Necessary Endings

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  May 18, 2013

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. Ecclesiastes 3 eloquently describes this truth in beautifully poetic terms: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

A healthy Christian faith takes these seasons quite seriously. They are a matter of prayerful attention and soulful reflection. This is particularly real in times when necessary endings face believers.

Throughout scripture, there are several necessary endings. Deuteronomy recalls the final sermon of Moses as he prepares to pass the mantle of leadership to Joshua and the desert wandering comes to an end. The 30th Chapter is a beautiful summary of the choices the people face at the moment of a necessary ending. Given the options between good and bad, life or death, Moses calls on the faithful to choose life!

Later, after settling into the Promised Land, Joshua follows suit at the end of his time to rule. Joshua 23 illustrates a similar blessing to the one Moses uttered a generation before. The necessary ending of one era in the life of Israel, Joshua defines life in the new age as one where he and his household would serve only God. He then challenges the believers to do the same.

The epic story of Ruth illustrates the tragic side of necessary endings as the woman who would become King David’s great grandmother faced the tragedy of her first husband’s death. Caught between two worlds, Ruth embraced the tragic ending in her life through unquenchable faith.

For all his greatness and love for God, King David experienced many tragic endings. Perhaps the most traumatic was in the 15th Chapter of 2 Samuel when his sinful past exploded into his kingdom culminating in the loss of his throne. Recognizing the inevitability of this necessary ending, David quietly left Jerusalem in disgrace in order to spare its people the further indignity of a bitter and bloody battle for the throne. In the end, David would regain the throne, but not by his own hand, and not in a way he would have liked.

Jesus spoke of necessary endings in John 12:24 of the vital importance of simply letting important things die. By using the illustration of a seed falling into the earth and dying before it cold spring forth and produce new life, Jesus was alluding to his own death and resurrection. Yet, the implications of this parable speak to our own lives as well.

There are things—important things, sentimental things, even things that bear all the marks of being good, orderly, decent, and necessary—that have outlived their purpose and truly need to die. In the 15th Chapter of John, Jesus carries the agricultural image to another level when he speaks of pruning viable branches because the desired result is not more branches, but more fruit. There are times when the necessary endings of life remind us that there are things of which we must simply let go.

This is hard work for individuals, for families, and for churches. Yet, it is also holy work. What is your necessary ending? Are we holding to an idea, a theology, a tradition, or a memory that is no longer working in the modern world? Are we holding to angers, resentments, and bitterness that holds us back from living in love? Are we clinging to relationships and affiliations that draw the life right out of us and destroy the fruits of our faith? Are we more interested in preserving the past than we are in living for the future?  What necessary endings are holding us back from a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God?