Weekly Devotional

In the Beginning

Reflection by John Allen

“In the beginning…” 


The Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah marks the end of the annual cycle of public Torah readings. Each year, on this day, Jews around hear about Israel perched on the edge of the promised land, and then just when fulfillment is so close you could taste it, the scroll is rolled back to Genesis. In the beginning…

In the Revised Common Lectionary, our calendar of readings in the Christian tradition, this is the week we roll the scroll back. For Christians, still glowing from the story of Christ’s birth, still wondering at how the promises of this child will be lived out, we turn back to the beginning, and remember how it all began.

God formed all that is out of chaos. God shaped life from from a humming swirl of potential. God molded the cosmos from the shimmering surface of the primal waters.

Just when we are standing on the brink of God’s greatest promise, we get a history lesson. We remember that this is not the first great thing that God has done for us, that all of life is indeed the great miracle. We remember that Jesus is not born into a world that God had never known, Christ comes into the world that God’s fingers traced.

And we remember to that all God’s promises invite us to begin again. To start from scratch, knowing what we know now. Now that we know that God is with us. Now that we know that God is at work reshaping the world. Now that we know that God desires our healing. Now that we know that God is striving for peace.

Samuel Beckett’s words from “Westward Ho,” are a perfect mantra for us, who are about to walk through the same story, yet again:

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

So we start again, a fresh year, a fresh journey through the story. Familiar words, that are ready to take us someplace new. We didn’t get it all last time, and we won’t this time. But here we go.

In the beginning…

Prayer: God of our beginning, of our ending, of everything in between. Guide us even deeper into your story. Walk with us as we try again. Hold us up when we fail again. Teach us enough that we will always fail better.

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