“In the name of the Father. In the name of the Son. In the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” That was the invocation at my church yesterday. Yes, you read that right, the invocation. What sounds like a perfect ending to a service actually served to begin our corporate worship.
As I sat in my pew I was left with a moment of cognitive dissonance. If there is one thing that my soul craves, it is order. My sense of order had just been upended by putting what seemed like the end at the beginning. As all good liturgy does, though, it forced me to grapple with the faith and I was reminded of the wonderful, almost incredible, ambiguity with which Christianity plays with beginnings and endings.
We prefer when beginnings and endings are stark and demarcated. No one wants to be told ambiguously by their boss what hours they should work. Most of us seek clarity in romantic relationships before the ambiguity drives us crazy. Beginnings. Endings. They mark our lives. Neither is the academic world immune to this desire. Scholars debate over beginning and endings of historical periods, frequently tracing streams of thought back to their origins.
As the benediction-like words rang out in yesterday’s call to worship, I realized this: Christianity does not make these stark demarcations. Rather, it blurs the beginnings and the endings together. The lines are not nearly as clear.
Our faith journeys often reflect this ambiguity. Many cannot pinpoint the specific time when they came to faith. Nor does death function as a final end for the believer. Beginnings are blurred. Endings become beginnings. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.
Indeed the very person of Jesus upends our notion of beginnings and endings. The creative Word of God who was present at the very beginning of time and the Lamb who is able to open the scroll of God’s judgment at the end of all ages is the one who comes in the midst of history. The beginning and end meet in a single, historical person. Beginnings and endings together, in Christ.
There’s nothing ground-breaking about this realization I had in the pew yesterday. We all know and have experienced these realities. But the call to me yesterday was to recognize that Christ himself sometimes confronts our desires for clear demarcations with his very person. He upends clarity for the sake of love, bringing a deeper order to our reality by bringing life even when it seems finished.
In the midst of that service yesterday, we were informed that one of our brothers in the congregation had run the course of medical treatment and had a few days to live. With somber hearts, we reflected on his coming end, but in the gracious context of an impending new beginning, with the benediction-like invocation echoing through our bones, the lines blurred by a God who makes all things new.