From the First to the Last….He is the Alpha & Omega

2718755681_bd854485c6_oIt was a favorite movie when I was growing up – a classic my family faithfully watched every Thanksgiving. And without fail, I teared up at the poignant parts. One such scene of “The Sound of Music” was at the music festival when Max announces at the conclusion of the Salzburg Music Festival, “This will be the last opportunity the von Trapps will have of singing together for a long, long time….”

That scene has played itself out many times over the past month with our own family. No, we weren’t singing. And no, we weren’t dramatically avoiding conscription into the army of the Third Reich. Nonetheless, we were repeatedly experiencing the lasts….the last pizza night in Glendive. The last track meet. The last time shopping at The Attic. The last Toastmaster meeting. The last special dinner out at Mexico Lindo. With a bit of fanfare and a bit of emotion, our family slowly said goodbye to Glendive – a town which had become home for all twelve of us over the past five years.

And as we experienced the “lasts” of our time in Glendive, I also reflected on our “firsts”. Glendive was the first hometown of our newly adopted Haitian daughters. Our home was their first American home. Glendive and DCC was the first college experience for any of our children. It was John’s first time as a head coach at the college level. Glendive gave me my first experience of leading a congregation as a pastor and where my speaking and writing career began. So many firsts and lasts, literally everything from A to Z, we experienced in Glendive….and to all of them, we needed to say goodbye.

7804335188_b0df9d58d7_bIn Greek, the first and last letters of the alphabet are Alpha and Omega, and in scripture the Lord introduces himself, saying “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” [Revelation 1:8] It’s God that encompasses all that is, all that has ever been, and all that will ever be. From the very beginning of creation to our final breaths – all are within the realm of God. Each first we experienced in Glendive, and each last we experienced in Glendive, was held by our God.

It strikes me that sometimes we forget or even disbelieve that God is present in the very details of our lives – no matter how small or large, no matter how new or old, no matter how joyous or laborious. There is nothing in our lives – no first, no last, and no in-between, that escapes his purview or presence. And while that truth may cause some of you discomfort or confusion, it really should elicit much comfort and clarity. God’s presence is one of grace, mercy and love. Are you wandering? He longs to shepherd you along the pathways of life. Are you burdened? He offers you rest. Are you shamed? He restores you with everlasting love. Are you conflicted? He gives you peace. Are you regretful? He extends forgiveness. Are you sick? He heals holistically.

All that you are – all that you have been – and all that you will be….each of your firsts and each of your lasts – they all are contained within the Alpha and Omega God. Some come to him with great fanfare, and others quietly. Some respond with exuberant emotion, and others more subdued. All must come with humility and repentance. No one has strayed too far, sinned too greatly, or stayed away too long.

Our time in Glendive has drawn to a close as we begin a new adventure and new chapter in Newton, Kansas. Soon we will be experiencing an entirely new set of firsts and lasts, even as we fondly remember our time among you. As we exit with the final chorus of “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye,” my prayer for you is that you will daily pause to reflect on and invite God’s presence in your own lives….into your firsts, lasts, and in-betweens.