• Introduction: VDMA are initials which stand for the Latin slogan: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum (“the Word of the Lord remains forever”)[1]  Let me read to you a paragraph from the Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. You may follow along on the inside back cover of your bulletin.   “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum is the motto of the Lutheran Reformation, a confident expression of the enduring power and authority of God’s Word.  The motto is based on 1Pe 1:24-25.  It first appeared in the court of Frederick the Wise in 1522.  He had it sewn onto the right sleeve of the court’s official clothing, which was worn by prince and servant alike.  It was used by Frederick’s successors, his brother John the Steadfast, and his nephew John Frederick the Magnanimous.  It became the official motto of the Smalcaldic League and was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as a symbol of the unity of the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families, and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.[2]
    • The Word of the Lord abiding forever makes sense, because in John Ch#1, the Apostle John equated the Word of God with Jesus.  Jesus is the eternal generation, meaning He had no beginning and certainly will not have an end.  It’s one of those mysteries about God that comes up around this time each year in the Season of Advent.  We confessed throughout the just-concluded Season of Pentecost in the 2nd Article Nicene Creed, Jesus, Son of God, always existed.  In Luther’s meaning to the 2nd Article, he wrote, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord…[3]
    • There was a gem in v31 of our Gospel reading for today that serves as the inspiration for this message - Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.  We will spend time looking at the state of heaven and earth, and why we should not put our trust in anything we sense around us, but put our trust into something which will abide forever – the word of the Lord.
  • Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, we praise You for humbling Yourself to come to us as a defenseless human baby.  What other religion has a god who comes to them, muchless in the form of a baby?!  Be with us as we begin the season of Advent this Sunday, providing us with the Holy Spirit, so that we can appreciate the humility and meekness You displayed by being born in a stable some 2000yrs ago.  Help us to understand that despite us seeing you born of a virgin, You have no beginning nor end.  And because You are the Word of God, the Word of God has no beginning nor end.  We pray this to You, Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever more.  Amen.
  • Heaven & Earth: There are two parts to the verse chosen for this message.  The first half is heaven and earth will pass away.  Does it cause wonder on how it is that “heaven” will pass away at the end of the Age?  After all, isn’t that the place where we are wanting to be for eternity?  The reality is in in the Greek word, οὐρανὸς, there is no distinction made amongst the sky, the universe, and the heaven where our Lord lives and all the saints will dwell with Him.  There are different words for these three distinct locations, but two of the three places I just mentioned, sky and universe, *will* pass away.  Only God’s home will remain.  The Apostle John saw in Rev 21:1 a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth went away…  The word in the Greek John used is the same word, οὐρανὸς, that Jesus used in Mark 13:31.
    • At the time of Mark Ch#13, Jesus is toward the end of His earthly ministry.  But, there was an earlier time when Jesus also indicated the current order of life would be coming to an end.  In Mat Ch#5, Jesus started teaching and preaching off from the side of a mountain, and people gathered to hear His word along with the disciples.  The beginning portion of the Sermon on the Mount is often referred to as the “Beatitudes”.  That is where Jesus started each sentence with “blest are the…”  Jesus then proceeded to guide people in a different thinking than the church leaders at the time, because He was asking people to lead a sanctified life in true repentance.  We talked about leading a sanctified life each of the past 2wks where a person full of gratitude for what God has done for them, now hears God’s word and applies the word to their daily life.
      • There is a tendency that when we hear what God wants us to do, we think that’s what we need to do in order for God to like us and let us into heaven.  Some also confuse the words Jesus spoke throughout His ministry as if He had abolished the Law of the OT and replaced it with new Law. Jesus provided a clarification in Mat 5:17-18 which eliminated confusion on these two points - 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished[4]. Jesus made it clear He did not abolish the Law; the Law will be fulfilled to the letter, even down to a punctuation mark (Greek: κεραία)!  And, through Jesus, everything of the OT Law was fulfilled before heaven and earth pass away. Jesus did fulfill every aspect of the OT Law when He took your sins and mine upon Himself to the cross.   There is nothing left to do regarding cleansing of sins, because He already did the work.  His instructions throughout His ministry were about how to lead a sanctified life while we wait for heaven and earth to pass away.
