“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
“…and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
Life is fragile, delicate, precious. We seek to hold on to so much in this world, whether relationships, positions of power, or memories of the way things were. Yet, life is full of endings. People graduate from one thing to move on to the next. We change schools, jobs, homes seeking something better or more permanent. We certainly hope some things will end, like pandemics, disease, poverty, homelessness! I have etched in my brain the voice of Joyce Alford encouraging me and others when going through difficult times when she would say, “This too will pass.”
I have had many endings in my life. I said tearful goodbyes to two youth groups I directed before entering seminary. So far I have had to say goodbye to seven local church appointments and superintending assignments on four districts. I have said goodbye to high school and college friends, a seminary community, and countless deaths of family, loved ones and friends. Saying goodbye is a part of life and I hate it. It seems that just when I start to feel comfortable and “at home” it’s time to go.
Bill Hybels used to talk about the importance of building relationships outside the church to be an influence on others for Christ. For the last 21 years I have been a member of a golf community where I did not know anyone before I joined and in which I am the only clergy person. I can’t say that I have made any close friends. I certainly have put up with a lot of good-natured jokes about my calling as a clergy; people often apologize after “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” People have shared joys and griefs in quiet moments, and I have tried to maintain an even and positive presence. But now it looks like the club and its membership will be disbanded after this summer and I am sad. Even though I have been an “outsider” at the club because I’m not a good golfer and not a gambler, it has been the one place that has been stable in my life for 21 years. In that time period I have transitioned through seven houses, four pastoral appointments but one golf club membership. Can’t anything stay stable?
We value of stability of life and the belonging of community, yet the truth is that there is no permanence this side of eternity. Friends are grieving a devastating car accident that killed their teenage son. Today the tears and outcry from Afghanistan as some semblance of stability comes to an end and terror reigns. Wildfires burn the homes and hopes of people in western USA.
Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how fragile we are as a human community. We yearn for stability and belonging, yet our life situation and relationships can turn starkly and without warning. My only stability is Christ Jesus, who holds all life from beginning to end and throughout eternity. Jesus has promised to never leave me or forget about me. God walks with me in the deepest valleys of my life. It is good to know that there is a Love that will never end.
Gracious God, when we are torn by tragic endings or when we are simply sad when situations in our life changes, help us to hold onto you as you hold onto us. In Jesus name, the Alpha and Omega we pray. Amen.