“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
2 Timothy 1:9
Found in Genesis 1:1-27 and John 1:1-12
The pancakes pop and sizzle in the pan, round and golden. The smell of coffee wafts, inviting.
This season of Easter, of Lent, begins with a feast before fasting.
We’ve done this every year for a while now. These annual traditions grounding us, giving us markers in our calendars and comfortable assumptions in our minds, re-igniting memories, reminding us who we are.
Traditionally this day-Shrove Tuesday, is an emptying of the fridge of temptations and a wrapping up of leftovers in pancakes. Nowadays though, if we recognise Shrove Tuesday at all, we skip the leftovers and head straight for the pancakes. And as they flip and sizzle in the pan, as the air fills with the warm aroma of anticipation, and as my children place the syrup, sugar and limes on the table, we begin this holiday season, this walk towards Easter, doing what we’ve always done, because we’ve always done it; knowing what we are doing, but not really considering why we are doing it.
Not so with God at the beginning of all things. He knew exactly what He was doing. His walk through time, to and through the cross, was the chosen act of an intentional God.
There was a purpose at the beginning of time. A plan. And Easter was always central in this plan.
Like all good stories, it began at the beginning. This beginning that just happened to be the genesis of all things…
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“God said…” and worlds rushed into being, “Let there be…“ and it was so. No argument, no blue print, no building permits. Simply life tumbling forth in glorious eager obedience to God’s word. And God’s word, pregnant with the seeds of the Universe, ushers in, ignites, births and creates… well, everything.
God’s word brought all things into existence. All things found their being simply by God’s Word, and yet this reality is more mysterious and strange than simply a symphony of syllables exhaled. This Word, spoken out into the emptiness of everything, filling every void with life upon over-brimming, over-flowing life, this Word is also a person.
This Word is Christ.
The opening chapter of Genesis gives us God’s first Word, creating all life on earth. But, like a peeling back of heaven’s veil and a seeping in of shafting light, the opening chapter of the Gospel of John reveals the last Word in all creation. The Living Word.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made”. John 1:1- 3
And truth seeps into time, reframing all our time. In the beginning was the Word…and that Word is Christ, the mystery of the three in one unity of the triune God. “Let us make mankind” is the hint the Old Testament gives but the New Testament sticks it like a pin in a map;
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17
Before all things, Jesus was.
From before the beginning of all our beginnings, the genesis of all our breaths, Jesus Christ was there, woven into the fabric of every living thing, present in all creation. In Him all things hold together. Without Him we fall apart. And because He was there in the beginning, so was grace. For us.
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” 2 Timothy 1:9
Our whole world, containing all the histories, futures, hopes and dreams of every generation of humanity, it has always hung on this one single gold thread: the intentional purpose and grace of the triune God, the community of three.
Before time began, before human kind began, before sin began, before pain began, grace was there, waiting for us. If only we could let it sink in beneath our skin into our veins running straight to our heart. If only we could let our heart hear the beating heart of love for us at the centre of this Universe.
When Apollo 13 first sent us back those startling, humbling, frightening pictures of that pale blue dot, a marble suspended in the silence of space; How small we felt, how small we were, dangling there in the vast emptiness and silent darkness. But we, unknowing have always been known. And we, unseeing have always been seen. Beheld and held from the beginning of all things, our orbit around the sun was ordered by God’s son, placed, lovingly in the outer regions of the Milky Way.
And His hands, full of purpose and grace, His hands were scarless then, then at the beginning of all things.
But I wonder, as He held us like a marble in His hand, did His palm feel it? A twinge of pain mixed with the joy of that first day? Did He hesitate a moment when He placed the iron seams in the rock, deep in the belly of the earth, knowing one-day it would pierce deep His hands, His feet, His very heart. And on the day He made the trees, did He flinch knowing He would one-day die on one?
This pale blue dot in the cosmos, this restless whirling world would one-day wound Him to His core; The day creation would turn on it’s Creator.
This cross, you see, it was always there, right from the very beginning. It was always present, as present as Earth’s four compass points, running through the centre, whirling round the middle; North, South, East, West. The compass cross we use to find our way home.
‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
And this is the thing I find most puzzling of all: at the beginning of all things, God said everything in all creation was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) even though He knew one day it wouldn’t be. And yet He said it anyway.
Before the foundations of the Universe were laid, from the moment He dreamt us into existence, His walk to the cross had begun. He has always been the ‘Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8).
God knew. He knew all along that this is where His journey would take Him, where love for frail human beings would take Him. Jesus knew. And still He came anyway, knowing we would either turn to Him, turn on Him, or turn away. He chose to let us make that choice. From before that day in the first garden long ago Jesus was preparing for His journey to you, to me, His long walk to and through the cross.
Easter, the Cross, Jesus death in our place, it was never a plan ‘B’, patch-up job on humanity. It was always only ever a plan ‘A’. It was always the intentional act of a loving God. Loving us cost Him. And He chose to love us anyway. Loving us cost Him, because that is what real love is: cost. Real love doesn’t look like sentimental feeling or passionate emotion. Real love looks like a cross.
We misunderstand Easter if we think it is simply about a death. It’s not just about a death. It’s about a love. This wild crazy uncontainable love that gave His life for you and me before the creation of the world; this whole spinning world that right now is heaving with pain and reeling with confusion. This whole spinning world full of upending upheaval and shaken hopes. This whole spinning world that needs real love right now more than any other time in all our living memory.
Love did this. God did this. Because this is who He is. Not a distant deity imposing religiosity and rules, but a loving, searching, furrow-browed Father, squinting, scouring, searching the horizon in hope. For you. He’s there on every road, every highway, traipsing every path, every backstreet, traversing every alleyway, crossroads and country lane; walking, searching, calling. He’s there, daily waiting for us, inviting us to walk awhile with Him. Inviting us this Easter Season to stop going it alone. Inviting us to find ourselves. With Him. To rediscover our human story, in His long story, the story of His long walk to find us.
Because Easter. In the end. It’s always been a story. The truest of stories. The longest of stories. The one true story that began before we began, the living story that has yet to reach its full conclusion. This story about Jesus- not the religious one, but the real one; the one with Galilean dust in His sandals and the depth of a thousand galaxies in His eyes. The story of a love, a journey and a cross. A cross that stands like a pin in a map, a line in the sand, a white flag in a war. This cross that is a thin rim of light across a pre-dawn horizon; the promise of a sun about to dawn on a brand new day.
In the end, Easter, has always been a story. And in the end, we are all invited to find ourselves within it.
Where ever all your previous moments have left you, wherever all your previous experiences have lost you, He’s left heaven behind to find you, where ever you are on the road.
Come, find yourself in His love.
‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)
Name the ways in your life you have underestimated God’s grace.
How might this change here and now today?
References, Notes and Photo Credits
All photos of Stars are courtesy of NASA and STScI Hubbl Site.org