John 1. 6-18
What's In Your Backpack?
By: Rev. Maya Douglas
Years ago, I posted on Facebook this one question: “What’s in your backpack?” I wanted people to share who they were by showing off their bags’ contents, because.... I knew. I knew that we could learn a lot about each other by the items we carried around in our sacks. For example (empty my backpack) some floss may mean that I am self-conscious about getting food stuck in my oh-so close teeth, and a pack of Dutch Blitz means I love playing card and board games - I think play in life is very important… If I were to blindly reach into your backpack or purse or glove compartment of your car, what would I find? And what could you say about you? I ask this, not because it’s the Blessing of the Backpacks Sunday, but because…
In our scripture reading today, we hear about how Jesus in his fullness of being, is the light. Jesus is full of light and he gives it to us all. Indeed, John 1.16 tells us, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace upon grace… what does that mean? Our Gospel writer, it seems through his complex and reverent proclamation… is just trying to figure it out. Near the end of the reading, he tells us “The law was … given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 1.17) He’s trying really hard to discern, reason and place Jesus somewhere in our narrative of faith. What he has witnessed, is that though Jesus “was in the world, and the world came into being through him… the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” (Jn 1.10-11) This reading of how God came into flesh, this reading about the incarnation, troubles our gospel writer because he knows how the story ends. Jesus, fully Divine and fully human, is persecuted and dies to save us all.
Jesus-God is misunderstood… then and now. For many, the incarnation seems like a filling up of an empty child with God’s Spirit, sort of like a possession. While others believe that Jesus is fully human, who realizes later on that God has anointed him as His Son. But, both theories interfere with our faith in a God who attributes so much importance to Creation that God, Himself, would enter in flesh and live among us - full of unfathomable love (meaning of grace) and truth. (cf. Jn1.14) Jesus-God is misunderstood then and now. And, if you think about it, there is much pain in existing as someone who is not known. It is so painful that one may feel empty. It is so painful that we often fill ourselves in these moments of emptiness with empty things - like alcohol, busy-ness, gossip. Jesus-God is misunderstood then and now, but though it is hard to understand, we called to the light, to dig deep and use our faith to seek understanding.
What is in your backpack? Our reading begins that “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” (Jn1.6) God sends someone ahead of Jesus to help the people to understand. The gift of Jesus is that we are given the tools to understand, to know God and to be known by God! What is in our backpacks, my friends? Do we know Jesus? Do we carry him in our mission and ministry here at our church? In our darkest moments, do we rely on him to be the light, to share his grace and power and truth?
Though I shared on Facebook what was in my sack, no one, not one of my friends and family responded. Not one of my over 500 “friends” shared. It is a telling exercise, one of great vulnerability to empty one’s bag for all to see. We want to be known, but not that known. And yet, God emptied God’s self in Jesus Christ for all to see. God sends us Jesus to be known, to help us on our journey of faith… with parables and hospitality, forgiveness and protest, revelation on a mountain and footwashing in an upper room. God sends us Jesus to be known. So, that even if or when we blindly reach in for further understanding… what we get is pure Light.
Let us pray: Loving God, help us to fill ourselves with your Light as we seek to understand you and through you, understand our lives and your World. Amen.