Online Sunday School. Cottonpatch Gospels of Clarence Jordan
Incarnational Evangelism Jesus parked his trailer next to ours
1. Clarence Jordan, author of “Cotton Patch Gospels,” was a farmer, preacher, theologian and social justice activist who, in addition to his writing and preaching, founded Koinonia Farm, an interracial community in the segregated Georgia of the 1940s. It survived threats, violence and ostracism and continues today.
2. Jordan asserts that God evangelized the world by incarnation, and this is the only method that has worked. He interprets the famous opening of John’s gospel in this manner. “To begin with there was the idea, and it was a divine idea, and it was God’s idea. This started off with God at the very beginning; everything has happened because of it and apart from it, nothing of significance has ever occurred. In it was life, and the life was the light of society. And the light is still shining in the darkness and the darkness just couldn’t put it out.Now, there was a man who’d been sent from God whose name was John. This man came to bear witness; this was his evangelism: to make known the great message. He came that he might have the testimony, that he might bear witness about the light so that all might believe through him, He was not the light but he was just testifying about the light.There was the true light that illuminates every human being coming into the world, and it was in the world and the world was made because of it. And yet the world ignored it. He came into those things that were his own and those people who were his own passed him by. But as many as did catch on, he gave them the authority to become God’s children – that is all who really trusted in his name who were sired not out of the blood of pagan alters nor out of the lust of human flesh nor were they sired out of the legitimate bonds of matrimony, but out of God’s activity.So then the idea became human and He lived among us.”
3. Jordan again points out that the Greek word translated as “lived” meant a “pitched a tent” which would be a similar situation to a mobile home today. His paraphrase continues “And so the idea became a human and parked his trailer next to ours. And we all examined his credentials, credentials such as an only son receives from a father who’s full with grace and truth. John evangelized, bore the message about him, and cried out saying “This is the one I was talking about when I said “He who comes after me has become ahead of me because He’s my boss.” Now we have all received from his abundance one favor after another. The law was turned over to us by Moses, but grace and truth came thorough Jesus Christ. Nobody at any time has set their eyes on God. The only or unique son, who is from the bosom of the father, that one has made him crystal clear.”
4. Jordan asserts that God did Incarnational Evangelism because while people have ears, they frequently do not hear. He describes his early preaching at a church near the Koinonia Farm, where the church people did not hear the meaning of the sermons until they saw the racial equality practiced at Koinonia, at which time he was excommunicated from that church.
5. What do you think about Jordan’s paraphrase of the opening prologue of John’s gospel? This powerful but theologically complex work is based on the intersection of Jewish thought and Greek philosophy, where the Greek term “Logos”, translated “Word,” represented the divine principal of reason that gives order to the universe. Jewish philosophers associated the Logos with the Wisdom tradition in Judaism and saw it as linking the human mind to the mind of God. The “John Community” of Jewish Christians which produced this gospel understood Jesus in light of this, as well as their situation of separation from the larger Jewish community
6. While the prologue has inspired theologians, it can be daunting for others to make sense of. Jordan makes the passage accessible and understandable. Do you think and theological meaning has been lost? What does this passage say to you about the meaning of Jesus?.
7. Jordan makes the point several times that these passages say Jesus “pitched his tent” or “parked his trailer” next to ours. Tents or trailers are associated in our society with poorer people who can’t afford more traditional housing, or even with homeless people. Often we believe we are better than such people, perhaps have worked harder or avoided sinful behaviors. The Bible is full of ideas to the contrary, and even that God values the poor more. How do you deal with these ideas? What would it mean if we are living in a trailer and Jesus has parked his trailer next door, and has brought all of his naked, sick, hungry, thirsty, prisoner brothers and sisters with him?