The opening words of our Genesis reading today are memorable, aren’t they? These words, “In the beginning when God created,” announce the start of it all. Before this, there was nothing. After these words, everything comes. This feels like the nexus of history’s beginning.
Yet these opening words are not the best translation of the Hebrew. There is a general sense of status, of standing still, in our English translation of Genesis 1:1. But the essence and the emotion underpinning these Hebrew words is more than just an announcement of the start of time. These words contain feelings of freedom and activity that is centered less on time and the start but rather on who starts this all: God. A better translation that gets to this essence is: “At the beginning of God’s creating…”
“At the beginning” is a much more potent expression of God’s creative acts. Rather than focusing on the “when” of God’s action, we are instead turned to see what God does. We’re not just looking at time or seeing the start of a linear profession of history that brings us to today. Instead, the focus is on God and what God does: God creates. God generates. God activates.
God is active in an ongoing and creative relationship with Creation. God’s story is a story of activity in the past, future, and present. Without such an active engagement with Creation, our gathering together today would just be a remembrance of what God’s done in the past. We would be telling stories of history that would always feel partially distant from us. But we’re here because God is still active in the world and active in our lives. That’s our proclamation, and God’s promise to us. God doesn’t act only in history. God acts today. And, for that, we can say, “Thanks be to God.”
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 1/11/2015.