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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

March 2011

Dear Friends,

            As we go into the Lenten Season—which begins on Ash Wednesday, March 9—I recall an episode of that old TV show from the early 1990s, Northern Exposure (my favorite television series to date). This episode focused on Ed Chigliak, a young Native American Indian who was always searching for his roots.  In his attempt to get closer to the customs of his ancestors, Ed filmed an elderly Indian who carved traditional Alaskan “duck flutes” out of wood.  The overarching theme of the episode was: Nothing lasts forever…but a moment in time is enough. 

Ed was in a gloomy mood as he filmed the last practitioner of a nearly lost art.  Someday, when the aged duck flute carver dies, there will be no one left to carry on the ancient Native American trade.  The haunting, wooden-pipe sounds of the Indian duck flute will fade away forever from the forests of the Pacific Northwest.  And so, Ed asked the duck flute carver, “Doesn’t it make you sad to know that after you, there will be no more duck flutes?”  Of course, Native American characters on Northern Exposure are always fonts of wisdom and calm.  And the old carver replied, with unruffled good cheer, “No. Things are always getting gone from the world, even beautiful things.  The mastodons are gone.  Whole tribes of Indians are gone, with their folklore and languages.  There are more things gone from the world than things that are.  Duck flutes are nice, but why should they be any different?” 

You’ve probably attended Ash Wednesday services where the pitch was decidedly gloomy.  The minister smears ashes on your forehead and intones, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Not exactly an uplifting sentiment!  But it’s a good way to kick off Lent, a season of soul-searching, and introspection, and perhaps even penitence.  And yet, in all truth, the ashes are only a small part of a much longer story on our journey toward Easter. 

The old, eternal cycle is always this: life, death, new life.  The mastodons might be gone, and the duck flutes may be “getting gone,” but their passage in this world has had an impact, and the world has become what it is—in part—because of all the things that went before.  Even things that “are no more” live on in new forms and ways.  The mastodons have ended up in the gas tanks of our cars!  And the duck flutes inspired a whole genre of “new age music.”  Life, death, new life.  Mastodons and duck flutes have changed the world forever, and those things now gone continue to live on with different names and in different forms. 

I’m touched by this idea that “a moment in time is enough,” that it’s wiser to let things go when the time has come.  Such wisdom is a rare find in TV sitcoms.  But in this season of Lent, let us remember too that “getting gone” is not the end of the story.

In God’s economy, there always comes a day of new life, rebirth, the phoenix rising from the ashes, the Crucified bursting from the tomb. This is the way that God has ordained for all things, the old, old cycle: life, death, new life.  Whatever changes you face in the days ahead, don’t forget the hope of Easter.

Blessings to you in this Lenten season.

Your Pastor,