Updated: Oct 2
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 all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …
The true light that gives light to everyone 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 did receive 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. John 1:1-5, 9-14 (NIV)
The books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the synoptic gospels, tell the story of Jesus’ extraordinary life and ministry in similar words and order. Matthew and Luke begin their accounts with the circumstances leading up to Jesus’ birth in a manger. He will be born as a small helpless babe, the son of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. He will grow up in a traditional Jewish family with a mother, a father and siblings. At the age of 30, this son of man will break away from his earthly family and announce himself to be the Son of God, Christ, as he preaches, teaches, and heals for a mere three and a half years. At the end of that time, he will be put to death by both God’s chosen people, the Jews, and the rest of the world in the form of the Romans.
But John opens his gospel in an absolutely supernatural and cosmic voice. His gospel is full of such sweeping symbolism and poetry. John writes of mystery and prophesy. By way of parable, Jesus Christ will usher in the Kingdom of God, before his untimely death. He will remind his chosen people, the Jews, and the world, that the Kingdom of God is never ending and will be restored. Upon his death and his resurrection, Jesus, the Son of Man, will fulfill every prophecy of the Old Testament which was set forth by his father, God, the Holy Spirit, and himself, the Son of God, Christ.
The first time I read the beginning of John, I was awed. I was raised by agnostic, progressively atheistic parents and I did not read a word from the Bible until I was in my mid 30’s. Christ is the Word! He was with God in the beginning! Christ created all!
Do you remember the first time you read John 1?
Who is part of your family? What makes you and them a family? What gives you pleasure and happiness in your family? What causes you pain?
Have you ever had a life shattering experience? Have you ever suffered? What does it mean to suffer?
Think about your important relationships. Are they good?
What is a relationship? What makes a relationship healthy? What makes one unhealthy?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
Can you hear the echo of the words In the beginning? Listen to the language of the Old Testament as it prophesied Christ’s coming in the fullness of time as the light to shine in our darkness; Christ, the Word, the light, the life, become flesh to dwell with us.
When I led Bible study with my church’s high schoolers, I tried to stretch them beyond our physical boundaries. I tried to help them to see the world not through their limited human eyes, but through God’s eyes. Our physical world began with the creation of our earth, but God -the Trinity, the Holy Family- existed before that, before the creation of the heavens, and before the creation of time itself. The creation itself is the royal, mysterious Kingdom of our holy God.
I loved to quiz my high school students. “When do we first get to meet Christ in the Bible?” Inevitably one of them would offer, ”As a baby in the manger.” Or, if he or she is really clever, “When John the Baptist jumped in his mother’s womb?” Then I got to say, “That is when we first hear of Jesus, but when do we first hear of Christ?” Then we got to explore the beginning of Genesis and John: “In the beginning…” and “In the beginning…” Everything in the Old Testament is but a foreshadowing of the desperate need for Christ, the Son of God, to be sacrificed for humanity's salvation. These foreshadowings are known are spiritual prophecies.
We had a big coffee table in our church's Bible study room. It was sturdy enough to support three people. Three of us, representing the three persons of the Holy Trinity- the Holy Family-would climb up on it so that we were literally above everyone else. I got to be the Father. The discussion would go something like this:
Up on the table, the Father would say, “I love you two so much that I am overflowing. Are we ready to share this love and create our beautiful perfect kingdom of God? Are we ready to expand our family? You do know that evil will enter in? But we have a plan for that. We could prevent evil from marring our kingdom, but is that fair for our creation? We will have to allow our creation to choose us over evil. We will create time so that our creation can search their hearts and find us there. That’s the only way that we can ultimately adopt our creation into our family. We are the perfect family. Our creation will come to know that everything will be perfect in the fullness of time.“
Then the Father would turn to the Spirit and ask, “Are you ready? This will be painful for you, because you will be apart from us. You will have to hover over the earth to watch over this new creation. We know that this will be horrible. You will witness perversion and degradation. In the fullness of time, you will be able to indwell in some of the creation. You will see glimpses of beauty but your home there will be harsh as well. You will often be silenced and ignored.”
And turning to the Son, the Father would say, “In the perfect fullness of time, you will have to go down to that beautiful wretched place to save our creation. Are you sure you want to do this? Are you prepared to leave me, to be away from me? You will be with the Spirit, but you will not be with me. You, the Son of God, will empty yourself to become the Son of Man. You will also see glimpses of lovely things but you will be down in the perversion and pain of a fallen, broken, inhospitable place. And that place will reject you and taunt you and kill you. But for the Spirit, you will be horribly alone. There will be a prince of the earth who will be brutal and relentless. But what joy you will bring! The creation will need a light in that darkness. And you will then come home to me. And in the fullness of time, the Holy Spirit will return to us, with your lovely bride, my beautiful daughter.”
