March 3, 2018

By Rev. Dr. Mark Lloyd Richardson, First United Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, North District

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

John’s prologue is a beautiful witness to the Incarnation – “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This is the Word uniquely revealed in the Human One, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Word that is both eternally present throughout time and living within the time-bound limitations of the human condition. It is the Word that is “full of grace and truth.”

The rest of John’s Gospel is a portrait of what grace and truth look like in the flesh. Those who encounter the Christ never remain unchanged. Their lives look differently when poured over by grace. Their self-understandings take on a new humility in the light of truth. Indeed the world and all of the posturing and self-promotion of the powerful looks wholly different than previously imagined. The Word consistently lifts up and celebrates that which is grace-filled and truthful. These are what ultimately stand the test of time.

As a boy growing up in the church, I felt the tension between the transcendent God whose handiwork is displayed in the heavens and on earth, and the God revealed in Jesus, the one who came near and fully identified with our human experience. When our youth group went on camping trips, it was lying in my sleeping bag looking up at the night sky that most compelled me to pray. However, when our youth group read and discussed the life of Jesus, it was the compassion of Jesus that modeled for me what the compassion of God must be like.

The incarnation is both human and divine, I learned. It is both transcendent and immanent. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out that a more inclusive truth exists in this tension between God’s transcendence and immanence. We are among those who know that we will never see God. However, because “God the only Son” is real and present to us through Scripture and the time we spend in prayer, we do know and have seen the One who makes God known. We are beneficiaries of a human-divine relationship that leads us into grace and truth.

Prayer: Immanent and transcendent God, draw us close and reveal to us your grace and truth. Amen.