Summary: A guest sermon by Sandy Gray on the transitory nature of human life BODY,P,A,TD,TH,UL,OL,LI,DL,DT,DD...

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“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them”. (Isaiah 40:6-8).

I’m wondering if you noticed a new grey hair when you were getting ready for church this morning?

I’m wondering if you noticed one more tiny wrinkle to add to the total?

If you’re under 30, I’m wondering if you noticed those first little lines at the corners of your eyes?

It’s a sad fact that no matter how many potions we use regularly, no matter how often we do our beauty routines, our bodies continue to age at precisely the rate the Lord has ordained for them. We are born with a steady progress towards death.

The French have a lovely word for “without” – “sans” – you may remember it from French lessons at school. Shakespeare uses it to great effect in his play “As You Like It”.

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling in the nurse’s arms:

Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning-face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school.

(There is the lover, the soldier, the judge)…

The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


So why worry about a few wrinkles?

But it is not just our weak bodies that are terminal; the mighty material things of nature are too.

"The Sun is expanding all the time. It may now be up to 30% brighter than when it formed 4.5 billion years ago, and in 1.1 billion years’ time it will have grown by a further 10%. Some 3.5 billion years from now, the Sun will be 40% hotter that it is today. The oceans will boil away and life on Earth will be extinguished. At some time thereafter the sun will balloon out into a burning red giant, 170 times its present diameter, and engulf the orbit of Mercury. In the process, its core will contract and it will lose about half its mass, and the planets’ orbits will change. The Earth will drift outwards to about the orbit of Mars, but the heat from the expanding Sun will be so great that our planet’s surface will be heated to 1873 degrees C - the temperature at which rocks melt. Finally the Sun will collapse to a white dwarf and wink out, and the Earth will drift for ever as a lifeless cinder in the darkness of space”. (Reader’s Digest Assoc. Ltd. “Natural Disasters”).

Our creative endeavours are impermanent also. Our buildings may last a thousand years, but eventually they too share the same fate.

“Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down’.” (Luke 21:6)

This is an APOCALYPTIC expression. The word means a revelation of what has been hidden (the Greek root mean to “uncover”). We are moving towards the period in our Church’s year which we call ADVENT. Next Sunday we have “Christ the King”, and then for the following three Sundays we think of the Second Coming of Jesus in glory. This is a penitent season, moving towards the joy of Christmas.

So in today’s gospel Jesus speaks of the future; of the devastation to come before the end of the material world as we know it. “Not one stone will be left on another”.

AND IT HAPPENED JUST AS HE SAID. In AD 70 Titus, a Roman general, with 80,000 men, began a siege of Jerusalem. It was a difficult city to take, set on a hill, and defended to the death. Jesus had told his followers to flee to the mountains when that day came, but instead they crammed into the city. The result was famine and terror, and there were even reports of cannibalism. At the end the Holy Place was burnt down; and Titus ordered the whole city and the Temple to be razed to the ground. Josephus, the historian, who was actually there, tells us that 97,000 were taken captive and enslaved and that 1,100,000 died.

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