January 4, 2010

Beginning Again

            In my first class in seminary (taken shortly after the earth cooled!), I learned about the Hebraic understanding of time as opposed to the Greek view. The Hebrews believed in a history with God rather than a cyclical return to the beginning. God had revealed divine presence through specific events with the covenant people. Christians picked up this view and made the coming of Christ, his appearance, the very center of time. Laced throughout this prophetic history of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament is another thread, the regular rhythms of worship, so that every Sabbath/Sunday is a chance to begin all over again. Celebrating rest and resurrection, as the two traditions prompt, reveal God’s willingness to allow a new beginning. Not only does the Christian year frame the possibility of renewal and deepened understanding of God’s trinitarian history with humanity, but the Gregorian calendar (widely used in the world) even in its progressive enumeration allows a similar fresh start.

             A New Year can be a spiritual opportunity as God grants us an opportunity to make all things new. God is never locked in the past, but is delighted to craft with us a new future, with hope. I spent a couple of days of this past week with the extended Marshall clan—nothing like a family wedding to bring up (in my mind, at least) all the things that need working on! I saw neglected cousins and nephews (whose weddings their crazy aunt was too busy to attend); I met a whole crop of new relatives now linked through the vows of marriage. I encountered a new grandniece for the first time. All the Facebook posts in the world hardly compare to the embraces of far-flung family. As you might imagine, a new resolution formed in me: do not take these dear ones for granted; number your days in such a way as to include them.

            One of the lectionary readings for this week (Jeremiah 31:7-14) speaks of a great homecoming as God gathers the dispersed people that they might begin anew. Perhaps you, like me, need a renewed commitment both to family of origin and the people of God. Both are necessary to sustain our lives, and our grateful participation can provide joy, comfort, and satisfaction so that “their life shall become like a watered garden” (31:12). And we will be the better for it, too.

            Molly T. Marshall

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