A God Who Camps With Us
Contributed by Carla Powell on Jan 8, 2003 (message contributor)
Summary: Sermon focuses on John 1:14, using the translations the word became flesh and "tabernacled" or "set up camp" with us. (Good for use in a camping setting or a location where many hearers are familiar with camping.)
Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
How many of you would call yourselves “campers”? Yes,
several of our members disappear for varied weekends throughout the summer to spend time at a campsite. But let me get more specific here. How many of you actually pitch a tent when you camp? Aha, the numbers dwindle! What if I ask it this way…How many of you have ever pitched a tent before? Maybe in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts; maybe with your parents when you were young;
maybe when you were a carefree young adult? Okay, so most of you understand the basics of “pitching a tent” and living in a tent temporarily.
“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us…” That’s
what it says in our translation of vs. 14 in our gospel lesson, right? “The word became flesh and dwelt among us…” The word translated “dwelt” comes from the Greek verb “skenoo” (related to the word “skene” – tent), which implies making a dwelling, pitching a tent, or making a tabernacle. The sense of this word is not just that word of God comes to earth, but that the word of God pitches his tent with us. Jesus sets up camp with the people of earth, in spite of the fact that he’s got a much better arrangement already available. When Jesus became a human being, God was setting up camp with humans. In the incarnation, God was pitching God’s tent among the people.
Most religions have stories of some form of divine being
visiting humanity. But in Christianity, the divine does more than just stop in for a visit. God sets up camp with us, pitches His tent among the people, and becomes a real flesh and blood human being. Pope John Paul II wrote: “What distinguishes the Christian faith from all other religions, is the certainty that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the second person of the Trinity who came into the world.” (http://www.petersnet.net/browse/1116.htm) This is not
just an appearance, but an actual incarnation of God in human form.
Think with me for a moment the significance of this
image of God pitching a tent rather than say, inhabiting a building. Tents are temporary; they wear out; they only give partial shelter from the elements. The same things can be said about humanity. Human life is temporary. Human bodies wear out. The human condition gives only partial shelter from suffering. But Jesus came to be a real human being, experiencing mortality,
pain, frailty, suffering, and humiliation. All experiences that God chose to embrace when He became human. Not at all like the divine experience of perfection, peace, and permanence.
Another definition of this verb, skenoo, is to
tabernacle. Though not a word we’d use in regular conversation, the tabernacle was essentially a traveling temple for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years. It was seen as the house of God, but it was movable so it could move from place to place with them as they wandered before
settling in the Promised Land. The glory of God was understood to be housed in that special tent, called a tabernacle. So when we hear that God tabernacled among us, we also should think about the way that God’s power is now experienced, not through an amorphous “presence” in a tent, but through a real human being, made of flesh and blood, who lived and loved among us.
“The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once sought to
describe the incarnation of God in Christ. He used this simple illustrative story:
"A certain king was very rich. His power was known
throughout the world. But he was most unhappy, for he desired a wife. Without a queen, the vast palace was empty.
"One day, while riding through the streets of a small
village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl. So lovely was she that the heart of the king was won. He wanted her more than anything he had ever desired. On succeeding days, he would ride by her house on the mere hope of seeing her for a moment in passing. He wondered how he might win her love. He thought, I will draw up a royal decree and require her to be brought before me to become
the queen of my land. But, as he considered, he realized that she was a subject and would be forced to obey. He could never be certain that he had won her love.
"Then, he said to himself, “I shall call on her in
person. I will dress in my finest royal garb, wear my diamond rings, my silver sword, my shiny black boots, an my most colorful tunic. I will overwhelm her and sweep her off her feet to become my bride.” But, as he pondered the idea, he knew that he would always wonder whether she had married him for the riches and power he could give her.
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