On this day in 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H aired, becoming the most-watched television episode in U.S. history. The 2½ hour program, entitled “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” drew in approximately 106 million viewers. The series, which blended drama and comedy in a mobile army hospital during the Korean War, garnered 14 Emmys and 8 Golden Globes in eleven seasons on the air. Alan Alda, the star who played Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, co-wrote and directed “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which topped the single-episode ratings record of the Dallas cliffhanger, “Who Shot J.R.?,” in 1980. The final chapter of M*A*S*H* chronicles the lives of the major characters after a cease-fire is declared.
In a 2004 interview, Harry Morgan, who played Colonel Sherman T. Potter in the series, admitted that it was hard for him to say good-bye to M*A*S*H*. “I could’ve done it for another ten years,” he said.
Many people, even Christians, find it difficult to say good-bye to their own sins. They have cozied up to greed or gossip, made friends with complaining or cursing, moved in with anger or adultery–and now it seems painful to turn their backs on what they have been doing for so long. Perhaps you can relate to what Puritan philosopher Benjamin Whichcote noted in a posthumous work entitled Moral and Religious Aphorisms: “It is a great deal easier to commit a second sin, than it was to commit the first; and a great deal harder to repent of a second, than it was to repent of the first.”
Repentance is not a self-help program or a list of Lenten resolutions. It is a complete change of course, reprogramming the trajectory of life. We have a tendency not to be brutal enough with our sins. We should say “farewell” to them instead of “see you soon.” Abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher wryly noted in Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, “Many people keep their old sins warm while they go to try on virtue and see if they like it.”
When we repent, we do two things: roundly turn our backs on an old, bedeviling way of life and gladly turn toward the Christ who imparts new life. By identifying with Jesus, we enter into His suffering so that we might partake of His victory. When the Roman soldiers dropped the cross on His welted shoulders, our Lord knew that there was no turning back. So it should be for us who have taken up the cross. Christ died for our sin so that we could die to sin. We carry the death of Jesus wherever we go (II Corinthians 4:10), allowing Christ to continually crucify those things which rise up to cut us off from full fellowship with Him.
This all may sound morbid, but remember this: resurrection only happens to dead things.