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Monday, November 22, 2004

More than words

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
- St. John

The Gospel of John is introduced with a tremendous mystery: In Christ Jesus, God has incarnated Himself as Word, that is, He has completely expressed Himself through language.

To borrow from Marshall McLuhan's The Medium and the Light (who I have been encouraged to read by John H and Revd. Humann,) this merging of medium and message is unlike anything else in our experience:

"In Jesus Christ, there is no separation or distance between the medium and the message; it is the one case where we can say that the medium and the message are fully one and the same."

In all other cases, a word is a symbol that communicates a meaning, while still remaining separate from that meaning. Another way of saying it: The word is not the thing itself, but only a representation of that thing.

Except in the case of the incarnate Word -- the Greek logos -- that St. John proclaims. The Word existed in the beginning, was with God, was God, and was made flesh, yet is still Word.

A Word can be spoken, written, and reflected upon. A Word can be from one person to another given and received. What are the implications of possessing the Word of God; the Word that is Christ?

It's very likely that none of this is new to any of you, but the realization of the reality of the Word these past few nights has kept me awake for hours. That the incarnate God is present in my pastor's pronouncement every Sunday quickens my pulse. That He fills a place when His Gospel is preached makes me tremble.

Ephesians 1:13&14:

13 ...that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

In the tradition I was raised in, I thought the Word was strictly scripture, printed and bound. To open the Word, read the Word, or study the Word was to involve yourself in the pages of the book itself. Surely, I was told that it was living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, but these descriptions seemed metaphoric, never revelatory. To be in the Word was to me, like being "in" Tolkien or Lewis -- all my attention on their words.

But to be in the Word is to be taken into the second person of the trinity; the fullness of Christ is as near as the invocation of the Word.

To think of it another way: If in our conversation Devona and I, while sitting at our house in Akron, speak the name of my younger brother Mike (who is far away in Wadsworth), it does not cause Mike to be there with us. Maybe it brings to mind his face, or his voice, or some memory about him, but Mike is still in Wadsworth, playing Playstation in the basement and avoiding his homework.

When the Word is invoked, Christ is truly present. We have more than a symbol of Christ, we have Him in truth. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He pricks our hearts and calls us to Himself.

The Word is communicated orally, comes to us audibly, and enters us; we believe it, confess it, and He sears Himself onto our hearts in the gift of faith. The Word is the evangel complete, its medium and message combined. To communicate faith, the Word needs nothing other than to be communicated.