And the Father would say, “Time will be painful. But won’t it be lovely at the end of time to welcome in our family! We will be so full. We will overflow like a river, like a cup full of wine, like one heart full of love and blessing. Are we ready to create this beautiful kingdom?“
There was always laughter when we three climbed up on the table but the conversation that followed was always so intense: "I've never thought about the God that way before." Isn't it the same with us? We, as Christians, have heard these stories so many times that they've lost their impact.
This is where God and humanity's story begins, in the presence of the Holy Family discussing their future. This is also when our story begins, as Christ, the Son, the Word, speaks the creation into being.
How do you envision God? What does the Trinity look like?
How do you envision what it was like before the creation of the heavens and the earth?
What makes a family? Is it proper to call the Holy Trinity a family?
The 29:11 Story
Purple is such a rich color; it is the color of divinity and of mystery. Every 29:11 Story begins and ends with a purple bead to represent our absolutely perfect, mysterious, royal God - the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. The purple bead reminds us that the Trinity that began our story has always been the first and perfect family.
We tend to think of time as a straight line that begins with our birth and ends with our death. As we mature, we learn our family’s history, and then humanity’s history. We understand that time began sometime before us and will extend beyond us. But God, the Holy Trinity, does not view time this way. For them, time is but a part of their creation. Their entire creation fell into sin and chaos. For them, time is not a straight horizontal line but part of us that fell steeply and abruptly away from them.
Of course, every 29:11 Story has a cross bead that represents Jesus Christ. This is where time’s fall into chaos and away from the holy family is arrested. The offering made on the cross redeems time and allows it and us to begin our journey home to the Holy Trinity, our true holy family. There are five different color crosses on the 29:11 Stories. Two of them represent attributes of the Son of God: purple for divinity and white for purity and glory. The other three represent attributes of the Son of Man: brown for humility, red for blood’s defeat of sin, and turquoise blue for living water.
There are three luminous white beads on every 29:11 Story that represent the mysterious Holy Spirit. The first comes quickly in God’s Story as he hovers like a dove over the new creation, apart from the Father and the Son. The second Holy Spirit bead appears after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our promised comforter, our counselor, able now to finally indwell with the holy family‘s beloved creation. The third and last Holy Spirit bead is found in the story of the Second Coming, at the end of every 29:11 Story. Here the Holy Spirit finally comes home as he returns to the Father and the Son. He is not alone, but brings us with him, a beautiful white bead, the Bride of Christ.
Interrupted by Jesus’ death and Christ’s ascension, time begins its upward correction and brings the creation along with it. The last purple bead on the Story is again God, the Trinity, the holy family. This purple bead welcomes the coming home of the Holy Spirit with the radiant white bride back into the presence of the Father and the Son. The Holy Trinity has always been. We, his sons and daughters, made in His image, outside of time, have always been with Him.
What differences are there between God, the Trinity, and us?
What does the word “supernatural” mean? What does “cosmic” mean?
Can you define the word “prophecy “?
My son, William, was a beautiful child. He was our firstborn, winsome but wise. He was an “old soul.” William was 12 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. The Jewish faith believes that a boy becomes a man at the age of 13. If that is true, William was just on the cusp of manhood. Every discussion that was ever made about William’s treatment was addressed to him. Through numerous surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, we, his mother and father, discussed our thoughts and options, but the ultimate decisions were made by William. These decisions were brutal: do we continue to fight this demon cancer or do we prepare to let go. At age 17, William was tired of fighting but full of hope of going home to God.
Like Job, I railed against God for what he had allowed to enter into the sanctity of my family. We were so healthy in body and emotion before cancer. I had such pride in how well my little family was thriving. My husband and I were happy in our marriage. Our three children were beautiful and smart. We had nothing but a perfect future ahead of us.
But cancer is a thief. It takes relentlessly from its victims and from those around their loved ones who also suffer from its ravages, If my husband and I could have known the future, if we had known of the suffering that our firstborn son would have to endure, would we have chosen not to have made him? If we could have known the damage it would have caused to our little family, would we have had children at all? What a horrible question to ponder. But I can’t imagine our world without William. That one child brought us so much joy! He affected so many even with such a brief life that was cut short by evil. And I cannot fathom life without my children. William was a light in our darkness because there is a light in the darkness.
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
Read Colossians 1: 15-20. List the attributes of Christ. Do any surprise you?
Read Hebrews 1: 1-3. What do you learn about God’s Son?
Read Job 38-40. Isn't this beautiful? This is God’s defense to Job’s question of “Why?”
Where is the story of Job found on the 29:11 Story? When do scholars believe Job lived?
Have you ever read the Book of Revelation? If you haven’t, don’t be nervous. We’re going to read bits and pieces as we go along. The last several lessons will attempt to tie things together. Revelation is full of mystery so be patient as you try to process it. Please read Revelation 1: 1-3 in connection with Revelation 22: 18-19. What will you gain?
Now read the last two chapters, Revelation 21-22. What can you learn from the final chapters of God’s story about the Trinity?