, “Who created the heavens and the earth?” The perspective of faith suggests that behind this wonderfully complex and mysterious world must have been a creative intelligence far superior to our own. But science asks, “How did our world come into being?” It seeks to understand the process involved in the formation of the material realm.

The Bible is not a book of science, and it would be a mistake to try to understand it as one. As a book of faith, its purpose is to encourage faith by describing the ways in which God communicates his presence, will, and purpose. The Bible calls us to make a response to the offer of God’s eternal salvation. The Bible teaches us how to grow in our knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus Christ and in our ability to serve him faithfully and tell others about him effectively. Science cannot do that. This does not mean that the Christian faith is opposed to science. However, the Christian faith addresses issues that science does not and cannot address.

Stephen Hawking recently said he believes that everything in the universe originally came from nothing. Faith would ask, “So who created everything out of nothing?” From the faith perspective inclusion is that God did. Science tends to look at things statistically and objectively. Faith is most often addressed personally and anecdotally. Science develops through experimentation and observation. Faith develops through personal experience. However, one discipline could be used to enlighten the understanding of the other, and the conclusions could overlap.

When he was six or seven years old, our eldest son, Justin, asked me, “How did God create the heavens and the earth? While I was trying to think of a theologically satisfying explanation, he answered his own question by saying, “I know! God’s got powers.” That explanation was satisfactory for his young mind. We have various scientific theories concerning how the material world originated. Most scientists subscribe to the theory of the big bang, which says that all the matter that exists in the universe emerged from a particle of material smaller than a marble used in a child’s game or even as small as the period at the end of this sentence. Yet this matter is said to have expanded into its present form in less than one trillionth of a second. Quantum mechanics tells us about parallel universes and the infinite immensity of what lies beyond Earth. We are told that there are billions of solar systems in our Milky Way Galaxy and billions of galaxies in our universe.

Quantum mathematics further informs us that there may well be billions of parallel universes that exist in the same space as ours but at different vibrations or dimensions of reality. So the mathematical probability is that somewhere in some galaxy or universe is a planet very much like our own, occupied by people who look a lot like us, who are doing and saying and thinking things very similar to what we are—only with some minor variations. Most people find that concept to be either dizzying or energizing in its implications. But the Christian faith tells us that regardless of how many worlds, galaxies, universes, or dimensions may exist, God created every one of them. Not only did God create matter and energy, God continues to be involved in the fine tuning of that matter and energy, both visible and invisible. And the wonder of it all is that, as seemingly insignificant as we are when compared to the vastness of creation, the God who created everything cared enough about us to send his Son to represent God in the flesh.

While some religions consider the spiritual realm to be superior to the material realm and even portray the material realm as being so evil that God will not associate with it, the story of Creation contained in Genesis 1:1–2:25 affirms that the material world is neither intrinsically evil nor inferior to the world of the spirit. In Genesis, God pronounces each portion of Creation to be good. This means that it fulfilled the purpose for which it was created. The incarnation of God’s divine Son is also an affirmation of the value of the material world.

If you have ever felt insignificant, just remember that the entire material realm, especially this earth, was created as a place for us to live. God cared enough about us to send his Son to redeem us and restore us to full fellowship with himself. Jesus came to be the ultimate physical manifestation of God’s love and power to forgive, redeem, and make new. His life, teachings, death, and resurrection not only show us a better way to live but open the pathway for us to live that better way. The word became flesh so that we could know God intimately and experience God personally. It is impossible for us to fully grasp with our minds the God who created all material reality. But we can relate to God through his Son, who walked this earth as a human being. We can read descriptions of what Jesus did and what he said. And we can experience his continuing presence in our life through the Holy Spirit. Humankind had rejected every means that God used to communicate his presence and will so that eventually God sent his Son to physically represent God on earth. The story was once told of an angel who asked God, “If the people reject Jesus, do you have an alternative way for them to experience salvation?” God is reported to have replied, “There is no other alternative.”

Senior adults seem to have more time and motivation to consider ultimate realities and the issues of life and death. The Christian faith addresses those concerns. Take a good long look at Jesus, and you will see a God who is on your side: the God who wants more than anything else for you to respond to his love and the offer of forgiveness so that you can enter into fellowship with God throughout this life and for all eternity. How are you responding to God’s love and forgiveness? How are you seeking to deepen your fellowship with God through Christ?

KEY VERSE The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 66

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