August 24, 2006. That’s when it all happened. That’s when things went south. That’s when the bottom fell out and that’s when everything came completely undone. August 24, 2006.
On March 24, 1930 things had begun with so much joy and excitement. There were fireworks. There was this great flourish of excitement. And it was global too. But that was on March 24, 1930 when it was discovered.
On August 24, 2006 it all came crashing down. On that day, the International Astronomical Union, meeting in Prague in the Czech Republic, voted to downgrade the planet Pluto. It got downgraded to a dwarf planet! The audacity of it all. Pluto was no longer Pluto. The International Astronomical Union now officially calls Pluto, “asteroid #134340.” That’s right, Pluto got bumped. Pluto got cut from the team. Voted off the island, hosed, rejected, demoted, devalued, demeaned, and dismissed. One day Pluto’s in, the next day Pluto’s out. This was such a stunning turn of events that in 2006, the word of the year was what?
Plutoed! Pluto, the proper noun became Pluto the verb … plutoed. Plutoed? We all know what that feels like. We were the wrong size, the wrong height, the wrong shape, the wrong color, the wrong age. We had the wrong friends and went to the wrong school. And we had the wrong parents. People get plutoed by bosses, businesses, boyfriends, and all kinds of busybodies.
We’re wrapping our sermon series on John 1:1-18 this morning. Here’s a quick review. Explanation: John 1:1-5, God created all things through Christ. Revelation: John 1:6-13, God sent John the Baptist to reveal Christ. Incarnation: John 1:14-18, God reveals through the birth of Jesus that God is with us in Christ.
“Incarnation”, that’s shorthand for John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” And he did it, he dwelt among us for plutoed people. John describes them throughout his Gospel. There’s the Samaritan woman at the well who had been divorced five times. There was the paralytic, who had been crippled for thirty-eight years. There’s Mary and Martha whose brother Lazarus had died. The man born blind. There’s discouraged disciples. Sheep without a shepherd. Rejected … all of them. But John announces the incarnation … God is with us in Christ. He did it for plutoed people. Let’s dig deeper shall we?
The Word. By now we all know John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Our God is not silent. Our God speaks! Throughout the Old Testament, God’s Word creates, directs, controls, and shapes events. In fact, the expression, “The Word of the LORD” appears 261 times in the Old Testament. That’s a lot, but this Word is more than just an element of speech, or an expression, or a sound, or an idea.
The Word became flesh. The creative, powerful, true, and enduring Word of the LORD became flesh! When connected to God, sophisticated Greeks and Romans of John’s day recoiled from the world “flesh.” Flesh to them was doomed to be destroyed. What matters most is our spirit. Flesh is worth nothing. No god in his right mind would ever deal with anything as degrading as flesh. Yet that’s exactly what our God did.
Jesus is not only one substance with the Father, Jesus is also one substance with you and me. True God and true man. The Word, God the Son and the Son of God. He became flesh. God became hungry, thirsty, and tired. God felt disappointment, sorrow, hurt, loneliness, and rejection. He knows my name and he feels my pain.
But don’t be confused. The Word didn’t change into flesh. The Word didn’t morph into flesh. The Word didn’t transition into flesh. That’s not what John writes about. If the Word, changed, morphed, or transitioned into flesh, he would no longer be God. But remaining what he was, he became what we are. That’s it! Remaining what he was – God, Christ became what we are – flesh.
His golden throne room was left in favor of a dirty sheep pen. Worshipping angels crying out from eternity past, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” were replaced by bewildered shepherds. Lying there in a manger, Jesus looks like anything but God. His face is wrinkled and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of an infant. Majesty in the midst of the mundane. God entering the world on the floor of a messy manger, through a womb of a teenager, in the presence of a carpenter. God has eyebrows, elbows, thumbs, toes, two kidneys, and a spleen. No silk, no ivory, no hype, no hoopla. Not for this babe in Bethlehem. The Word became flesh.
John drives this point home when he writes about Jesus on trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate has Jesus’ flesh ripped, torn, dressed in purple and crowned with thorns. Then he brings Jesus out before the crowd and says in John 19:5, “Behold the man!” “Behold the man!” Here is the man. Flesh. Flesh and blood. Flesh and blood and a beaten body. That’s God we’re talking about. The God who gets plutoed! Demoted, devalued, dismissed, distained, demeaned, and left for dead.
The Word became flesh and dwelt. The word literally means, “pitch a tent.” It’s an Old Testament idea. Moses built the tabernacle, a tent, so that God could dwell with Israel. Solomon followed Moses. He built a temple so God could dwell with Israel. The Message Bible doesn’t use the word “dwell” but rather “moved into the neighborhood.” By living in Moses’ tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple, God moved into Israel’s neighborhood. And now, God moves into our neighborhood, the human neighborhood! But what kind of neighborhood is that?
It’s a neighborhood where we hurt each other deeply with words, with cold shoulders, and with our callous hearts. It’s a neighborhood where we ignore each other’s needs repeatedly because we’re so busy and have such important meetings. It’s a neighborhood where we carelessly pluto people with accusations and condemnations, positioning ourselves as judge and jury. Our neighborhood is filled with mixed up and messed up people. How do I know? Because sometimes I’m as mixed up and messed up as anybody. But God still decided to move into this neighborhood.
God at times may seem distant, as if he is just watching us from a distance. At times it feels as though God is disconnected, that God is above the fray.
But that’s not true! We dare to confess in the Nicene Creed, “Who for us men and for our salvation he came down.” Jesus came down into our messed up neighborhood to teach, heal, and love. Jesus Came down to forgive, to bleed, suffer, and die. Jesus came down to get plutoed!
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Us! You and me! Not just the high and mighty. Not just the kings and queens. Not just the polished, the preppy, the preferred, the pretty or the powerful. The Word dwelt “among us!” Him. Her. Them. You. Me. Us!
Too often, though, when we get plutoed and our world breaks into a million pieces, this promise falls on deaf ears and hard hearts. We shrug our shoulders and say, “So what? Who cares? I have no hope!”
Once my car died. So you know, I turned the ignition 417 times. Nothing happened. So did what any fair-minded pastor would do. I doused my car with beer, confident that two six packs would stir some life into my dead car. When that didn’t work, I placed a TV in front of the car and turned on a good baseball game. That would do the trick right? Nope. I then purchased the latest issue of Pent-Garage and let my car look at some European beauties. The car still had no life.
Now you probably think I have the IQ of a partial load of bricks. Who turns to booze, baseball, and bodies when things are dilapidated and dead? Too many, far too many people. Including you and me. Listen closely. Jesus came to dwell among us, to be born in a messy manger in the shadows of society in order to deliver life to people who have been plutoed. And Jesus delivers. He delivers life to us! To us through the means of grace, through baptism, through the Lord’s Supper, and through the Gospel.
True, some may demote you. Others may dismiss you. And yes, the devil wants to destroy you … but God claims you. God restores you. God loves you. How can I be so sure? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard you hearts and minds in the Word made flesh, the babe of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.