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    Jan 21, 2018

    Year B, Epiphany 3

    Passage: John 1

    Preacher: The Rev. Ted Foley Deacon

    Series: Deacons

    Category: Weekly Sermon


    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1)

    Many of you will recognize this text as the first few verses of the Gospel of John – The Prologue. These verses were also read as our Gospel reading, from just a few weeks ago. It’s clear from these verses that the writer of John was a deeply spiritual person. I think that many people regard these verses as the most beautiful, mystical, and maybe even mysterious in all the Gospels.

    The Prologue of John is talking about Christ – the cosmic Christ. The Christ who always was. At the council of Nicea, which produced the Nicene Creed, they came to understand this with the belief that, “there never was a time that he was not”.

    Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr describes this cosmic Christ as a presence that connects all things in our universe. The cosmic Christ infuses all of creation with a connection that transcends time – past, present, and future.

    The good news is that each one of us is connected to this cosmic Christ and it means that each one of us is connected to each other through this cosmic Christ. Sometimes we refer to this as “the body of Christ”.

    I think that this last point is particularly important as we live our lives today. We are all connected through Christ. Dr. Martin Luther King talked about this as our “interconnectedness”. It is through our interconnectedness that we love one another, have respect for one another, and do works of charity and justice on behalf of others. We care for one another because we are all connected through Christ.

    In today’s Gospel reading we hear Jesus saying, “believe in the good news”. A couple of chapters later, John expands on that saying, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

    God so loved the world that he took this mystical cosmic Christ and, as some people have described it, ‘he put skin on it’.

    I think that the disciples of Jesus were particularly blessed because they had first hand knowledge of Jesus. They could see the love in his eyes. They could hear the caring in his voice. Sometimes they probably got a hug from him and could smell the Jesus who loved them so much. Their Jesus definitely had ‘skin on’. So where does that leave us today?

    I’m here to tell you to listen to the words of Jesus. “Believe in the good news.” Believe in Christ’s love for us. We know this BECAUSE WE TOO HAVE A CHIRST WITH SKIN ON.

    But, ‘How can that be? Jesus died 2000 years ago and was taken up to heaven.” So, where is Christ’s skin today?

    Well, look around. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look at those standing in front of you and behind you. Think about how we are all connected in Christ. Imagine it with your mind’s eye and realize that we – you and I - are the skin of Christ.

    I think that our life experiences validate this. I would venture to say that each one of us, at times, has experienced a connection of love that is just indescribable. You might not be able to put it into words but you know it’s there.

    You are experiencing Christ with skin on.

    Maybe it doesn’t happen all the time. As Mother Joan told us last week, sometimes our stuff gets in the way and we fail to recognize the Christ among us. But, occasionally, we can see the Christ with skin on and know his love for us.

    Some of us had this experience last Sunday at our book discussion group. Every Sunday, between the 8 o’clock and 10:15 services, a group gets together to discuss the book, “Searching for Sunday”. Last week we were talking about healing, even when there is no cure. We talked about experiences in each of our lives which were awful but, through the love and care of others, we were healed. Christ with skin on.

    The next day many people from Christ Church attended a service at the Second Baptist Church in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King. The church was filled. There were people there of all races, religions, and ages. And, even though our society has not been ‘cured’ of racism, there was healing that went on. At the end of the service, everyone in the church joined hands and sang. We were all connected in a Christ with skin on.

    Sometimes, Christ with skin on can even break through a heart that has been hardened. Five years ago, when I was a Disaster Chaplain after hurricane Sandy, I met a man in a recovery center in Manahawkin. He was about 70 years old and, one of the things that I noticed about him right away was that he was wearing a hat and a tee-shirt with the US Marine logo. This guy was tough.

    I started walking over to him and he saw my collar and he immediately put his hand up and said, “I don’t want to talk to you.” I took my collar off and said, “That’s okay. I get it. I just want to make sure you’re okay and if there is anything I can to do help you.”

    For some reason he started talking to me. He told me that he and his wife had bought a house in Manahawkin to retire in. He told me that the house was on the main lagoon and they would sit on their deck and have drinks in the afternoon and greet the boaters returning from the bay. He said that it was exactly what he always dreamt of.    

    And then Sandy hit. The house ended up with 7 feet of water in it and ultimately pushed off the foundation. It was totaled. By this time, this tough guy marine had tears welling up in his eyes. When he told me that he didn’t have enough money to rebuild, the floodgates were opened. He broke down in tears.

    We spent the next 15 minutes talking about where he might go from here. We talked about the challenges he would have but that there is hope. By the time we finished our conversation, he thanked me for taking the time to listen to him. And even though his situation was not cured, for the moment he felt a sense of healing. Christ had skin on.

    Rachel Held-Evans, the author of our book study book, says that when a person is in pain, the last thing they need is platitudes like: ‘it must have been God’s plan’, or ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle’.

    She wrote, “In a world of cure-alls and quick fixes, true healing may be one of the most powerful and countercultural gifts that the church has to offer the world, if only we surrender our impulse to cure, if only we let love do its slow, meandering work.”

    Jesus said, “have faith and believe in the good news”. So, let us show others the good news of Christ. Let each of us be the Christ with skin on.