God has Pitched a Tent
by Rev. John Nadasi
based on John 1: 1-18
In 1675 a fire devastated London England. Nine years later Sir Christopher Wren
laid a foundation stone in what would be his greatest architectural achievement --the
building of St. Paul's Cathedral.
It took him thirty five long years to complete his task, and when it was done he
waited breathlessly for the reaction of her majesty, Queen Anne.
After being carefully shown through the structure, she summed up her feelings for
the architecture in three words: "It is awful; it is amusing; it is artificial."
How you would feel if these words were used to describe the work of your life! But
upon hearing these words from his Queen he heaved a sigh of relief and bowed gratefully
before his queen.
How could this be? The explanation is simple: In 1710 the word awful meant
"awe-inspiring," the word amusing meant "amazing," and the word
artificial meant "artistic."
What to our ears might sound like a devastating criticism were in that time words
There is a lesson here. There is tremendous power in language and in words. And
the words we use to describe the world around us Is contingent upon the society in which
In the first 18 verses of John's Gospel, what is referred to as the prologue, God
communicates to us the nature of his coming.
In the beginning was the Word, And the Word was with God, And the Word was God.
It has been said that in these eighteen versus is the simplest and the most
complex explanation of the nature of Jesus Christ.
This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. The description it offers
of Christ is profound: mysterious yet comprehensible, simple yet filled with meaning.
Former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter wrote this about the prologue
to the Gospel of John
The versus quoted begin by saying that the Word --meaning both Greek Logos,
standing for the truth or wisdom, and the word of God, as given to the Jews through Moses
--became "flesh." What more common yet descriptive word could we choose?
Flesh-the very living stuff of which our bodies are made, the substance that makes
up a pounding heart, or a working brain, or a grasping hand. The inexhaustible paradox of
God as human is captured in that phrase.
The Word became a fleshly person, Like one of us, walking the dusty roads of
Palestine; sleeping in the open with a stone or a rolled-up cloak for a pillow; eating,
drinking, laughing with friends: the Word became flesh.
I think that Jimmy Carter had a good grasp on what The Gospel of John was trying
to tell us.
By the Word becoming flesh, God spoke to us in a language we could understand. A
language that should not become confused with time Such as Queen Anne's response of Its
awful, amusing, and artificial.
By the word becoming flesh, There is so much less to be lost in the significance
of God's actions.
God walked among us. Or as the NRSV states it, God lived among us.
The direct translation from the Greek states it differently. The direct
The Word became flesh, and pitched a tent among us.
God pitched a tent! God pitched a tent and lived among us!
What a wonderful image!
What do you think of when I say that God pitched a tent?
Let me tell you about my experience with tents. I have pitched quite a few of them
in my time.
I grew up in the Boy Scouts and I have been all over this country. My tents have
served me well, And I still sleep in them from time to time.
Tents are particularly useful when backpacking. To truly get into the experience
of the wilderness, One cannot simply drive in with an SUV and set up camp,
It just doesn't work. To do so, one is shielded from the elements, The exhaustion,
and the danger of the wilderness.
It you truly want a wilderness experience, you have to hike in, and pitch a tent.
Miles are traversed in the wilderness. There are all sorts of harrowing obstacles
and dangers to be overcome. Rattlesnakes, boulders, bears, steep inclines, and of course
The infamous cans of exploding beanie-weanies left on the fire.
And all these dangers must be overcome so that one can have a true experience Of
being in the wilderness.
It is a chance to experience the natural world for what it is
but beautiful place.
And once the traveler has come to his destination, The traveler pitches a tent As
if to say, I have arrived. I am here. I have overcome, and I am staying.
Folks, God pitched a tent.
Although God was not camping out in the literal sense of the word, God certainly
was a traveler in a dangerous but beautiful place.
What were the dangers?
The conflict in the church was even more volatile in Jesus' day than in our own.
Prophets were murdered by the government. God's church was in the hands of corrupt men.
And Palestine was under the occupation of the foreign government, Rome.
God pitched a tent in the wilderness.
The Word was embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. God was willing to walk in
the wilderness And pitch his tent among us.
Why has God pitched a tent?
I believe it is for the same reason I said earlier. It is to say I have arrived. I
am here. I have overcome, and I am staying.
It's now 2000 years later. We have just crossed over. We stand on the threshold of
a new millennium. As I look down the landscape of our future I remain hopeful, but I would
be dishonest if I Did not tell you that we continue to live in a wilderness.
There is much to look forward to but there is Danger among the beauty in the
There continues to be senseless violence in our nations schools. People have
little regard for one another or for authority. The division in Christian churches
continues to grow, Particularly in our own tradition. The upcoming General Conference is
already Being referred to as "the war on the shore."
Although this, "war," so to speak, Is to be fought over the most
controversial issues of our day, I believe the issue is far deeper.
The question I pose to the church is the same question I pose to the world.
How do we as God's people define ourselves and our values Against the Word that
has pitched his tent and dwelt among us?
Have we invited God into the ethics and conversations Of what we define as sacred,
holy, and meaningful?
Like in Jesus' day, We as a church and as a nation continue to live in a
I was watching CNN last week as they talked about upcoming growth industries in
Where is a good place to invest right now? Genetic engineering.
The person they interviewed stated that the question for this millennium Is going
to be, "what does it even mean to be human?"
Soon, humanity will be able to produce customized children. The thought scares me
that science is on the threshold of Creating its own, "master race," And this is
a growth industry for our next millenium.
If we have learned anything from the past, It is that scientists ask the question,
"can we?, not should we?"
Who knows what bizarre aberration of life science will create for us.
The value systems of our world are completely skewed.
Time Magazine's 20th century polls were conducted on the internet With millions of
people participating from all around the world.
The world chose the most influential persons of our century. I find it appalling
that Hitler and Elvis are both mentioned in the top three And Madonna and John Lennon in
the top 20.
So, where is the good news in this? Where are we to find the good news of Jesus
Christ this morning As we look and see the dangers of the wilderness all around us?
Folks, I want you to remember that along with the danger of the wilderness Comes
the beauty, the challenge, and the reward for travelling in it.
What incredible times we live in. How will this new millennium be measured? I do
not know. I do not know what this new century will bring, But I can tell you, that the
Word still lives among us.
God has pitched his tent And remains with us. God will never, ever leave creation.
God knows better the danger and the beauty of the wilderness, Better than you or I
will ever know, Yet God decided to come and pitch his tent here.
Take heart in that as we look forward to the new millennium before us. Although
the scenery of the wilderness before us continues to change, God remains a constant. And
in Jesus Christ, God has stated
I have arrived. I am here. I have overcome, and I am