The Beginning

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 1, 2, 3 (Morning)
Psalm 4, 7 (Evening)
Gen. 2:4-9(10-15)16-25
Heb. 1:1-14
John 1:1-18

The Beginning

Is any scripture more essential and more mysterious than the opening verses of John’s gospel? They proclaim the Christian essence: Jesus and God are one. That’s the basis behind everyone you have ever heard claiming that, because only Christians truly worship God, rejecting one means rejecting the other. There follows the usual threat: Accept Jesus, or else it’s the frying pan for you.

But if Jesus is “the Word,” and so is God, what is “the Word”? The original Greek is logos, which took many meanings but here seems to have meant something like the fundamental creative order. Logos is what has always been beneath everything. It is what continues to enliven and sustain it all. The Christian gospel makes clear, over and over, that this creative, sustaining force boils down to one thing: love, in its fullest expression. In the beginning was a uniting, irrepressible impulse of love.

And that vision is hardly ours alone. Among our American Indian neighbors, the Cheyennes tell us of Maheo, the All Being, life’s creative and supportive force. (His great lodge is a butte near Sturgis, South Dakota. Come and visit!) For Pawnees, everything has been born as the stars have sung the world into existence. Every one of us—as well as trees and rocks and our pets and our furniture and the IGA—continue to exist because the stars keep up their singing. We are all beloved Starsong, and so we are all bound together, all brothers and sisters.

What distinguishes us as Christians is not that we have the only tickets to salvation. It is, rather, that we accept that Jesus is the incarnation, the fleshly expression, of a divine, loving force recognized by peoples across the world and across time. Maybe God, the Word, decided that this was the only way that some of us would finally get the message. Maybe God was saying: “Don’t get it yet? Here I am. Watch this. Walk this way, and do your best to follow along.”

To me, it’s a good thought to begin the year.

Written by Elliott West

Elliott teaches history at the University of Arkansas. He has been a member of St. Paul’s for more than twenty-five years.

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