Second Sunday before Lent
Gospel John 1:1-14
Words, words, words! I’m so sick of words,” cried Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Yet words make things happen. How many of us remember words spoken to us in the past? We are so shaped by what people say to us. Just think for a minute about some of the things that have been said to you through your life: “I love you,” perhaps, or, “I no longer love you.” Words of encouragement, “well done” words of discouragement “you can’t do that.”
So often it is the negative words that we remember most deeply. There is an old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But we all know that’s not true. Broken bones heal, but the wounds inflicted by words may never heal. We carry them with us like scars.
Today’s Gospel takes us back to Christmas and to the carol services where this passage is read year on year. The words are like poetry, trying to find the way to say that God became flesh. The words also take us right back to the very beginning of time, when God spoke words into the dark – and light, shape, sky, sea, land and life all came into being. God’s word made life possible. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” God’s word is life.
Our minds are too small to comprehend God, and our language is never big enough to describe God. That’s why we need to be cautious when we talk about God, because our human understanding is always partial. But we can begin to understand God because Jesus Christ shows us what God is like. Jesus, God made flesh. We can comprehend him because he looks like one of us, and everything that he did, said and was, perfectly reflected God.
The words from today’s reading from Colossians tell us that “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.” Jesus’ words, like God’s words, speak life, healing, forgiveness, truth and love. God’s word to the human race was Jesus Christ.
Action and the word are one and the same. What God says, is. God says “let there be light” – and there is light. Jesus says “be healed” – and there is healing. Jesus says, “you are forgiven” – and you are forgiven.
The Gospel tells us that to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God. What sort of power is that? It is the power to be God’s child, to know ourselves loved, cherished, brought into being. Psalm 139 tells us that God knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs – with the sense of each stitch being lovingly connected to the others. We were not thrown together randomly, but shaped and made out of love. Each one of us is extraordinary and unique. Yet so often people live almost in the darkness, not knowing how wonderful they are, nor how much light and life they hold. Some of that is down to us. If we are not careful we can keep each other trapped by words that we haven’t thought through and they can bind and limit people, and by our actions, which can contradict our words.
Nelson Mandela, in his inaugural presidential speech in 1994, said these memorable words: “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God born to make manifest the glory of God within us.”
I think the reality is God is calling to us today simply to be who we are – children of God, filled with light and life breathed into us by God’s word. Let us take hold of this power we are given. It is not by our own doing that we are God’s children – it is God’s word that makes us so. It is not even about getting it right all the time – it’s about knowing the power of forgiveness in daily life. Just as we know that power in our own lives, so we will find our words can bring life and freedom to others. For we are called to reflect God in the world, to shine in the darkness with light that will never be overcome. I have said many times we are cracked vessels, broken people, and feel so inadequate for the task. But a candle in a cracked pot will let the light shine out of the cracks far more than a perfect pot which will only let out a faint glow from the top.
So it is official, it is good to be a cracked pot.