Teaching-Incarnation

We began our Teaching week on the Incarnation by Dwelling in the Word on John 1.

John 1:1-5, 9-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of people. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. True light that gives light to every person was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1 Dwelling

 

We then moved onto our Teaching Stations. Here are the four instalations we used this week;

FROM BETHLEHEM TO ARANUI

Philippians 2:7

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.

He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Body

Philippians talks about Jesus emptying himself of some of his God-ness, so he could truly take on his human-ness.It’s pretty hard to grasp, but out of his own freewill, he chose to leave some of the nifty parts of being Gods son at home. And decided that the best way to get the message through to us on earth was to BE human.We’re not talking about just looking human, a bit like that alien that dressed up in a human costume in Mars Attack, but to actually BE human…while still being God.Now He could have beamed on down, dressed up in his God clothes, with an army of angels playing his theme song, complete with marching bands and fireworks and the Dave Dobbyn playing at the after party…

But he didn’t.

Lei Lani summed it up quite nicely last week in an email;
“I don’t want to be general or anything, but seriously man, everyone knows Aranui is like the hood of Christchurch. I’m sure Bethlehem wasn’t the hood, but the fact that Jesus was born in a smelly animal shelter at some inn in a small town isn’t exactly royal. Neither would be being born at the extra shed space at the back of the pub on Hampshire Street.
Basically, if Jesus were to come back today, how would his birth be depicted? They thought total grand Buckingham palace stuff but it was more like Indian slum stuff…”

So instead of the obvious choice, Jesus took the hard road and came back as a helpless baby, born to some “virgin” teenager, amongst the gritty reality of being human.

He could have upsized to the Deluxe model of humanity, but chose to get amongst the harshness of life in all it’s glory.

You know that Christmas carol Away in a Manger? You know how they sing:
“The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes.
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”

Well that’s total bollocks. Look at the baby on the computer screen.

Powerless. Crying. Uncertain. Weak.

This is the reality of what becoming human is. Imagine God, in human form, crying and helpless like this baby.

Think about it. What does this tell us about God?

IN-CAN-ATION

Body

I bet that if some alien flying past Earth tuned into our news bulletins and saw what us humans get up too, they’d think we were a pretty grim lot.

Sure, we pat ourselves on the back every now and then about being basically good people, but humanity as a whole has a nack for screwing things up.

The Crusades. Slavery. Terrorism. War. Pollution. Sexism. Apartheid. The Holocaust. Iraq.

It’s an ever growing list of strings to our bow.

But although we humans have fallen into such attitudes and behaviours, we were not made that way by God. Looking at ourselves and trying to understand human nature is like trying to see how a machine is supposed to work after it has broken.

Pick up a can from the pile and try to open it with the US can opener.

Try as you might (and please don’t try to hard as it will ruin this analogy) you will not be able to open your can.

If this was your first experience with a can opener, you would have no idea how a can opener should work.

So, as odd as it seems, the best way to understand what it really means to be human, is to look at Jesus. He is the only person who got it right, and lived as we are supposed to live.

Now pick up the JESUS can opener and try to open your can.
See how easily it glides through the tin and lifts the lid off.
This is the perfect example of what a can opener should be like.

Jesus calls us to be incarnated in our lives as well! It requires that we get our hands dirty, get amongst it, in the here and now.

Sara Green hit this on the head in her comment on The Kitchen Blog last week:
“In the bigger picture i guess we can all feel a little insignificant, but!!! if u think how much of a difference I can make in the world by just being a little nicer or doing something for someone u wouldn’t normally do , u never know how much of a difference u make or the ripples that would be caused.”

What can we learn from Jesus that will inspire us to get down and dirty, and live our lives how they were intended to be?

SUPER JESUS

Matthew 4:1-11

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”

For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.

John 11:35

Jesus wept.

Sometimes we paint Jesus in our head as a bit of a super hero. Jesus, the God man, dressed up in his skintight spandex suit, flying around, saving people and using his super powers to calm storms and feed the five thousand.

There is nothing this Super Jesus cannot do! He can see through walls, read peoples minds, and even come back to life after being brutally murdered.

