Sermon: The Incarnation in Six
December 31, 2018
Cove Presbyterian Church
The Incarnation in Six
On this, the last day of 2017, it is impossible not to look back on what has been an, um, interesting year. Interesting is not the adjective I am looking for but a few that come to mind aren’t really church appropriate. And besides, for 2017, I think I need more than one descriptor. I need more than one word to sum up the past 365 days. Maybe six will do it. Have you heard about “Six-Word Memoirs”? It is a project started in 2006 by Larry Smith of Smith Magazine. Inspired, by none other than Ernest Hemmingway, who apparently was challenged to write a story in six words. He answered the challenge with, “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” Smith’s Hemmingway inspired project has since grown into what its website describes as “a global phenomenon.” The challenge is to tell your life story in six words and the results run the gamut from profound to profane. The call to send in these life stories in the age of twitter and top ten lists was met with so many entries the Smith website almost crashed. The “about” page notes that readers:
…sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“From migrant worker to NASA astronaut”). and hilarious (“Married by Elvis, divorced by Friday”). And the Six-Word Memoir project was born. ( https://www.sixwordmemoirs.com/about/#story-of-six-words)
Best-selling books have been spawned as a result. There is a monthly contest around a designated theme.
And of course, as with any “global phenomenon” in the digital age, many, many others have joined, adapted or imitated the six-word memoir. NASA, just this year, got on the bandwagon with “Eclipse in 6,” inviting people to “Let us know what the eclipse meant to you in six words.” (https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-six) They, too, had quite the response. Their twitter feed with the same hashtag had gems like these: “Unbelievable, I’ll never be the same.” And “Such a hassle. So worth it.” And, I think my favorite, “Briefly, we were all one.”
All these six -word sentences packed a pretty good punch and got me thinking about 2017 as I stared at its ending. So, keeping in mind T.S. Elliot’s quote:
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”
And knowing that preachers, by definition, never use their own material, I began playing around with this six -word “global phenomenon” and wondered about 2017 in six. You can play, too. Use your bulletin and one of the golf pencils in the pew if you’d like. Describe 2017 in six words.
I have had time to think ahead and here are a few I came up with:
“Pink hats and red baseball caps.”
“Please make him stop using twitter.”
“Shootings at concerts and in church.”
“There was no collusion with Russia.”
“Politicians, comedians, journalists, #Metoo, who’s next?”
“A Democrat got elected in Alabama.” “A sign of the End Times?”
“Hurricanes. Fires. Climate change? No way!”
“The summer of hate in Charlottesville.”
There are more personal six- word sentences I could use to describe 2017. The year could be summed up as:
“Lots of hormones in my house.”
“The Presbyterian Outlook might make it!”
Or, as recently as last week:
“I have no more deep thoughts.”
For friends I know 2017 in six might be:
“The hardest year of my life.”
“I had to bury my mother.”
Some years mine could have been:
“At least we are still married.”
“One day this will be funny.”
Every year could be summed up with:
“There are things I don’t understand.”
You, no doubt, have your own six-word reflection of 2017, profound, profane, poignant, joyous, or some combination thereof, and who knows what 2018 will bring.
But the rock bottom truth that comes with Christmas is that no matter what six-words describe our lives, or any given year, God has given us these six words first and forever: In the beginning was the WORD. In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God. The WORD became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth. New Testament scholar Maryanne Thompson says this prologue to John’s Gospel reveals that the WORD is in relationship to God, the world and humankind. Therefore, there are no six-words, no memoirs, experiences, reflections that are not swept up in God’s WORD with the coming of Jesus Christ. God’s WORD, the WORD made flesh is performative. “Let there be light!” and there was light. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God.” And so it is. “Your faith has made you well.” And so we are. God’s WORD, the word made flesh, brings light and life, grace upon grace upon grace, glory, beauty, mercy, healing. God’s word does not return empty, God is always speaking into being a new, good thing, and yet God’s embodied WORD remains unchanging, irrevocable and forever.
In the beginning was the WORD. The WORD became flesh, like us. Grace upon grace, full of truth. We see God’s glory in person. Through Jesus, we are God’s children. Death and darkness will never win. God is bringing life, right now. Jesus allows us to start again. Grace just will not quit, ever. No more sacrifices, Jesus desires mercy. No one is God forsaken anymore. Darn, I must love my enemies. In the end, all is well.
The Incarnation in six.
What if we let those words shape all the others? What if we let the WORD, from the beginning, be the one that interprets every other syllable ever uttered, shouted or whispered?
I had to bury my mother. I am resurrection and life everlasting.
At least we are still married. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Pink hats and red baseball caps. You are all children of God.
There are things I don’t understand. You can trust my promises anyway.
What’s your Incarnation in six? In six words, what does it mean to you, for you, that in the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God, full of grace and truth, light and life?
What’s the “So what?” that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? For you? For how you live your life? For the places where you live and move and have your being?
For me, in reflecting back on this year, looking forward in faith for things as yet unseen, my Incarnation in six includes things like:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
See divine grace and share it.
Christ’s light overwhelms Wal-Mart tiki torches.
God’s truth will not be silenced.
Transformation isn’t possible, it is inevitable.
Justice will roll down like water.
Complacency is no longer an option.
God has redeemed all of creation.
Jesus came to reconcile the world.
I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.
What’s your Incarnation in six? This year: How will the WORD, God’s word, the WORD in flesh appearing, Jesus Christ, with God, for us, the One who has come to save, shape your words and your life and your community and the world God so loves?
In the beginning was the WORD. Full of grace and truth, light and life, last year, this year, ever year that was and is yet to come. So that all our words, all our lives, all our experiences are clothed in Christ, wrapped up in God’s righteousness, imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, one grace after another, part of the WORD, God’s Good News of great joy for all people.
How can we not share it?