1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 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.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you our Lord and Saviour.
So Merry Christmas everybody. I hope it has been a good one for all of you. This is a big one for me. I arrived home on Friday and I will be here for a couple of weeks before I head back to the parish I serve in the States.
Many of you probably know I am the minister at Christ Church Episcopal Church in Huron, just west of Cleveland, in Ohio. It is a small parish of about 55 people on the southern edge of Lake Erie. The church has been there for 138 years and I am, I believe, the 29th minister.
Today is a special day for us as a family and we are really grateful to the Northern Illawarra folks for allowing us to celebrate this special event of Baptism with you all.
This morning I would like to spend some time considering the scripture we just heard from John. But I would like to do that through the lens of an idea that I think is one of the most fascinating spiritual and theological concepts I have ever come across.
In the Gospel, John is writing about what Seminary folks like to describe as a profound mystery. The divine / God becoming one of us. That takes some effort on our part to accept and understand. Many of us struggle to understand what that really means. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full our grace and truth.” John 1: 14
In Seminary I studied a variety of spiritual approaches. One that I was really drawn to is Celtic spirituality. That is the spirituality that developed in Ireland Scotland beginning with Patrick and continued by Columba. Within that understanding of spirituality there is a wonderful idea which they identify as thin places or thin spaces.
The Celts, and their prechristian ancestors, believed that there was an established understanding of the distance between the divine and our existence in the reality of our everyday lives. They believed there was an established distance between the Creator and creation.
So the Celts understood that most people, in their time and I would suggest even now in ours, who live their lives with a distinct awareness of that distance. People feel separated and are acutely aware of the distance they feel between themselves and their understanding of the divine. To quote a playwright, Charles Tanner, “God is out there, or up there, or something….”
For many people their perception of God is of a divine being who is unreachable, untouchable and perhaps a little uncaring of what happens to us as human beings.
For the Celts in their expression of Christianity the divine / God was very tangible, very present and very personally concerned for all of humanity. In fact they believed there were places where the distance between the divine creator and creation became distinctly narrowed. They called these particular spots or areas thin places or thin spaces.
They believed these were places where the distance between the reality of the divine and the reality of our everyday lives became tangibly different. That there were actually places where you could become very aware of the divine influence in the world.
If you travel through Ireland and Scotland you will come across these thin places or thin spaces which are marked by century old crosses. People who visit these places sometimes will talk about how the things of their everyday lives fell away and they experienced the divine in a new, and in a fresh way.
Suddenly they experience that distant divine being/ God in a personal and intimate way.
I believe that is what we are seeking when we come together to worship. We are seeking to create a thin place or a thin space. We are seeking to allow ourselves to engage in the profound mystery of the divine intersecting with our everyday lives.
We are seeking a new and a fresh experience of the divine in our personal lives. In doing that we are hoping that the divine experience can carry over into everyday lives in the days and weeks ahead.
Now when it comes to a special time like this morning we are seeking to experience the divine in an even deeper and in an even more profound way. As we celebrate this Baptism we are seeking to put aside the experiences of our everyday lives and to make room for the divine. For the living waters of Baptism to wash over us all. That we might remember our own stepping into the divine and coming to know the Word made flesh.
We want to invite the divine into this place. We are seeking to have the divine intersect with our everyday lives. We want to experience what it means for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. We are hoping, or maybe I should I am hoping, and I am sure there are others here this morning who are hoping that because of this event, that as we create a thin place, that some time in the future Essie will experience the deeply profound mystery of the Word becoming flesh for herself.
So invite you to participate in what we do this morning with a sense of anticipation. I want to invite you to be open to experiencing the divine in a new and a fresh way. I want to invite you to join with everyone else here and to say Come Lord Jesus, to invite the Word made flesh, whose birth we celebrated just last week, to be involved with us today and in the weeks and months ahead.