But this “Super Jesus” isn’t the fully human, fully divine Jesus we read about in the bible.

In Mathew 4 we read about a Jesus who is tempted in the desert. These were the same temptations and desires that all of us have everyday of our lives. He wasn’t somehow emotionally bullet proof.

Jesus felt every emotion, desire, temptation and feeling that all of us do as human beings.

When he fell over and stubbed his toe as a kid, he would have cried, unlike Superman or Wonder woman.

He would have struggled with all the emotions that we struggle with in our lives.

Anger. Depression. Lust. Greed. Jealously. Grief. Abandonment.

He also would have felt all the emotions we embrace in our lives.

Happiness. Love. Satisfaction.

Jesus experienced all the upsides, and downsides, of being a living, breathing, feeling human on this planet.

Look through the pages of the magazines in front of you.

Cut out any images or words that you think resemble the emotions you struggle with in life.

Paste them around the big picture of Jesus.

He knows what we go through because he’s felt it all before. He’s felt the full brunt of temptation and resisted. He’s walked in our shoes. He knows. He even understands that it’s really, really hard sometimes.

Does this make Jesus weaker or stronger in your mind?

GOD IS QUITE BIG

Genesis 1:14-19

God spoke: “Lights! Come out!
Shine in Heaven’s sky!
Separate Day from Night.
Mark seasons and days and years,
Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.”
And there it was.

God made two big lights, the larger
to take charge of Day,
The smaller to be in charge of Night;
and he made the stars.
God placed them in the heavenly sky
to light up Earth
And oversee Day and Night,
to separate light and dark.
God saw that it was good.

God is quite big. Actually, that may be somewhat of an understatement.

The size of the Universe is something like 20 billion light years across. And it would take you 100,000 light years just to get from one side of the Milky Way Galaxy to the other side.

But as soon as we start talking in light years I think our brains pretty much melt. So hopefully this sequence of photos will give you some idea of how small we are in the grand scheme of the Universe.

The very same Universe that Genesis says God created.

It’s hard to believe that this big old God, who created stuff so big that it’s indescribable, decided to come on down to small town planet earth and become one of us.

Imagine being God for a second.
Outside of time and space. Infinite power. Unending knowledge and wisdom.

But for some reason He micro shrinks his Son, and sends him to our speck of dirt.

Sherb got it right when he commented in The Kitchen blog last week:
“We all know he loves us no matter what, so i guess if the G man wants 2 hang out with us we must b pretty cool. Not saying there’s no room 4 improvement, but that its great 2 think he loves us as much he does.”

Yeah we seem totally insignificant when we look through our telescopes. Yeah we mess up a lot. And yeah humanity isn’t all that it thinks it is sometimes.

But God thought we were hip enough that it was worthwhile coming down from on high and dwelling amongst us.

Kinda blows your mind aye.

What kind of God would go and do a thing like that?
Why would a God go and do a thing like that?
How should we respond to a God who does a thing like that?

After engaging with these stations, we all broke into small groups (depending on the kind of fruit we found in our cans) and discussed some of the big questions the stations raised.

  • How does reflecting on the humanity of Jesus help our walk in faith? And how much does reflecting on His humanity mess with our preconceptions of Jesus as Superman?
  • Since Jesus was the perfect example of a human, it can seem a bit discouraging trying to follow his example, since it feels like we’re doomed to failure from the outset. How can we be inspired by Jesus actions in spite of our individual flaws?
  • It’s easy to view God as the big important guy in the sky who’s too busy for our insignificant problems, or we just forget He’s doing anything at all and take Him for granted. What little things do you see in your day to day lives that remind you that God care about the little things as well as the big things?
  • If God was willing to get amongst the pain/filth/dirt of being a real live human, how does that impact on how we should live our lives?

Then each of our groups agreed on one thing that each of us would individually do to be “little incarnations” in our following weeks:

  • The “Mandarin” group decided to make the effort to have one conversation with someone during the week that they normally wouldn’t, and to actually listen and care about what they say.
  • The “Pineapple” group decided to make the effort to not judge someone that they normally would have during the week.
  • The “Pear” group decided to make the effort to catch themselves and notice God in the subtle things in life.
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