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Sermon - 3 January 2010
Bible Verses: John 1:118 & Ephesians 1:314
(click the verses above to read the passages online)

Jesus the real human - not Avatar

Its still Christmas. A time when we celebrate and relax.

The other day we went to see the science fiction film "Avatar", which gives a whole new meaning into getting into the skin of another person. [Don't go to the 3D version by the way, if you don't like heights]

The plot is really simple, the goodies, the local people, versus the badies [the corporate grab for the rare minerals the locals were sitting on defended with mercenary warriors from what are obviously American troops] The goodies win with their bows and arrows against the most amazing military machines from Weta Works effects.

But there are two fascinating things which come out of the plot which seem to be in line with what John's gospel and Paul's letter to the Ephesians are trying to tell us today about Christmas.

In the film, the badies trick their scientists into making creatures who looked like and acted like the very alien looking local population on the Planet Pandora to gain knowledge about them so they could steal their minerals. Each scientist has grown their Avatar, their other, and when they are sleeping they inhabit this new body - which looks like the local aliens. The hero, who starts out as a US marine seconded to the project, although a bit dim, finds himself gaining in knowledge and respect for the aliens and becoming one of them. But not quite, because when they wake up in their human life their Avatar goes to sleep. They only seems to be a local and can revert at any time to being human by waking up. It was not until they have suffered and stuck with the people that the hero really became one of them.

John's gospel is clear, it was probably written aware of a heresy that Christ only seemed to be human - docetism- [seemed] an Avatar in the language of the film.
Unlike the Avatar, and in opposition to the docetic heresy, Jesus was fully human. When the word became flesh there was no return, no half measures - the whole person of Jesus was human and he showed the fullness of the grace and truth of God.

The movie also depicted a connectiveness which the local people had with the trees and animals - mother earth - Enya. This was seen as a web of life to which they could attach themselves and be renewed. - Their religion. IT was both dramatic and moving giving the reason behind the actions of the local people. But this work of fiction is absolutely nothing compared to the dramatic readings from John and Paul which reach back to the beginning of all space and time, where God scoops up the whole of creation into the heart of God.

[Daniel B. Clendenin says that ] "John begins with Genesis at the beginning of creation, but Paul imagines a scenario "before the creation of the world" (1:4).
[Although this sounds more like science fiction than Avatar,] lets take Paul's words at face value. The universe is about 14 billion years old. What came "before" the beginning of space and time? And when in the distant but certain future the universe flies apart from a continued expansion of the Big Bang, or collapses into a Big Crunch from the forces of gravity, what will be its end?
Our best scientific minds are exploring these ideas. But for Paul, the chronological march of clocks and calendars started by the Big Bang is going somewhere rather than nowhere; he says that time itself is progressing toward a "fulfillment" He tells the Ephesians that the "mystery of God's will," hidden in eternity past, is revealed in the first century Jesus. Creation will receive its redemption when God "brings all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.""

Christ is our connectiveness in far greater ways than we can ever imagine. In Jesus God created the world, says John, and in Jesus God redeems the world.
Jesus comes to make God known to us. "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known (exegeomai ) In other words Jesus "interprets" the Father for us. (ref Lowe and Nida)

When we see the life of Jesus, when we see Jesus, we are seeing who God is. And that gives us a task,to declare what God has done, is doing, and promises to do -- a word that asks for a response from us e.g., "God loves you".

Our belief doesn't make God love us, neither does our lack of belief undo God's love for humanity -- it's a question of whether we will hear the declaration of God's love for us -- and then live as though we are divinely loved.

We too are gathered up into to this cosmic picture - the Ephesians are not Jews, but Gentiles. They and us are adopted into this connectiveness - this family of God. Paul talks about being 'sealed', receiving 'a guarantee of inheritance', {reflecting the language of commerce which some communities used to celebrate Christian conversion and baptism]. The Spirit is the advance installment of the fulfilled vision.
We, all of us, are invited to share in this single and big vision of justice and peace.

This Christmas story of John tells that the almighty, all-powerful God, who created everything that exists, is far beyond our understanding and comprehension. This Creator came to earth. God came to us, as a human being in human flesh. God's love in action. Christmas does mean a baby in a manger, but in the face of that infant, there is the outpouring of God's love for all humanity.

Today our Communion celebrates that lavish grace. Lavish. - means superabundance, extravagant, wild and unrestrained. [Lavish. It comes from the word for a "downpour of rain."]

In Communion God lavishes his grace and mercy on you and me. There's a downpour of God's grace, a downpour of God's mercy and goodness. Not because of what you or I have done, but in spite of what we have done. Not for who we are, but because of who God is.

There is a promise that Jesus has made a place for each of us at the table. He has offered ushis cup, his loaf. It's the proof of Jesus humanity being one of us.

At this time of extensive consumerism we need to remember that to the world, lavish means luxury - extravagance, over the top! But to God, lavish means a cross, a cup, and a loaf. That's a promise of the depth of the divine love which holds us.

Rev. Margaret Anne Low


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