I've been marinating in a familiar text, as if I'd never seen it before. John's famous prologue--John 1:1-18--is amazing. We read this as if it is old news, but check this out.
The NIV, NKJV and KJV all translate John 1:1 like this:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Good news. A bit mysterious. But not nearly as far-out as John originally said it.
This past fall, as we traveled throughout Europe, we visited dozens of cathedrals and churches. Often, as in Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting, God is depicted as an old, ye powerful and wizened man. White beard and all. These paintings were done in order to instruct and help us understand Bible stories and truths.
The same anthropomorphic teaching is written into some God-descriptions of the Old Testament. We read of God's right hand, of God's holy arm, or of God's eyes or face. We also read of God sheltering us under wings, and of God riding on clouds. These are not intended to be literal. They are ways that limited language can represent an unlimited God.
Yet, I fear these images, if we are not careful, can dampen our maturing comprehension of the person and presence of God. When God said there should be no graven images, perhaps this is what was to be avoided.
In the movie CONTACT, Jodi Foster plays the role of a woman who is chosen to travel into space where she sees some incredible, indescribable scene. Enraptured and unable to express the awe of what she takes in, she stammers: "No, no words. No words. Indescribable....They should have sent a poet."
In my thinking, John's prologue is such poetry. Listen to one literal translation of John 1:1 as taken from the original Greek. "In the beginning, was the SAYING, and the SAYING was toward God, and the SAYING was God." Now the word "SAYING" here is the Greek word "logos." It has also been translated as "mind," or "Word."
And so at creation, the Logos/mind/Word/Saying is speaking creation into existence. Compare Genesis and John here. God hovers over chaos and speaks light, and life and order into being. Consider the angel's message to Mary in the familiar Christmas story, the Spirit will "hover" over you, and your child will be called the Son of God."
This Sunday, I hope to open minds to mystery...the kind of mystery that says some indescribable energy--which we know as God, and we know is LOVE--is speaking grace and truth to us. And that in a very visible and touchable Jesus, we have seen what is the truth of this mysterious and mighty God. And that same hovering, mystery who speaks life and light into existence, speaks children of God into existence as well.
This Sunday, if for only few moments, I long to be a poet.