WORD FROM THE PASTOR:

Things That End, and Things That Donít

A few weeks ago, a complete recording of Wagnerís opera Tristan und Isolde was issued by the gigantic music company EMI. The recording is noteworthy for tenor Placido Domingoís performance as Tristan (usually considered the most demanding role in opera). Besides Domingoís long-awaited assumption of Tristan, however, the recording is remarkable for another reason: it most likely will be the last major studio recording of an opera.

When I began collecting records in the 1970s, the record companies recorded dozens of complete opera sets a year. Over the past five years or so, that flood has diminished to a trickle. And now the EMI Tristan is almost universally expected to mark the end of studio-recorded opera. Not a bad way to go out, actually, with the greatest living tenor singing the greatest of all operasĖbut still, a sad thing for those of us who relish vocal recordings.

Another end came not long ago when the Walt Disney company shut down its feature film cartoon department. No more will Disney give the world great hand-drawn films like Pinocchio or Snow White or The Lion King. Everything is three-dimensional, computer animation nowĖhand-drawn cartoons are passe. So a great cinematic art form seems to be passing into oblivion.

A few days ago I sat in a beloved local eatery called The Rose Cottage. It was their last night of business. In the near future, it will become a sushi place. Sitting there, I felt melancholyĖI think Iíve eaten at Rose Cottage more than any other sit-down restaurant in the area. There I have celebrated weddings, cemented friendships, commemorated Motherís Day...and now itís gone. Another end.

Thatís the way the world is. Things end. Itís always been that way. I can imagine a pastor in the 1920s whining in his newsletter about the demise of the horse-drawn carriage. This is a world in which things develop, things change, things pass away.

And itís not just opera recordings, or restaurants, or cartoons. Itís not just drive-in movies or TV variety shows. Itís things that are much more precious. Like our relationships with people. Anger or alienation sometimes bring our relationships to an end. Sometimes they end when a friend moves away. And sometimes they end through death. And that is truly disturbing and depressingĖthat so often the things we value the most reach an end.

In a world where so many things come to an end, where nothing seems lasting, nothing seems permanent, Scripture has a joyful message for us: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning." (Lamentations 3:22). There is one thing in this world that has no end, and that is the goodness and love of God.

God is eternal; He has no beginning and no end. His goodness, His love, His mercy were already there at the very beginning of the world; His goodness, love, and mercy will be there when the world comes to an end. These are the things we can truly rely on, the things that will not disappoint us. Our relationship with Him with never end.

Oddly enough, though, God Himself experienced an end once. He entered this world and became human in Jesus Christ. And thirty-some years later, His earthly life endedĖended in the pain and horror of the cross. Indeed, He cried out, "It is finished!" He Himself experienced an end.

And yetĖ"Love is stronger than death" (Song of Solomon 8:6). And the end that Jesus suffered on the cross blossomed into a new beginning through the resurrection. And in light of the resurrection, we realize that His cry "It is finished" isnít talking about an end at allĖHe was saying, "It is accomplished! Iíve done what I came to do!" And what He came to do is to pay for our sin, to take away our sin, and give us a new beginning.

Because of Jesus, life is no longer a series of ends. Itís a series of beginnings! Every day is a new beginning! Every morning, Godís mercies are made new! As they used to say back in the 1960s, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life!"

And yes, there will be goodbyes in this life. And some of those goodbyes will be melancholy indeed. But every morning we say "Hello" to the crucified and risen Christ. So every morning can be a rebirth of joy!

There are a lot of ends in life. I canít take my kid to the drive-in movie, or to Ebbets Field. And more poignantly, I canít take him fishing with my deceased father or brother. But with all the ends that vex us, we can still make it throughĖbecause with Jesus, every day is a new beginning.

God loves you and so do I!