Luke 21:29-33 (First Sunday in Advent—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 29, 2009
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from our Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 21:
And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
In the well-known hymn “Abide with Me,” stanza three reads, “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” This hymn verse speaks very powerfully and very pointedly about life in a fallen creation. It is a creation subject to change and decay, a creation subjected to futility, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption. (Rom. 8:19-21) It is a creation that, sadly, will not last. Heaven and earth will pass away.
Think about that phrase, “pass away.” When do you we usually say those words? When someone dies we often say that person has “passed away.” Certainly death brings with it a change and decay that is unlike anything else we experience. It is the ultimate in loss where earthly joys grow dimmest. Death is the ultimate experience of what our Lord Jesus spoke about in our text. It is no coincidence that in speaking about the “death” of creation Jesus used the words “pass away.” Creation will come to an end at the Last Day. There will be a death of all that has been corrupted by sin—the whole created world. The coming of the Last Day, the passing away of the heaven and earth, is as sure and as certain as the trees budding each Spring, signaling the arrival of Summer. All material things will pass away.
Why, then, do we try so hard to hold onto them? Why do we work so many long hours and give so much of our time and energy to something that will not last at the end of time? Wise King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes asks much the same thing: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. . . . What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:18-26)
True enjoyment does not come from the reliance on the things of this created heaven and earth. They will all pass away. All of your electronic toys, cell phones, laptops, iPhones, iPods, digital television, and Wii games will all pass away. Your house, your car, your yard will all pass away. Your popularity, prestige, influence, and power will all pass away. Your wealth will pass away. Even our health passes away, for unless the Lord returns first, we will all die. Are you going to put your trust and confidence in these things? Are you going to really bankroll your life and your future life on things that are going to die and be no more? Think about it. Your job might be here today and gone tomorrow. Your health could be here today and tomorrow illness befalls you. Your property and things are here today but tomorrow could all be destroyed by fire or flood. Today you may be very popular and have lots of friends. By tomorrow you might be the outcast. And this is all before the End even comes! When the Lord returns, heaven and earth will pass away and this sinful, wicked generation with it. Where is your trust and confidence placed, in what will pass away or in what will never pass away?
Sidney Sheldon is quoted saying, “Nothing lasts forever.” But he was wrong. Nothing of this corrupted world of sin and death will last forever, but God’s Word will last forever. It is not of this world. It is out of this world! The Word of Jesus, who created all things, is everlasting. His Word is a Word of Promise and Life where there is nothing remaining by destruction and death. So we pray in faith, “O Thou who changest not, abide with me!”
Jesus Christ does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb. 13:8) Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the very Word of God made flesh who dwelt among us. Therefore, if Jesus who is the Word who does not change then neither does His spoken and written Word. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It will not pass away. God’s Word cannot die, cannot become ineffective, cannot become powerless, cannot become worthless. God’s Word is the power of God unto salvation in Jesus Christ alone and that will never change.
Once He came in blessing. He came as a Servant to bear the sins of the world on the cross. Jesus willingly gave up His life into death on a cross. On the cross He died for our sins. He “passed away” so that we might live forever. Jesus’ death won our forgiveness. His death purchased our everlasting life and rescued us from a world of sin and death, from a world that will pass away. The Word promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) Because we are cleansed from our sins by Jesus’ blood, because we have received life everlasting through His atoning sacrifice, we have the assurance of a place prepared for us in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness that He will create at the end of time.
In the meantime, however, the Lord’s unchanging Word of Promise is with us through the changes and chances of this life. When our health passes away, God’s Word remains. We are able to take comfort in the promises of Jesus, our great Physician of soul and body, casting every care on Him, letting Him bear our burdens as we rest in His peace as we await health and healing. When jobs are lost the Word remains. The Savior’s Promises comfort us and assure us that we need not worry about food or clothes because our heavenly Father cares for us and knows that we need these things and so He graciously provides. As we face the losses in life—a broken friendship, divorce, a child leaving home, even death itself—we face them with the unchanging Word by our side. Christ is present with us in our grief and distress. He cries with us; He holds us in His arms and we see in His hands the marks of the nails. Those holy wounds remind us that nothing will ever separate us from His love. This truth will not pass away.
As time marches forward, we will see and go through many changes. Many things will pass away before our very eyes. We age and mature, grow tired, experience loss, illness, depression, and anxiety. We move to new homes and buy different cars. But our life doesn’t depend on these fleeting things, these momentary events, these passing times. In the midst of a changing world, in the middle of a world that is passing away, we have a changeless Christ and His Word of Promise that will never pass away. Jesus is the solid rock of our faith. He is the chief cornerstone of His Church. Christ and His Word makes up the very foundation upon which you and I are built and kept safe for time and for eternity. Our lives are secure in Christ who does not change. Our lives are built on the Word of Christ which does not pass away.
In this Season of Advent, when the seasons change from Fall to Winter and when homes change with the decoration of Christmas; in all times when lives can change in a moment’s notice—be assured that the Word of God does not change. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word does not. Jesus does not change. Your Savior and His Word are there for you, with you, upholding, sustaining you until that day when our prayer is answered, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” Amen.