John is the ultimate unifier and integrator of two religious systems that have nothing in common; the Jews and the Greeks…nothing in common…nothing at all in common…didn’t even use the same language most of the time. So here John comes along and says, “Hey (to the Jews) you know that thing you talk about…that wisdom…that beautiful wisdom that you talk about? Yeah, that…right. You know that?” And to the Greeks he says, “Hey, you know that logos…that mysterious, beautiful thing with life and fire and light? That, yeah right?” Both of those things, wisdom and logos…they are actually one thing. And they found full and complete expression in the person of Jesus. (pause)
So here’s what’s so stunning: at a time when it was unthinkable to try and unify religions, John is basically saying your religion totally valid…I love it…I’m even using your language…and your religion…I love it…it’s beautiful, totally valid…I’m even using your language, but I just want you both to know that there’s something bigger than what you’ve got.
There’s something that transcends what you have; it doesn’t nullify what you have, it doesn’t get rid of what you have. It just moves beyond it. So John does this unbelievably beautiful thing of basically saying, “I want to get past the religious divisions among us in our world. I don’t want to get past it…Jesus comes to bring us past it.” Jesus is the ultimate unifier of these various diverse ways of looking at the world…
So these…these external things…religion is about making these distinctions…and guess what? That isn’t a bad thing. Having a distinct religious identity marked by some boundaries, knowing how you’re different from other religions isn’t a problem. John isn’t trying to get rid of that, he’s trying to point beyond it. Keep it, but move beyond it.
To lose your religious identity is like losing a sail at sea. The sail is like religion, the wind is the Spirit. You need a sail to catch the wind…to harness the wind, but you gotta’ realize that that sail isn’t the wind. The sail is actually dependent on the wind. See, here’s the crazy thing, the Spirit (the wind), doesn’t need sails in order for it to move about the world. The sails need the wind. So the Spirit in order for it to move and operate in the world has no need of religion, but we (those of us made the way we are) for some reason need sails in order to catch the wind. We need religious structures, external things we can touch and see and traditions and lineages that teach us so that we can better catch the wind.
Now some sails are built better than other sails; some sails are bigger than other sails, some sails are a different shape than those other sails, and those differences matter. And sometimes, one sail is better than another sail in the same way that some religions are better equipped to catch the Spirit of God. Some religions are not as well equipped to fully capture and be compelled by the Spirit. So it matters what religion you choose. It matters why that religion…why you choose it. It matters what it looks like…how it’s shaped, but don’t ever confuse the sail with the Spirit…the sail with the wind.
Here’s what’s so confusing about this…John comes along and says, “Hey both of you guys you’ve got great sails…they look awesome.” I just want you to know it’s the wind that I’m interested in. He says Jesus became the fullness of that wind. And so along comes us and we create a sail around that person. We go, “Now we’ve got it!” Wooo! It’s just another sail. Just because we claim Jesus as the center of our religion does not make us one and the same with the wind of God. It just means we have another sail. I happen to think it’s a better sail than most other sails. I happen to think it’s a more effective sail than other sails (that’s why I chose this particular sail), but it ain’t the wind. (pause)
This is what John is doing and it’s extremely innovative and it’s very unsettling that he’s inviting us beneath and beyond the things that make distinctions between us. He’s pointing beyond the sail to the wind and he desperately wants us to experience the wind…the logos…that animating, creative life force that gives you breath right now in this very moment. That’s what John’ll be pointing us to, so as we go through this series, that’s what we’re going to be experiencing and exploring is this whole thing of the logos becoming flesh, and the difference between our…how we operate in the world and how God animates everything that is in the world.
And that’s why it says, “It was the life and light of all people.” It didn’t say the light and life of the people who believe in Jesus. This logos affects everybody including Osama bin Laden, as long as he’s got breath, in him, is a spark of the divine.