I remember the day when I learned that a comedy is more than something that is funny. A comedy in literature is a story that ends well. A tragedy is a story that ends poorly. In todays reading we have both a tragedy and a comedy. Sampson, the hero of Israel is rendered weak and impotent by a fragile woman. The Prodigal Son who we are introduced to as a rebellious nere do well is reinstated to sonship. It is easy for all of us to rest on our laurels, but what matters most is how we finish.
All of our accomplishments in life can be nullified by a tragic finish and all of our failures can be redeemed with a noble completion to our journey. As most of you know, I recently announced my departure from my beloved congregation in Murphyboro. It is been an amazing story filled with twists and turns, exhilarating highs and devastating lows. My preoccupation now, however, is simply to finish well. This has been a time of intense grieving for me and I have been inundated with a flood of warm well wishes. Still at the end of my time there are the predictable few who still make it their business to try to get one fresh stab in before they are left to seek out new victims. The temptation, frankly, is to finish poorly and unleash a firestorm of pent-up responses. I have been thinking lately, however, that we can accomplish great things by the life-giving words that we say, but our character is primarily formed by what we don’t say.
Ever wonder what Jesus was tempted to say? Even on the cross he is sending life-giving messages. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When given an opportunity to confront his attackers he chose not to defend himself. As I end my time here I want to finish well. I hope that all of you whom I know realize how deeply I love you. I also pray that you will forgive me of any shortcoming either intentional or unintentional. I fully and freely forgive all who have harmed me either intentionally or unintentionally. As I come to the end of my time as pastor, I want to finish well. If there is anything anybody who needs to clear up or clean up anything with me, I am available. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Lord and your faithfulness and friendship to me.
Why not join me in the task of completing our stories with dignity? No matter how good or how bad life has been, let’s commit to making our last chapters, our best chapters. Let’s finish well!