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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12, Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21, Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:1-18

Our two “optional” scriptures this week are from the Apocrypha writings—included in Catholic scriptures but not in the Bibles we most commonly use. Both Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon are what is called “Wisdom” literature, not unlike parts of what we know as the Book of Proverbs in our Old Testament. They were probably written in the second century before the time of Jesus. Christians have often taken them as anticipating the coming of Jesus as “Messiah,” i.e., Christ.

I see them as providing a theme for this week’s reflections, a theme that can be seen in some, if not all, of this Sunday’s scriptures. It is the theme of “incarnation,” embodiment, the theological focus of the Christmas message. Christmas tells us that Jesus is the “incarnation,” the embodiment of God’s love, Love made flesh, dwelling among us. (John 1:14)

At the heart of scripture is the sense that God is with us, working out divine purposes, even in us. Ecclesiastes 3:11, Ecclesiastes being another piece of “Wisdom” literature, implies that there are sweeping purposes at work in us that we will never fully understand. The New International Version perhaps puts it most clearly, saying. God “has . . . set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Wow! Eternity in our hearts. It was there in Jesus and it is in us. Philippians 2:5 says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” the same mind being, in my opinion, the eternal mind of God. Ephesians 4:13 speaks of us coming “to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” Growing up is to become an “incarnation” like Christ.

Mind-boggling? Eternity is at work even in us. God is always trying to find a way to express divine purposes through people and events in this world. Those purposes have been at work since the beginning.
The most familiar expression of that truth as it is applied to Jesus is found at the beginning of the Gospel according to John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” going on, in John 1:14, to say “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

What are we going to call the eternal principle, the eternal reality, that is at work in us? “Word” in John is a translation of the Greek “Logos.” It’s an accurate literal translation, but “Logos” was much more in Greek philosophy. It was the “divine animating principle pervading the universe.” Jesus was an expression of the creative Spirit giving life to the universe—and so are we. To designate Jesus as “Christ” is not only to say that he is the long-awaited Messiah; it is to say that he embodies an eternal reality that has been there from the beginning of time.

In the “wisdom” literature, the eternal principle is “Wisdom,” the feminine presence that is sometimes thought of as similar to what we call the “Holy Spirit.” In Sirach 24:2 and following, she says, “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High.” As she looked out over all of creation, all peoples and all nations, she “sought a resting place” and made her dwelling among the Hebrew people. In words that sound much like those of John, she says, “Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me; and for all ages I shall not cease to be.” This eternal spirit “took root in an honored people.” (Sirach 24:12)

In Wisdom of Solomon, she (Wisdom) enters “the soul of a servant of the Lord,” a phrase some Christians have applied to the Messiah (Christ). Jesus is an expression of this divine eternal Wisdom.

Life, the life of each one of us, is about so much more than the present moment. In us, in each one of us, in Jesus, all of history comes alive in the present moment. This week’s passage from Ephesians speaks of God choosing us “in Christ before the foundation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4) Can we bear it? Can we live up to it?

In the tradition in which I grew us, we talked about having Jesus “in our heart.” All kinds of jokes were told about children wondering how Jesus could fit in there. We know, of course, that we didn’t literally mean in our physical heart, but the purposes of God Jesus embodied still sometimes seem too big for us. An acquaintance of mine used to tell a story about growing up with a younger brother. Whenever he went out to play, his parents would say, “Take your little brother with you.” As he grew older and became a Christian, his parents began to say, when he went out, “Take Jesus with you.” He said he always had a little bit of resentment when he had to take his brother along and now he felt some of that same resentment toward Jesus.

In today’s reflections, we see Jesus not as something to be dragged along with us. Jesus is something we are to embody and live. We are to have the same mind in us that he had in him. That’s much bigger than simply taking him along with us—and much more scary, but also full of promise and hope.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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