2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 13:24-31 Sermon
November 19, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
126 "Come, Oh Come Thou Quickening Spirit"
397 "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
419 "O Saviour Precious Saviour"
520 "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah"
STATIC AND FLUX
TEXT (vs. 31): “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
This morning, I’d like to introduce you to two words. Those words are: “static” and “flux.” If something is static, it means that it is stable, unmovable, and unchanging.
One expression used to describe something that is static, is to say it is “as solid as the rock of Gibraltar.” Certainly you have seen pictures of this huge rock, especially in the Prudential Insurance commercials, where they urge you to “buy a piece of the rock.”
The Rock of Gibraltar however has nothing to do with insurance. It is a huge rock with the height of 1,396 feet located in the small country of Gibraltar, which borders Spain on the north, and is part of the British Commonwealth. For centuries, this rock has withstood all forms of enemy attacks.
In earlier years, a series of tunnels were dug into the rock to protect soldiers. Then during World War II, the whole system was expanded so that 30,000 British soldiers could be stationed there, in order to protect shipping operations in and out of the Mediterranean Sea. And of course the rock still stands the same today as it has for generations. Despite long sieges of battle, it seems that nothing has been able to destroy the rock or her people.
Therefore, when the phrase “solid as the Rock of Gibraltar” is used, it always describes something, even a situation which cannot be moved or cannot fail.
Let’s compare that now with something that is flux. If something is in a state of flux, it is constantly changing and never stable. I always like to picture one of those lava lamps, which were so popular in the 60’s and 70’s when I think about something that is in a state of flux.
The way those lamps work, is that there is this glass container filled with clear mineral oil. And then, there is this huge blob of colored wax in with the oil. At the base of the lamp is a compartment that houses a light bulb. When the light is turned on, the wax heats up, and it moves throughout the oil in a random manner, creating various shapes and configurations as it heats and cools.
With a lava lamp, you can never guess what shape it will be in next, or how to predict its movement. As long as the lava lamp is turned on, the only thing that is certain is that it will be continually in a state of flux, or constantly changing. They are kind of neat to look at, and if you are interested in purchasing a little “blast from the past,” I’ve seen these for sale at Spencer Gifts in the Mall.
Anything fluid or without general form is considered to be in a state of flux—something like spilling a glass of milk on the floor. You never know exactly where it will all go, because it basically runs all over everywhere it can get to.
So there you have the two words—static and flux—and what they mean. Of course these two words have a definite meaning when they are applied to our Gospel lesson for today.
Hear once again the words from Mark 13 verses 24 and 25: “But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
Jesus is speaking these words, and what he is describing is something almost unimaginable. He is describing some things that we as human beings see as rather static, like the sun and moon shining, and the stars being in the sky where they are supposed to be.
After all, sailors get their direction from the sun, moon, and stars. These have been charted out over the years, so they know where they are and where they are going. Astronomy charts for years have shown the various constellations of planets and stars, and where to look to find them. In bygone years, this was how people marked seasons and times.
But as static as these things may seem to us, Jesus is telling us in our text that they are really in a state of flux. These things will all pass away at some point in time.
In the next two verses of our Gospel lesson, Jesus now gives us something that is static. Verses 26 and 27 tell us: “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”
This is something we have yet to see or experience, but Jesus tells us that it is something factual, something we can count on, something that is static. When all that seems static to us in this life is shown as unstable and passing, we are to look for Jesus himself coming in power and glory, for we know our salvation is at hand.
Jesus decides to use a fig tree to illustrate what he has to say. Verses 28 and 29 say, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.”
A tree is something that seems rather static to us. It stands there, birds build nests in it, and it gives us shade. But a tree is in a constant state of flux as well, which is easy to see if it is a deciduous tree, or a tree that sheds its foliage each autumn. Deciduous trees bud in the spring, grow new leaves which last through the summer, then shed their leaves in the autumn, and are barren in the winter. This cycle repeats; however these trees change too. Dead branches and suckers are pruned or lopped, and the tree will eventually die out after awhile.