  • Word of the Lord is forever: In the introduction to this message, it was mentioned Jesus has always existed. There was no time throughout eternity when He did not exist.  The Apostle John wrote by inspiration that Jesus is the Word.  The first two verses of the Gospel of John are clear - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God[5].  An infinite being such as Jesus *is* the infinite word.  In other words, if Jesus is the Word of God, and Jesus has lived and will live from eternity to eternity, then it is logical to conclude the Word of God will live forever! This logical progression is how Jesus could make such a claim about the Word of the Lord enduring forever.
    • The Apostle Peter in his first epistle quoted from Isa 40:6-8 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.  It was this passage from Peter that the people of the Reformation in the 1500’s fundamentally believed in.  They used it as their battle cry so to speak when confronting political and church leaders about the corruption of the Catholic church at the time. The risked being excommunicated from church.  They risked being blacklisted from ever being able to conduct business in towns run by Catholic political leaders.  They were not sure how any of the conflicts would turn out, but they did know and trust in the fact that the word of the Lord would endure forever.  They wanted the initials of Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum sewn onto their clothing to have a lasting reminder of what they believed.  That’s how deeply committed they were to this belief in God’s word!
  • Application: The cloud of witnesses now in heaven who were there on the front lines of the Reformation were convinced by faith the Word of the Lord would endure forever.  They knew ultimately the Lord is in charge and nothing would  prevail over His word.  They may lose a battle, but they knew how the war would eventually turn out when Jesus returned for the second and final time.  We’ve just been presented with the same word of the Lord they had 500yrs before us. One takeaway from this means we too should walk the path marked out for us in full faith and confidence that whatever is happening, we need to trust in the words our Lord has spoken to us.  One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples prior to ascending into heaven was this – I am with you all the days until the together end of this Age[6].  “Together end” (Greek: συντελείας) is a literal translation of a Greek word from Jesus last words in Matthew.  What does that mean from the Greek?  It is never translated from the Greek in that way in any bible I’ve seen, but my thought is the “together end” was a word deliberately chosen by Jesus to indicate the end of heaven and earth together.
    • Let’s take a look at how we can practically use the faith the Word of the Lord endures forever.  2020 will go down in US history as a very tumultuous year (and it is not over yet).  There are two big issues of 2020 that come to mind which affected unbelievers and believers alike:
      • The chaos of the election of 2020 caused divisions in relationships of friends and family members.  One was either passionately for Donald Trump’s reelection, or equally passionate against his reelection.  The broader vision for the future direction of this country was also at stake.  I have an uncle I cannot talk to over the phone anymore, because any subject we touch on invariably leads to a political diatribe.  The conversation ceases to be a dialog and becomes a duel-log.  Because I was raised by my paternal grandmother, I grew up in the same household as my uncle!  But now, there is no means of having a civil conversation for any meaningful length of time.
      • I’m sure I’m not the only person bearing with such enmity within family.  Even long-time friends on FaceBook are suddenly “unfriended” because of a political stand someone took online.  We are no longer speaking with each other.  We are speaking past each other.  The 2020 election was not foretold of in the Bible, but the condition we are now in with each other was foretold.  See if you agree that the broken condition of relationships in our culture was foretold with the following from the OT minor prophet Micah - Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms;
        for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house[7].
      • Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. Micah was sent by God to the people of Jerusalem and Israel throughout.  The message didn’t apparently get received well, because the northern kingdom of Israel fell in 722BC, during the time of Micah.  Jerusalem fell in 586BC after not repenting of its evil ways.  Jesus repeated in Mat 10:35-36 the words He gave to Micah 700yrs prior.  Instead of taking the Lord’s word to heart, Jerusalem, and the temple the religious leaders were trusting in, was destroyed in 70AD.  Nothing of these living situations remain.  Are we not far behind in this culture?  To the extent it depends upon us, we need to be at peace with one another. No matter which side you have taken in the 2020 election, whatever happens in 2021 and beyond will not endure. Only the word of the Lord will endure.
      • Another “wonderful” circumstance for evil in 2020 is the reaction to the Covid pandemic. Last spring, no one really knew what to do to combat the highly contagious Covid-19 virus.  It was understandable to want to take extraordinary measures to stop the spread of the virus.  However, as medical knowledge of the virus has become expanded and refined, political leaders seem to resist trying different strategies other than the ones which failed last spring.  One of those strategies was just struck down by the Supreme Court last Wednesday – the restriction and even closure of church services.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Political leaders will do what they can to stop the spread of the Gospel. Don’t let a crisis go to waste is the motto for many in power.  The text just prior to our Gospel reading for today included Jesus warning people to be on their guard.  Followers of Jesus will be hauled before political and religious leaders who will mistreat those followers.  Family members will turn in fellow family members, even sons & daughters against their own parents, for the crime of following the Christ.  And yet, the steadfastness of the followers will be a testimony of faith to the generation of unbelievers.  (Mark 13:9-13)  Governments and regimes have come & gone which were hostile to the Lord’s people. The longest lasting dynasty in the history of mankind, the Byzantine, is long gone.  The expression, “this too shall pass” applies, because only the word of the Lord will endure forever.
    • Jesus said the tribulation at the end of the Age will so intense, it actually will be something new under the sun.  The intensity will have never been seen since the start of the Age and will never be seen like that again.  (Mark 13:19-23)
      • I can’t say if we are in that final tribulation of the Age.  It looks like it, but as I’ve already pointed out, there have been even worse time periods throughout history where God’s people had it worse than what we are enduring presently.  The saints have suffered tribulation ever since Cain killed Abel. When the tribulation comes to us, we need to remember something the Lord inspired the prophet Isaiah to write - Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.  “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool, but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.[8]
  • Conclusion: The Lord Jesus has warned us about the evil which will be leveled against us, His people.  He has warned us the things you see around you are not going to be around forever.  Appreciate the Lord is in charge and nothing can prevail over His word, for His word remains throughout eternity.  Jesus is the Word.  We therefore should put our trust in Him for He will reign forever.  (John 1:1-4)
    • The Apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy about the days becoming more evil.  Paul wrote that letter around 60AD, but I think it could have been written on yesterday.  Here is a portion of the letter - But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people[9].
    • It’s easier to take a hit of some sort if you know it is coming.  If a car crash is imminent, the natural instinct is to brace one’s self.  I think that is why Jesus, Paul, Isaiah, Micah, and others in God’s word warned us about the evil that we will have to endure.  The Lord didn’t warn us so that we live in constant fear.  That is why there is the constant reminder of the word of the Lord enduring forever.
      • We unfortunately are just as capable of being evil toward others and causing tribulation. That needs to stop.  As Moses wrote, we need to number our days, meaning we need to be careful with each day we are given, so that we make the most of each day to the glory of our Lord. (Ps 90:12)
    • The 1st Commandment states we should have no other gods.  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We heard from the OT minor prophet Micah a few moments ago about how a person’s enemies may even be in their own home.  I now finish with a Gospel message from Micah  just a verse later from the ones I read - But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me[10].  Our God will hear you and me, because He and His word endure forever.  All those promises He made in His word *will* come to pass!  Amen.

[1] Ps 102:25-27 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+102&version=ESV

[1] https://lutheranreformation.org/history/vdma/

[2] Concordia Lutheran Confessions, A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, Second Edition, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO 2006 Preface page 2

[3] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, 2018 Edition, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 2018 p.17

[4] Mat 5:17-18 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mat+5&version=ESV

[5] John 1:1-2 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1&version=ESV

[6] Mat 28:20b interpreted from mGNT at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/mat/28/1/t_conc_957020

[7] Mic 7:5-6 

[8] Isa 51:6-8 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+51&version=ESV

[9] 2Tim 3:1-5 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2Ti+3&version=ESV

[10] Mic 7:7 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mic+7&version=ESV