The Uncatalogued Church Library
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14
“Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1
“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The words of John as recorded in the first chapter of his gospel are always compelling but perhaps never more so than on Good Friday, with Easter Sunday just two days away. These words hold a deeper meaning when we think about what God did “in the flesh” more than 2,000 years ago. Veiled in flesh, God reveled Himself to mankind. Wrapped in flesh, God unfolded His plan for redemption. Buried in flesh, God brought forth a resurrection over flesh, and death, and the grave. Through Jesus’ life in the flesh, our life in the flesh may also become printable, and readable, and reproducible. Pretty amazing. Pretty astounding. Pretty applicable.
While Jesus was given many titles during His time on earth (The Way, John 14:6; The Bridegroom, Matt. 9:15; the Lamb, Rev. 21:22) and even before His descent to earth (Anointed, Ps. 2:2; Man of Sorrows, Is. 53:3; Root of Jesse, Is. 11:10), none are more powerful than the title “The Word”. When Jesus is described as the “Word that became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), we realize that Jesus is not only the Son of God, the Lamb of God, and the Image of God, but He is the very language of God. Jesus is God’s Man-you-script to mankind; He is the Son of Man who came for each of us that we might read of our Father’s love and plan for salvation through the life He lived…and the life He gave. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
It’s interesting to note that while God could have revealed Himself in any number of ways, He chose to do so by clothing Himself in flesh and speaking directly to us. Before there were languages to speak, the Word was spoken. Before there were instruments to write, the Word was recorded. Before there were books to be read, the Word was published. Jesus, the Word of God. God chose to make Himself known through His Son and in doing so He literally sent us a Word from Heaven.
Have you ever been asked to share a word? Perhaps at a family gathering, at an assembly, in Sunday School, or even at a funeral you may have heard the invitation, “Does anyone have a word to share?” If you have seized these moments, what did you say? Or, if you didn’t, what do you wish you would have said? When we’re asked to give a summation of thoughts we suddenly realize the importance of words. What should be said? What shouldn’t be said? What would be a blessing? What would be an embarrassment? All too often we freeze, torn between wanting to say just the right thing and fearful of saying just the wrong thing. And so, all too often, we say nothing at all. We just sit. Speechless. Frozen. Inarticulate and (we hope) inconspicuous. Thank goodness God doesn’t have stage fright! When He spoke, He did so with a loud booming voice whose reverberations are still resounding today. And through Whom did God speak? Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
As we approach another celebration of Jesus’ victorious resurrection from the grave, may we contemplate a little more deeply the implications and applications of Jesus’ description as the Word of God. And, not only is He heralded as the Word of God, but as the Living Word of God. Jesus is not confined to the past tense, though He reigns over history; nor is He suspended in the future tense, though He holds the future in His hands; Jesus is the present tense…always…continually…constantly now. He is the Living Word because, though He has spoken through His life and death, He continually speaks through His resurrection. Each time we go to the written Word, we encounter and hear from the Living Word.
So, what about us? Having encountered this risen Savior, having succumbed to His grace and mercy, having pledged our lives to His authority, and having made a declaration to be “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1), will we be courageous enough to repeat the words of David when he said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart,”? (Ps. 40:7). David understood that God’s word was to be taken literally and figuratively. Literally, we are to read and to heed Scripture. Figuratively, we are to apply all that we learn; we are to be imitators of Christ in that we too are to become the living word of God. Just as Jesus’ life was to be read that man might come to know God the Father, so our lives are to be read for the same purpose. If we are truly children of the Word, then we are also walking volumes of His documented grace, and mercy, and transformation. Our lives are meant to be lived and, as we live (not posthumously!), recorded, shelved, cataloged…and checked out.
If we stop and ponder the weight and truth of this, then we’ll be forced to look at our individual lives, and our collective lives within the church, a little differently. If I view my life as a story that God is not only writing for my good but also for His glory, then will I be more likely to let others flip through my pages and see His handiwork? And, if God has written a chapter in my book that might be instructional for someone else, should I deny him access to its contents…especially if I remember whose pen wrote that chapter? And…to go even further with this analogy…if I am a book, a living book, that is meant to be read, then the church as a whole is a living library! Just sit in the library-like silence emitted by that thought. Picture yourself seated within, no…shelved within…your church body. Beside you is a rebound volume that contains chapters of history and wisdom; in front of you is a new edition of poetry and promises, two rows back is a tattered, well-worn book of deliverances and dedications. It is the house of God that is housed with the books of God; it is the library of God that is shelved with the chronicles of God.
This thought weighs heavily upon me because I believe it’s true, but I don’t believe it’s currently tangible. I think that, for the most part, we don’t think of our lives as books. As stories…yes, but as books…no. Stories are personal and we decide if they are to be shared or not. Books, well, they are written, bound, and reproduced for the sheer purpose of being read. Who publishes a book and hopes no one will read it? We hold our covers closely together, sometimes even locking them up like a personal diary. We don’t allow our stories to be cataloged so that others may read them because that would mean we’d have to share those stories. We’d have to allow ourselves to be opened up…not just once but again, and again. It’s scary. It’s illuminating. It’s unrestrictive in a world that holds tightly to restrictions. It’s putting our lives on a shelf…not to be put up but to be put out…and checked out. It’s becoming an imitator of Christ as we too become the living word of God. Our lives, after all, are His story more than they are our stories. He holds the pen upon our pages; He perfectly arranges the subjects and the verbs, the phrases and the clauses, the prepositions and the conjunctions, the commas and the periods…and those ever ill-used semi-colons! So, who are we…who am I…to say that my pages should be unchronicled and uncatalogued? I am so grateful for the Word who became flesh and whose Spirit now dwells within me. I am so thankful for the manner in which God made Himself readable to me. May I, in Him, find the courage to place my life upon His shelf, for His glory…and for the good of others; and may others do likewise, for His glory…and for the good of me!