The Grass Withers, The Flower Fades, But The Church's Old Shag Carpet Wears Forever?

Text: Isaiah 40:1-8

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think about it for a moment; why do we get older and never younger?  Why is it that when we clean the kitchen, it always becomes messy again in the future?  Why do washed cars never stay clean?  Why is it that when you fix something, it always tends to break again?  In scientific terms, this is called the thermodynamic arrow of time.  In other words, over time, things become more disordered.  In Biblical terms, though, we can say it like our reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah,  

“The grass withers, the flower fades”

Indeed, the grass withers, and the flowers fade in this life.  Think about this in your own life.  The brake pads on your car wear out, your cement driveway cracks, toothbrushes wear out, your clothes wear thin, glasses break, teeth decay, televisions break, cell phones crash, and skin sags.   

“The grass withers, the flower fades.”

We are even affected by this here at St. Paul’s.  Consider the last 5-plus years: the shingles were leaking, so we replaced the roof; the mortar between the bricks was deteriorating, so we had to tuck and point it again; the carpet was tearing and bulging in the fellowship hall, so we got new carpet; a pump went out on our boiler, so we bought a new pump. A copper pipe rubbed against a piece of metal and leaked water into the basement ceiling, so we had to ripe down the ceiling.  The sound system was sending large popping sounds through our speaker as the amplifier gave out, so we had to get a new system.     

“The grass withers, the flower fades.”   

Currently, one of our stove tops is broken and almost started a fire, the ovens heat unevenly, the altar has warped wood, and there are water leaks and stains above our altar around the stained-glass windows. 

“The grass withers, the flower fades.”   

Look at the physical health of our church members as well: pacemaker batteries have run out; knees have worn down; heart valves have leaked; and hips have broken. Indeed:

“The grass withers, the flower fades.”

Dear friends, whether it is a crumbling structure or worn-out machinery, or if it is the constant battle against our aging bodies, there is an unyielding grip of decay on everyone and everything.  And so, to the point, everything in life needs perpetual repair and maintenance.  In fact, when this does not happen, things become stagnant, and things decline and deteriorate.   

Perhaps this is why there is such a desire to name new churches after words involving ‘movement.’  For example, many modern churches are named with the following names: Pathway, Journey, Elevation, Pursuit, Momentum, Ascend, Navigate, Traverse, and so forth. They name these churches with this kind of language to communicate that these churches are not sticks in the mud, stuck in the traditions of decay, or  stagnant churches of yesterday.  But is this how it really is with the church?  Does the local church have to be flexible and open to God supposedly doing a new thing?  In other words, must the church continually change or be continually on the move to avoid falling victim to the withering grass and fading flowers?  

Dear friends, it is often communicated to parishioners that the church needs to be on the move or going somewhere, lest it become stagnant and decay.  And so, everyone must be mobilized in the church.  Everyone must become a part of the journey.  If you are not willing to come along on the journey, well… you are considered dead weight.  You are against the mission and movement of the church. But is this how it is for the church?  

Look back to Isaiah again.  He says, 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God will stand forever.  

Now, dear friends, did you notice what Isaiah did not say?  He did not say,

“Good doctrine withers, the gospel fades, but a church doing a new thing endures forever.”  

He also did not say, 

“Godly reverence withers, the sacraments fade, but an energized church of fresh relevance will brave into the future.”  

Now, it is important to be fair at this point.  In other words, take notice of what Isaiah also did not say.  He did not say,    

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the church’s old shag carpet wears forever.”

Furthermore, Isaiah did not say, 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the church’s infamous coffee maker brews forever.”

Instead, as already stated, Isaiah cried out, 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God will stand forever.”  

Dear friends, the promises of God – His Holy Word will stand forever.  The Word of God shall continue amid the changes of great dynasties and revolutions of mighty empires.  Indeed, the Word of God will abide without change or modification today, tomorrow, and throughout eternity.  And so, nations will fall, kingdoms will vanish, carpets will wear out, and coffee makers will die; however, the Word of God stays the same, and His promises are unfailing.  

Every year, the seasons change, and we watch the grass die and the leaves fall.  One year, a person stands in good health, the next, they are cut down and lose their health in an instant.  Cities will have a good economy only to be destroyed the next year by a natural disaster.  Mankind will try to offset all of this by making repairs, replacing items, and maintaining things to help humanity endure.  While this can be good and necessary, it is not needed for the Word of God.  

And so, what this means for us at St. Paul’s is that through wise stewardship of resources, we will continually need to make repairs, purchase new things, and maintain old things because the grass withers and the flower fades.  However, regarding the Word of God – we need to do nothing.  If the Word of God abides forever, we do not need to move, travel, energize, or pursue but simply remain in what God has already promised and already given.   

Whether we realize this or not, we see this working properly here at St. Paul’s Lutheran.  You see, we have on the one side of the coin, Trustees and Voters’ Meetings.  Trustees and Voters’ Meetings do not and cannot vote on God’s Word.   There is nothing to vote on regarding God’s Word, for it is unchanging.  However, Trustees and Voters’ Meeting must vote on carpet, paint, brick, roofing, tables, stoves, and parking lots – to name a few - because these things wither and fade.  On the other side of the coin, there are Pastors and Elders.  The Pastors and Elders do not devote themselves to carpet, paint, brick, roofing, tables, stoves, and parking lots because they are not the Word of God.  This is why Pastor Roth does not attend Voters’ Meetings and why I do not vote at Voters’ Meetings.  Instead, the role of the Pastors and Elders is to abide in the Word, teach the Word, and deliver the unchanging Word and Sacraments to God’s people.  Succinctly stated, the role of the Pastors and Elders is to guard the sound doctrine of the Word of God and be good stewards of the Sacraments for this church, as the Trustees and Voters faithfully maintain this church building.  And so, both are extremely necessary; both are very good.  Yet both are very different.  Pastors and Elders are to be theologians; Trustees and Voters’ are to be tradesmen and faithful stewards.  Together, the unchanging Word and Sacraments deliver comfort, forgiveness, life, and assurance while this building is maintained in a withering and fading world.     


Baptized Saints, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of God will stand forever.”  It never withers. And because God’s Word is true and permanent, we can trust it as we continually repair this building and as each generation continues to abide in the Word in this building.    

Indeed, you can trust the Word because the Word is none other than Jesus, and Jesus never withered or changed. He never changed in His course of the cross and did not wither in the grave.

And so, when Isaiah says that the Word will stand forever, you know that the Word stands as a resurrected man. Jesus stands for you. He stands alive and proclaims to you that your sins are permanently forgiven. Yes, you are forgiven, truly forgiven!  This is truest thing you can know within this withering and fading world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.  

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