Beloved is Where We Begin

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 Beginnings are powerful. Beginnings are where the story starts, where the story is born. Where a new part of ourselves is born, maybe a new understanding of ourselves in the world.

 What does it mean to be at the beginning of a story? In the prologue of John, which we hear every year directly after Christmas, we are brought back to the very beginning, before historical time. John is setting the stage for the rest of his story, for his Gospel. The prologue is a dramatic device that lays out the unseen forces behind the events that will be told. John steps back from the visible world, the persons and events of history, and takes us back to the beginning of creation. The words John uses, “in the beginning,” echo the first words of Genesis, the first words in our Bible. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning was the Deep, and the spirit of God brooding over the waters. We are brought into sacred time, to the true beginning of everything.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

 When I hear “beginning,” I think root or heart. What is the heart of the matter? Where is the root? Where are we rooted? From what or where did we grow? When I hear “Word,” I hear “story.” What is the story that began in that heart or root? What matters most of all? What was intended for me from the very start?

 This is how I like to begin my new year: Recalling what is at the root of things, what is at the deepest part of my heart, by body, my being. Where does the story of my life find its nourishment, its meaning, the energy to keep unfolding?

 It’s like a fresh breath. Take a breath now. Take several deep breaths. Take your time. Notice with each breath that you are taking a breath that you have never taken before. This is a new breath. Now, let it out, and notice it going. Let it go. There will be another breath. And that is another beginning. Beginnings are possible constantly.

 Whatever is behind you, the mistakes you made, the many times you failed to love or step up when action was called for, that is the old story. You get to open your heart, take a fresh breath, and begin again.

 We are old enough now, we have made those mistakes of failure and cowardice enough times, that we are not naïve. Yes, we are thankful for the chance to begin again, to go back and remember the truth of our beginning, but we are also worried. Because we know how easy it is to get lost. How easy it is to lose the thread of the true story and wander down a side path that leads to nowhere.

 I want to remind you of two things. Both are at the heart of the story we come back to this place, this church, this circle again and again to recount, to remember. Two things that come out of the story of the incarnation of the Divine into our human form.

 The first thing I want to remind you of is who you really are, at the heart, at the root. The second thing I want to remind you of is that you are not alone in this story.

 Who are you, really? Who am I? Because stories of beginnings are always stories of identity. For my children and my grandchild, any child I am close to, their favorite story is the story of their birth. They want to know that they were welcome, they were seen, they were loved, they were utterly unique. This is the essence of every good birth story: In the beginning was love, and then came you.

 Who you really are is beloved. You are the beloved of the cosmos, each of you. You are the Beloved of God, just as Jesus was. Jesus came to show us that reality, a story that was true not only of him, but of each of us. Who are you? You are the Beloved of God.

 As Paul tells us in Galatians, the proof that you ARE children of God is the fact that God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of the Child—Jesus—who calls out ‘Abba!’ The Spirit resides in your heart, at your very root, and cries: Abba Amma God! Mother Father God! Paul goes on to remind us that we are no longer slaves. You are no longer enslaved to the old story, to your failures. You are no longer bound up, lost, but a new child. You are Beloved. Listen to your hearts, and you will hear this cry. Listen. The child calls for its parent, and the loving parent answers: Beloved child! You are no longer a slave, but a child. A free one. A sovereign. Beloved. This is who you really are.

 The second thing I want to remind you of is that you are not alone in this story. Look around you. Look at the others sitting around you. Look at all these beautiful Beloveds. You may not be able to tell that YOU are a beautiful Beloved all of the time, but at least some of the time, you can tell that some of these others are beautiful Beloveds. This is why we come to church. If you were not interested in remembering that you are not alone, you would not come to church. Look around. This is a simple thing, and so difficult to remember. Yet there it is. You are not alone.

 What is this story, with its many beginnings? This story that we never get tired of hearing, season after season, year after year? This story is the journey of a people, the beloveds of God. This journey, your life, my life, our life together as a community, is a journey into the wilderness, into the unknown. It is not an easy story. Right now, on Mother Earth, this journey is very difficult, and the future is completely unknown. The future is downright terrifying. We feel little and weak and unsure and alone.

 These days, I look to the poets when I feel anxious, when I forget where I began, who I am, and why I should stay true to this journey. I look to the poets in the bible and those poet prophets who have been sent to us. Here is a poem by Jan Richardson, about beginnings. It’s called “Beloved Is Where We Begin.”


Jan Richardson, from Circle of Grace

 If you would enter

into the wilderness,

do not begin

without a blessing.


Do not leave

without hearing

who you are:


named by the One

who has traveled this path

before you.


Do not go

without letting it echo

in your ears,

and if you find

it is hard

to let it into your heart,

do not despair.

That is what

this journey is for.


I cannot promise

this blessing will free you

from danger,

from fear,

from hunger

or thirst,

from the scorching

of sun

or the fall

of the night.



But I can tell you

that on this path

there will be help.


I can tell you

that on this way

there will be rest.


I can tell you

that you will know

the strange graces

that come to our aid

only on a road

such as this,

that fly to meet us

bearing comfort

and strength,

that come alongside us

for no other cause

than to lean themselves

toward our ear

and with their

curious insistence

whisper our name: