A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

What I Know About 2021: Sermon on John 1 January 3, 2021

This sermon was preached on Jan. 3, 2021 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT over Zoom. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Jeremiah 31: 7-14
John 1: 1-18

There’s a cute song from about five years ago called “Say Hey” by Michael Franti that was popular for a while as it was good dance song. The refrain of that song contained the lyrics, “It seems like everywhere I go, the more I see the less I know. But I know one thing that I love you.” Boom, right in the middle of this seemingly innocuous and frivolous ditty, some deep human truth is laid down. It turns out the more we know, the less we know. Just living life can call into question what you are certain of and the realization that you don’t know as much as you thought. For this singer, he’s only certain of the love he has for this other person.

2020 has certainly been a year where everything we thought we knew was called into question and trying to learn, discern or just keep up, felt like a being in a pool of quicksand. The more we struggled and tried to stay on top, the more we sank. So here we are on the cusp of a new year, 2021, and it’s tempting to look forward and project what we think we know will happen and how this year will be. I know that I so desperately want this new year to be one where I can say that I know that we will be together in person again soon, where I know that people will stop getting sick, dying, losing jobs, losing relationships, or being marginalized. I want to know that everything is going to be ok. I don’t want to face the unknown, I want some certainty. But I’m aware that the more I search for certainty, the more truth I miss.  It’s like when you’re looking for your phone only to realize you’re holding it.

On this second Sunday of Christmas and the first Sunday of our new year, we are regaled by the Prologue to John’s gospel, a beautiful piece of poetry that was perhaps a hymn in the early Church, that uses imaginative language to offer the Truth of what we know, what we don’t know and what God knows. The gospel writer brings us all the way back to Genesis 1, to the beginning of creation when the truth is that there was only God. We are brought once again to the power and wisdom of God for creativity, expansive imagination, and endless possibilities. If we listen to this prologue as poetry, we notice the repetition of naming God. God is at the heart of this passage and at the heart of all the cosmos.

But we often miss or ignore that truth. We might not recognize God at the heart of everything. Or we don’t want to know, this as if God is at the heart of everything, then we are not. This is the truth that John the baptizer names as he proclaims that God is in our midst-the light of the world has come. But the world didn’t see Jesus or didn’t want to. As a matter of fact, the world spent much energy trying to hide or deny God as the center of creation and the universe. Jesus, as God with us, showed us what the world, our lives could be like with God at the center. People with diseases are healed, people are fed, people on the outside of society are brought into community, people in poverty are given their share, people imprisoned are set free, people told to be silent are given voice, people who are dead are brought to life. Not a life of emptiness, ego, greed or self-centeredness, but a life that is shared, a life in the fullness of God’s abundant love that knows no bounds or end. But the world tried to bury this truth, literally. The powers and principalities were terrified of a world that they didn’t know, one where they were not in the center and in control. But the more they tried to bury the truth of God as the center of it all, the more God loved, the more God’s life abounded, the more God promised to not let us sink into our own mess but to hold us.

I know enough to know that there’s so much I don’t know. I’m guilty of not wanting to know more because when I do, it decenters me. When I know that black lives matter, it means that my life isn’t worth more for my skin color. When I know that people are sliding into poverty and homelessness because of unjust systems that privilege me, it means that I have to speak out. When I know that people are hungry and I can order take out anytime I want, I have to change my habits. I know that I try to hide, build a cocoon of comfort around myself so that I don’t have to see, but when I do that, I miss Jesus. When I don’t see my neighbor but only see myself, I miss seeing Jesus, God with us in the world. I miss the truth of my life that God is at the center of it all, and I am not.

I don’t know what this year will bring, and that’s a good thing. It’s all unknown to us as it should be. But what isn’t unknown to us is God’s love for us and all creation. What is true is that God will be in our midst, at the center of everything as God always has been. God will continue to make Godself known to the world, for the sake of love, life, grace and mercy in all the universe. May we know this truth, live this truth and be this truth. Happy New Year. Amen.