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PARADISE CORNER

Which do you prefer—the beginning, the middle, or the end? The question applies to relationships, tasks, even meals and vacations. Beginnings, middles, and ends are not only real; they are also important. For example, one of the major rules of fiction is that a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Beginnings, middles, and ends invite reflection, which is the purpose of this article. (Hint: the point will be to celebrate the middle!)

Beginning a new relationship of any kind is fun. (Let me go on record as saying I am having lots of fun starting our relationship as Pastor and people!) Ending things is usually hard but can also be satisfying. (Let me go on record as saying that’s not a hint I am ending anything!) The middle, of course, is the most complicated place to be. The middle is also the place at which commitments are deepest and whatever the matter at hand (relationship, task, meal, etc.) is most familiar.

Which do you find most challenging—the beginning, the middle, or the end? My answer is always the end. For example, I have always considered the endings to be the least robust parts of my sermons. It serves as a reminder to me that letting go—especially of something worked over and shared—is difficult. There are other times; however, when the end is satisfying. For example, I love the end piece of a loaf of bread. (It is tasty no matter what you call it—“the heel,” “the crust,” or “the knobby” as the British do!)

All of this is a way to say that an important skill in life together is keeping our beginnings, middles, and ends all in mind and celebrating them because—I believe—that by celebrating these times—we celebrate each other and never lose sight of each other—even if we are at different places on the journey. An end to one is a beginning to another and the thick middle of things to yet another. All of those persons are in relationship especially in a group like a congregation. Relationships unfold. God brings us to where we need to be and, through each other, helps us to find guidance, insight, and wisdom. To try to understand one another is to celebrate what God is doing, what God has done, and what God holds for the future.

What God is doing is always the richest part of the story. And, my friends, this rich part of the story is where we find ourselves right now as Pastor and people together. We are at all parts of our relationship simultaneously. New things are beginning. Old things are ending. Those can be—and are unsettling. Yet, we find both God and ourselves in the middle. We are especially aware of that because we are limited, but God is not. We find ourselves exactly where God puts us and we celebrate that the same limitless God continues to hold us now and eternally.

That brings this reflection to a close. I hope it doesn’t bring the thought process to a close. We are squarely in the middle of what God is doing. Here—whether it is the beginning, the middle, or the end—those around us who also dwell in God’s presence. We see the part in front of us. We glimpse the beginning and the end while being the middle. It is from here that we see God holding it all and, when we see God holding it all, we see God holding us, since, we are, in the middle.
Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise