Bethel CRC Lacombe

October 15, 2023 Broken Signposts: Beauty John 1:1-18

October 17, 2023 Bethel CRC Season 6 Episode 4
Bethel CRC Lacombe
October 15, 2023 Broken Signposts: Beauty John 1:1-18
Show Notes Transcript

Today we continue our series based on N.T Wright’s book, Broken Signposts. We will reflect on John 1:1-18 Broken Signposts – Beauty. At the beginning of John’s gospel, we see how John introduces us to who Jesus is. The universe was created through Jesus; this beautiful, wonderful universe. In Genesis we’re told that God saw everything he had made and it was good, very good. The beauty found in creation points us to who God is and tells of God’s glory.  John’s focus is that in Jesus we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son.

Broken Signposts- Beauty

John 1:1-18

 

I love how John begins his gospel, begins telling us the good news of Jesus by taking us all the way back to creation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” We remember how God begins with chaos and speaks order, beauty, and wonder into creation and everything was good and very good. John reveals to us that creation happens through Jesus as the Word, fully God and fully human. We’re reminded by John that we’re given a magnificent creation filled with life and beauty and diversity created through Jesus. At the youth retreat last month, I sat with a number of the youth around the campfire at night we marveled at the night sky; the number of stars and satellites and the beauty of the moment. In the dark, away from the city lights, the light of the moon and stars helps us understand the power of John’s description of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

John’s comes as a witness to the light of the world, his own birth a beautiful gift that brought joy and beauty his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth; an older couple who had lost hope of having children. John comes to help the people see and recognize the light of the world that has come, unfortunately, so many people fail to recognize this light, no different than today, to recognize just who Jesus is. So many people know the name Jesus, but have no clue who he really is. To see in the darkness of the world, to see light in the dark times of their own lives, many people try to create their own light to try to get through life without getting lost, the saddest thing is that they fail to believe in the one person who can guide them through the darkness into a new life filled with wonder and beauty; they turn away from his light. The wonder and beauty are that for those who recognize who Jesus is and believe in him and follow him have become children of God, brothers and sisters to Jesus, part of God’s family; an amazingly beautiful thing. 

Beauty is found all around us; in the physical world because our God is an extraordinary artist who gives some people his artistic gift to create even more beauty in the world that help us see and understand who God is. The writers of the Bible connect beauty with God’s glory multiple times. This is the point of Article 2 in the Belgic Confession where Guido de Bres writes, “We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse. Second, God makes himself known to us more clearly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for God’s glory and for our salvation.” 

Creation tells of God’s glory, pointing us to the outpouring of his own generous love for us in the variety and wonder of everything he created for us. N.T Wright defines beauty as “the haunting sense of loveliness, the transient yet powerful stabs of something like love but something more and different as well—is not after all a mere evolutionary twist…. It is a pointer to the strange, gently demanding presence of the living God in the midst of his world.”  

John now points us to Jesus’ birth, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Greek verb for dwelling is closely connected to the word tabernacle and is often translated, as “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us,” bringing us back to the tabernacle and God’s presence among us. Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown note that this verb occurs 4 times and points to a permanent stay; Jesus comes to make our world his permanent home. As Chelsea Harmon observes, “Jesus didn’t just come as a guest, he came to live—not just to observe, but to work and be part of the very fabric of things. Just as quickly as this idea is planted, John zooms us back out and he says that we (the world) have seen his glory—the kind of glory that only comes from God—full of grace and truth. And when we “see” that glory, we see it in such a way that we can put it to personal use (the verb is in the middle voice). It becomes something that we build our faith upon. Does John have in mind any one specific aspect of that glory, such as Christ’s death on the cross, or does he mean all of the activity of God towards the world, from creation to consummation? My hunch is that it’s all of it—special and general revelation alike—because it all flows from the grace and truth of who God is, captured in the “fullness” of the Mediator, the second person of the Trinity, the Christ.

When John points to Jesus’ glory he’s pointing us to the rich history God has with his people and those moments when God revealed his glory to his people. Psalm 96 sings that “strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” The writer uses the same word for the richly designed clothes of the priest Aaron and his sons which were “for glory and beauty.” In other places the word is translated as honour or majesty or pomp, but more often the word beauty is connected with the word glory, God’s glory. God’s glory filled the tabernacle, a place to meet God, a place built by specially gifted artists who created a place of beauty for their God. The same thing later on happens with the temple built by Solomon, based on designs crafted by God, a temple that rivaled any other place of wonder or beauty found in the world. God designed both as places of great beauty that inspired aw, devotion, wonder, and worship in a way that other great buildings never did. 

The Word comes to us, becomes one of us, becomes personal to us in a new way, revealing his glory and beauty by entering into a new kind of relationship with his people. Jesus becoming human reminds us that we’re created in the image of God and that’s where our beauty comes from. Beauty is not just physical, beauty’s revealed in relationships, in how God comes to us in glory and beauty, in how Jesus offers forgiveness and the beauty of new life when we change our paths to travel his and believe in him. The psalmist writes in the 8th psalm, “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.” We’ve been charged with bringing God’s glory and revealing his beauty to all creation by caring for his creation, revealing the beauty and wonder God has placed in it. 

Yet there are many who are afraid of beauty and glory and look to break things instead. Talking with our plumber in Stony Plain, we got to talking about why people destroy rather than create and he talked about how evil is a word we don’t want to talk about, yet there’s evil in the world and it breaks and destroys, impacting peoples’ lives and souls. As a theological concept, evil refers to the presence of moral or spiritual corruption, wickedness, or plain nastiness in opposition to God's will and the principles of goodness, righteousness, and holiness as revealed in who Jesus calls us to be and live as his followers. We talked about how evil’s actually in each of us, the reformed perspective of total depravity. We talked about how situations and addictions can bring this evil out, but this is why a faith community is so important; we walk along with each other with the Holy Spirit to point us back to Jesus’ way. 

Jesus can use the brokenness that evil brings to bring new beauty into our lives. Ann Voskamp with friends, while creating a mosaic picture with broken shards and asked, “What part of your story was …. broken…. but if it had never happened … you wouldn’t be who you are today?” “There are deeply painful lines in our stories that we’d do absolutely anything to change – but then how would that change the story in other deeply painful ways? The thing you never wanted, can be the thing that makes you into more than you could have been any other way. The thing you’d do absolutely anything to change, can be what changes you into someone absolutely more like Christ.…  As I slowly line up bits of the pieces of glass across my canvas, to outline the edge of the water meeting the shore, it’s another surprising outline that I see emerging: You outline the hand of God when you line up the worst things that ever happened in your life, and then line up the best things – and then notice how many of the worst things are what begin these connecting lines that lead to the best things.” Beauty out of brokenness reminds us of how Jesus was broken so we could be healed, pointing us to the kingdom of heave as a kingdom of grace, unconditional love, forgiveness, and new life.