2012-12-31

The Word Made Flesh

"The word made flesh."

It's a nice phrase. Poetic. Evocative of Plato's Republic, which he described as a "city of words." But it's a phrase that has, through the centuries, acquired so much theological baggage that its primary signification in the West today is as a talisman of tribal identity. It's hard to sweep that baggage away and come to the phrase fresh.

"The word made flesh."

For some of us those can be some scary words. Perhaps you have felt rather colonized by an empire whose banners flew phrases including “the word made flesh” – and your allegiance is with the rebel alliance.

"The word made flesh."

I have been accused of being Christian, and, depending on the court I was tried in, I suppose it’s possible I might be convicted -- though, my guess would be, not likely. I don’t choose that label for myself. I self-identify as represented by four of the nine symbols on the wall of the UU Fellowship of Gainesville: I’m humanist, naturalist, Buddhist, and Unitarian Universalist. Maybe in some sense, I am all nine. Maybe in some sense, we all are. Still, I don’t call myself Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or Daoist.

The flaming chalice in the center is the symbol of UU.
Clockwise from top: Islam, Hinduism, Daoism, Christianity,
Humanism, Naturalism, Judaism, and Buddhism
I got together this week with a friend of mine who is a Christian, or at least a Methodist who, I think he would say, tries to be a Christian. He said, “I drove by your Fellowship.”

“Yeah?” I said, realizing that he saw the sign out front announcing the sermon topic: "The word made flesh."

“So educate me,” he said. “How do you preach on 'the word made flesh'?” Maybe that’s your question, too.

"The word made flesh."

Does that text make you nervous? Have you staked out your identity and your honor in opposition to what you believe that text stands for? Lake Chalice just wants to ask you to consider that maybe what that text stands for in some people’s minds doesn’t have to be what it means for you.

The text in question is from the Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verse 1 through 14. In "Rededicating the Temple" last week, Lake Chalice described how the Empires of Alexander the Great and its successor, the Seleucid empire, brought Hellenic culture to the Hebrew people: Greek art, architecture, sports, philosophy, drama, and geometry. The Gospel of John was originally written in Greek because at the end of the first century of the Common Era, when that Gospel was written, Greek had been, for some time, the language in which literate Palestinians wrote.

Further, Greek philosophy deeply influenced John’s Gospel. John used the Greek word “logos,” which in the context of this Gospel is usually translated as “the word.” John was saying: the logos was made flesh and dwelt among us. This "logos" is the root of our word logic, and the "logy" in biology, geology, etc. What did logos mean for John?

Stay tuned . . .

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The is part 1 of 5 of "The Word Made Flesh"
Next: Part 2: "Logosland"