3rd Sunday of Easter – A LSB #589
Text – 1 Peter 1:24
All flesh is like grass & all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, & the flower falls.
WITHERING GRASS & FALLING FLOWERS
As with any very gradual process of change, I believe we started to notice things subconsciously at first. At that stage you have the feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it, on what it is that’s bothering you. They’re the kind of details that only became apparent, & fit into the puzzle, when looking back in hindsight.
Next, we began to notice things like a hole in the wall, at the bottom of the stairs, about the size of a human head. We definitely did not notice that subconsciously. Couple it with the erratic driving that had been scaring us half to death, along with a phone call from an uncle, & the picture was beginning to take shape.
Next in the progression was the car accident, 80 mph around a curve that ended with the vehicle upside down in the middle of the road. With not a broken bone to speak of, & no one else hurt either, it was clearly time to end the driving privileges before something worse happened. Still, the falls continued, all of them with nothing more than minor skin abrasions.
So there were doctor visits & questions about what might be wrong. What kind of treatment plan could be put in place? We kept hoping that with the correct diagnosis & treatment things would get better. Yet, there was frustration because we saw no progress being made in any positive direction. No certain diagnosis was ever arrived at.
A couple months later I was talking to the neighbor who was telling his story about how the realization finally hit them – things were not going to get better. This was the new normal. That hit me like a ton of bricks. It was our situation exactly. Wishful thinking was the rut that we were stuck in. That was our diagnosis. So the falling continued with no end in sight. It was like the grass was withering & we were past the point of no return. There would be no treatment or cure. It was obvious now that a decision had to be made. The only question was, “When?” So a lady was hired to provide in home care several days a week, & to keep an eye on things.
Answering the question of “When?” became easy after the phone rang one day & I drove to the hospital yet that evening. We got home about 1:00 AM with nothing more than a lot of stiches to repair the head wound from a fairly serious fall. But the problem only got worse while I was sound asleep.
At 5:00 AM the bloody clothes were placed into the sink with the water running, to help in getting out the stains. The problem was – the water wasn’t shut off again until 7:00 AM. By then the sink had long overflowed & flooded the condo. When I got up at 8:00 AM my first step into the basement bathroom went – Splash! Water was dripping out of the ceiling light fixture.
Slowly but surely the grass was withering. Within a month the move was made into an assisted living home. The condo was cleaned out & put up for sale. Going through so many of the things of my past – familiar to my childhood – pictures of long ago days & long ago people – items handed down from generation to generation – was a sobering experience.
Life was shrinking down before my eyes like a thriving lawn of green grass withering to brown in the hot July sun. And the falling continued. Gradually, over the next year, a cane had to be used. The year after that a walker, more hospital visits & rehab came into play. Email was very much in use for awhile, but then the passwords could not be typed correctly anymore.
The hearing aids were less & less functional as they came apart from too much fidgeting. The cell phone & cordless phone could no longer be used because of problems holding them. A larger handset came next, the old fashioned kind, so the mouthpiece wasn’t covered by a hand while in use. In spring of the 3rd year at assisted living, a major hospitalization occurred due to low hemoglobin. Upon leaving the hospital a wheelchair & oxygen were needed. In spring of the 4th year a fall caused a broken neck which necessitated wearing a neck brace for about five months, along with all solid foods being puréed & all liquid foods being thickened.
This spring brought another fall, another hospital visit & a move into memory care at the assisted living home. In early March we were cleaning out the old room to downsize for the new. Once again, going through all the things that at one time had meaning & purpose that now were useless & forgotten. The ‘stuff’ that fills our lives shrivels up & withers away like grass.
It is sad. It is humbling, to see a life reduced to the last few bits & pieces that make up a room in the memory care section of assisted living. And the crazy thing is this, even if you see it, you cannot appreciate it, until you have started down that very same road yourself. Little by little you can no longer do the things you used to, you can no longer use the things you used to.
The brevity & the vanity of life becomes clearer & clearer as the years pass by. “For ‘All flesh is like grass & all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, & the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’” (1 Peter 1:24-25 ESV) That is the punch line for the entire sermon. And hopefully it is the punch line for your entire life!
It is sad & it is humbling to watch someone die! Supporters of euthanasia have used the slogan Death With Dignity. Let me tell you, there is no dignity with death, because for that time death is totally in control. It is a pitiful affair, which is why Peter, & Isaiah before him, add the punch line, “but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
Because of Jesus Christ, death does not have the final say. Even during the corona virus pandemic, with death arriving by the thousands, with people panicked across the world, it is still true that the word of the Lord remains forever. That is our hope, not social isolation. The word of the Lord is our hope, not the N-95 mask. The word of the Lord is our hope & thank God that our hope does not rest with politicians, or with government. Aging & death march on, the coronavirus has swept across the world, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.
As children of God, that is our punch line that is our hope because Jesus Christ has been there. He suffered every last one of the indignities of death in our place. In human flesh, the very Son of God took His last breath & died. The people who were there definitely did not notice His death subconsciously. But Jesus did not remain dead!
When Adam & Eve chose to disobey their Creator they were choosing death. Yes, Satan deceived them, but it was still their willful choice. Americans love choices, but being pro-choice is not always a good thing. Satan invented that slogan for the 1st temptation. Jesus came to undo the damage because sin has corrupted our ability to make good choices.
The heavenly Father chose to send His Son to rescue us because there was no other way to release His children from the grip of death. When you watch someone die it is clear that there is nothing they themselves can do to stop it. Our only hopes lies with our Creator, & the choice that He makes. We see that choice in the life, the death & the resurrection of Jesus.
Now that we’ve been set free from death as our end, we are no longer slaves to sin. We’ve been “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, [grass or flowers] but with the precious blood of Christ.” Our heavenly Father has bought us back from the old world, from its old ways & from its old lords.
As children of God we are not captive to a decaying & dying world even though, by a certain age, we do see our bodies withering away. The pitiful state of death has now become our gateway to the next life, to the perfect life, to our true home. When St. Peter wrote that ‘all flesh is like grass,’ he was comparing sinful human beings to what is temporary. Grass comes & goes. So do we. Human beings are born, we live, we die, & what is left behind, in a material sense, are the things that at one time had meaning & purpose, but as our death approaches those things wither away, becoming useless & forgotten. With the resurrection of Jesus a new world has dawned.
We can now honestly look at death, recognize it for the abomination that it is, & yet not allow that to drag us into depression & despair. There is a life after death & it is a far, far better & richer life than the one we know all too well here. This life that we know is temporary. Like the grass, all of it, & all of us, will one day wither away completely.
But the Word of the Lord remains forever & just as that Word created the heavens & the earth the 1st time, The Word will one day create a new heaven & a new earth. There, the grass will never fade & the flower, & people too, will never fall. Neither death nor sin shall threaten or harm any of God’s creation.
“And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” Amen.
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! Oh, what blessing to be near You & to listen to Your voice; let me ever love & hear You, let Your Word be now my choice! Many hardened sinners, Lord, flee in terror at Your Word; but to all who feel sin’s burden You give words of peace & pardon. Amen. LSB 589:1-2.
 1 Peter 1:25b ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet