John 1:1-5, 10-18
Philippians 2: 5-11
At the beginning of the movie A River Runs Through It, an elderly narrator is setting up the story of his family by explaining how and where he grew up. It's Robert Redfords' voice, but the words are the words of Norman Maclean. He was the son of a Presbyterian minister in Missoula, MT, and his father was an avid fly fisherman. On Sundays, he would walk with his two sons, including the author, down the Big Blackfoot River to unwind between services. The scene is of the minister picking up a rock out of the river that had circular markings on it. It was a sedimentary rock, and the marking were where rain had fallen and struck the mud, which became rock without those shapes ever having been washed out or rubbed off.
The author remembers his father saying that those rocks were half a billion years old, but beneath those rocks, even older than that, are the words of God. And if you listen closely, you can still hear that voice. So, he told them to listen. And if they're old enough and wise enough, someday they would hear.
It the world that most of us live in, this is crazy talk. Below the rocks are more rocks, then the crust, and below that is the mantle, and then the core of the earth. Most of us live in a world where the only things that are real are those we can sense--hear, touch, feel, measure, taste, see. It's hard to believe in God, because we can't see God. It's hard to believe that Jesus died for us, and some of us just don't buy it. Even more don't really believe that Jesus was dead and rose again.
But I think that Norman Maclean's father was aware of another type of truth. I've read the book and I've seen the movie, but it wasn't until recently that I really heard those first five minutes of so of the movie. Beneath the rocks are the words of God. O course he isn't talking in terms of the laws of geology, of deposits of rock beneath other deposits of rock generally being older, though in a sense, he's right there, too. What he is saying is that he understands it when John writes that
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
Everything came into being through the Word, John says. Just in the same way that a tailor stands behind his or her work, and there was a person who sews before there are clothes, the word was in the beginning. Beneath the creation, lies the creator. Beneath the object lies the maker.
Maclean's father encouraged the boys to listen for the voice of God, and stood next to a river to do so. A beautiful river in a very beautiful part of Montana. God can indeed be seen in nature, in the beauty of the rocks, the rivers, the deserts and the oceans. God's power can be seen in thunderstorms. But God's love is hard to see by using only that evidence. God does provide out of that bounty, but the fullness of God's love can't be fully, unless we widen the story.
And 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.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
To understand God's power and grace and beauty, we have around us many proofs. To understand god's love, we have something else; Jesus Christ. In Jesus the Christ, we have both the proof and the pudding. Jesus, according to John, came to us so that we might understand God fully. Not everyone gets him, even today. Even some of those in the church still hope to understand. We have a man, Jesus, yes. Born a baby, grown through a human life, died the way a human dies--by the heart stopping, the lungs ceasing to pump air.
But we also have the Christ. We also have the Word, who has inserted itself into the world through extraordinary means. . . .though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
The Word came to us not in his full glory , and power, like some great colossus, a Cloverfield monster, so that we might see him and be terrified, but instead, he came in the way we could understand best; in the way that we came. This is what it means in Philippians when it says that he;
. . . emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death. . .
He came as a baby. He came as something that without love, either dies or grows in a malformed way. He came to us in a way that would of course take time to develop, but in this time, he also had the opportunity to convince us more solidly than merely showing great power and majesty.
Because the Christ came to us, to be with us, in our world, as a human being who lived as we did, a living breathing human being named Jesus, with all of the inherent separations, distractions and limitations that we have, what we learn is more than just that God created the world and it was good. We would have known that just by observing the earth and all its bounty. Through Jesus, we learn that God loves us in a very active, directed way. But it was how Jesus lived that teaches us that we can return that love directly. We can overcome those separations, distractions, and limitations, and be connected to God the way Jesus was. Perhaps not as deeply, to be sure, but his ways to connect with God are our ways; meditation, prayer, craving silence and solitude, time with friends and family, teaching and learning, and of course living a life of grace and generosity.
It's perhaps too sassy to say "if he could do it, so can we", but in a very real sense, he provides our model.
When John tells us to let our minds be of the same mind as Christ Jesus, this is what he means. Jesus was bedrock sure of God's love; so sure, in fact, that trusting God with his very life in Jerusalem wasn't a bet in his mind, though he may or may not have known the outcome. We can trust in God, too, and though we may not see what's coming, whatever it will be will be somehow good. Not nice, not pleasant, not superficially enjoyable, always, but good.
To let our minds be of the same mind of Christ Jesus is to understand that below the rocks, below the trees, below the rivers and the oceans, below the deer and the turkeys, below the asphalt and the car tires and the foundations of our houses and buildings, lies the Word of God. It is our bedrock, as it was his. So listen closely, and if you are wise enough, you might hear those words.