That’s the way it will be with things of this world as well. Things will happen and change. Those things which we counted on to be static won’t exist any more. The world as we know it will pass away.
Human beings by our very nature look for things which will be static, those things that we can count on to always be there and not change. When we pick up the phone, we want to hear a dial tone. When we dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, we want to know that we’ll get response from the police, or the fire department, or the ambulance. We would be very frustrated indeed if they kept changing the emergency phone number on us. What would we think if we dialed 9-1-1 and got a recording that the number had been removed or was not assigned?
Yes, we want certain things in our lives to be static, like that emergency phone number. We want to know that our parents love us and will accept us; we want to know that our friends will be there for us, and we want to know that the various government services will protect us. If we’re in the hospital, we want to know that when we push that little magic button, a nurse will come. Even people who like a lot of spontaneity in their lives still want some things to be static.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus winds it up by telling us something that is very static, even in a world that is in a state of flux. In verses 30 and 31 he says, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Now here we have something that is completely stable and certain. Anything Jesus tells us is absolutely static. The writer to the Hebrews assures us of this when he says in Chapter 13 verse 8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
Think for just a minute what it would be like if God wasn’t static. What would happen if God were changing his mind all of the time? Where would we be?
Maybe today we would be saved by grace through faith, but the next day a few good works would be necessary. Maybe today salvation would be a free gift, but the next day it would cost us $3.98. Maybe today God would accept all races, but the next day only Caucasians could be saved.
This all might sound ridiculous, but wouldn’t this be the case (and much worse) if God were in a constant state of flux? Where would we be? What kind of hope could we ever have?
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus wants us to trust him completely, and absolutely trust what he says. He says in our Gospel, “I tell you the truth…” and that should suffice for us. We know he won’t lie to us or lead us astray. There won’t be any hidden or double meaning in what he says. The words are plain and unmistakable, and they’re recorded for us in the Bible.
Jesus wants us to seek that which is static, namely himself. As sinners in a world of flux, we need to come to him to seek forgiveness and hope. We know that we have put our trust in the wrong things far too often. We’ve looked at things of the world as being trustworthy when they are in fact not. We’ve spent much of our time and energy focusing upon things that aren’t worth our time and trouble.
And so we come to him with a bruised and wounded soul. We’ve sinned in so many ways so often. We’ve trusted others where we should have trusted God. We’ve even elevated other people and things to a place of importance and usurped God of his role in our lives.
We come confessing our sins and look to God for our hope. It’s here where we see Jesus waiting to receive us. He forgives all of our sins and failures, and gives us something that is static and certain. Through faith in Christ as our Saviour, we have that forgiveness and hope. Christ gives us something static, when all around everything and everybody else is in a state of flux.
The picture we have in the Scripture lessons appointed during these last few Sundays of the Church Year is one of the end times, of final judgment, and of everlasting life. And when all is said and done, all that is going to be left are the likes of you and me standing before the judgment seat. Everything else will be gone, and there will be nobody or nothing else around us. Then what are we going to do?
Jesus has told us the truth. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is our Saviour. And when we stand before the throne of God, that’s the only thing that will give us entrance into the eternal gates of heaven.
The Rock of Gibraltar stands strong and firm in that small country in southern Europe. It has been there for thousands of years and has seen many attacks, and it has remained there intact. It’s a good illustration of something that is static when compared to something like a lava lamp which is in a constant state of flux.
However, according to our Gospel lesson for today, even that mighty rock on Gibraltar is in a state of flux. One day, it too will pass away like everything else on this earth. Gibraltar’s rock can indeed be reduced to a pile of gravel, and have no more stability than a lava lamp.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives hope to the Christian. Even though the destruction and eternal death of the unbelievers have been addressed previously, this section deals only with the hope for the believer.
As believers in Christ, we know the difference between what is static and flux for us and for our faith. We want things that are static in our lives, things of which we can be certain and trust.
Through Christ, we indeed have that. We have the only thing that is static and certain. Jesus promises to give us unconditional love, and forgive us for all of our sins. He tells us that our faith in him is well placed. And the words he speaks to us are words which will keep the hope of heaven ever before us—something completely static in this world of flux.