By Rev. Everette Chapman
I have a brother-in-law who is a minister, and he once preached a sermon on some oft-repeated words in the New Testament. They are the words, “It came to pass.” The point Heyward Calvert made in his sermon was that, in fact, the things that come in life do, indeed, “come to pass;” they do not come to stay. In other words, we will live through it, we will get past it, we will move on from it. It isn’t fatal, it isn’t permanently damaging. It came to pass.
His sermon reminds me of a poem by Theodore Tilton that articulates just that theme. It is entitled “Even This Shall Pass Away,” and here are its words.
Once in Persia lived a king, who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise, which, if held before the eyes,
Gave him counsel at a glance, fit for every change and chance,
Solemn words, and these are they: “Even this shall pass away.”
Fleets of galleys through the seas brought him pearls to match with these.
But he counted not his gain treasures of the mine nor main;
“What is wealth?” the king would say, “Even this shall pass away.”
In the revels of his court, at the zenith of his sport,
When the palms of all his guests burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine, cried, “Oh, loving friends of mine,
Pleasure comes but not to stay; even this shall pass away.”
Fighting on a furious field, once a javelin pierced his shield.
Soldiers, with a loud lament, bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning from his injured side, “Pain is hard to bear,” he cried,
“But with patience, day by day, even this shall pass away.”
Towering in the public square, twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his statue, carved in stone. Then the king, disguised, unknown,
Stood before his sculptured name, musing meekly, “What is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay; even this shall pass away.”
Struck with palsy, sere and old, waiting at the gates of gold,
Said he with his dying breath, “Life is done, but what is death?”
Then, in answer to the king fell a sunbeam on his ring,
Showing by a heavenly ray, “Even this shall pass away.”
There are some of us, aren’t there, who need to hear those encouraging words. Trouble, sickness, lingering grief, diminished abilities, impending surgery, financial challenges, and all the “slings and arrows this flesh is heir to,” to quote the Bard of Avon, plague us constantly, but whatever circumstances we face may be met with the reassurance that, with God on our side, we can face them and move beyond them.
A wonderful promise is found in Romans 8:28ff: “For we know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him…for I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That’s one way to say it. Heyward was onto something, too, when he proclaimed for us a unique meaning of a New Testament idiom. It truly did “come to pass,” thanks be to God. Dear ones, move into the New Year with the assurance of God’s abiding love and His vigilant watch care over us all. Shalom!