This week’s readings are full of beginnings and endings. We have Genesis 1:1, the first chapter of the first book of the bible—a new beginning if there ever was one. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Paul’s gentle farewell to the Corinthians, and the final verses of the final chapter of Matthew. Those short verses from Matthew also contain a beginning and end: the commissioning of the disciples, and Christ’s promise to remain with them, “always, to the end of the age.”
Because it’s also Trinity Sunday, I’m inclined to look for a third party to this duo of end & beginning, hello & farewell. The trouble is, I can’t seem to find quite the right word. I’ve cycled through several as I’ve drafted this post (weirdly, the all seem to begin with the letter p). Here are a few I’ve tried: presence, preparation, packing, prayer.
Honestly, though, the p-word that has been most revelatory for me as I’ve contemplated the cycle of leaving something dear in order to start something new, is poetry. In writing a poem I sometime surprise myself—giving voice and dimension to wisdom I was unaware I possessed. That act of voicing—hearing, translating—is so important. It’s one of the many calls of that most elusive member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
With this idea of voice in mind, I would like to share a rather long poem by Eleanor Wilner, “Reading the Bible Backwards,” whose wise, distant voice has helped me remember that beginnings and endings—no matter how momentous they might feel—have quite a lot in common. She guides us through a familiar world by way of an unexpected path: the poem begins with apocalypse and ends with creation—linking these two apparent extremes by means of imaginative exploration. By the end (which also the beginning) I am reminded that first & last are human distinctions; there are many reasons to be calm and hopeful at every stage of every journey as long as we can remember that God is with us. Perhaps that is the logic behind this week’s assortment of biblical lessons.