A gravestone in a churchyard bears these words:
‘The cup was bitter, the sting severe
To part from her we loved so dear.
Our loss is great we’ll not complain
But hope in heaven to meet again.
Not gone from memory not gone from love
But gone to her Father’s home above.’
For some of us the loss of a dear and cherished loved one is still like a fresh wound; it’s painful, raw, and there for all to see. For some of us, the passing of time has meant that we are beginning to live with (yet never forget) our loss, realizing that we will never be the same again; and for others a very visible scar remains.
I am sure that many of you will be familiar with C.S. Lewis, author of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
Lewis was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of ‘Lord of the Rings’, and he was a Christian; a follower of Jesus Christ. What you may not know is that after the death of his wife he wrote a short book called ‘A Grief Observed.’ He was trying to make sense of the variety of different thoughts and feelings that he was experiencing.
Early on in the book he wrote this: “I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t” (P.11). As the days and weeks went by C. S. Lewis wrote this: “I see the rowan berries reddening and don’t know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing. I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound. What’s wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember” (P. 31).
There is no simple answer to handling grief. We miss our loved ones desperately. We love them endlessly. We will always love them dearly, and so the fact of their absence will not go away. (from Sermon Central). Yet, as Christians there is some comfort to be found in knowing those who went before us are now God’s Saints.
Most often when we think of saints, we think of people whom the Catholic Church has deemed as Saints, or perhaps, we think of the people like the apostles or Paul, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Oscar Romero. We might think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the young girl from Columbine High School who is reported to have declared her faith and then was killed for it. We might even include a grandmother or grandfather, aunt uncle, or Sunday School teacher. But, in the Bible a saint isn’t an individual singled who did extraordinary things and thereby given a special honor. Sixty nine times the word “saints” is used in the Bible; but it is never used to designate any particular person. It is always used in the plural tense to describe all of those, living and dead, who belong to Christ. Saints are the saved sinners, the holy ones as redeemed by God. And in today’s scripture, John shares with us from his vision a glimpse of what the life of saints in heaven is like.
Thus, it is the souls of the righteous who have gathered around the throne of God. Notice, it says a great multitude, a number too great to even count.
They are in heaven
A placed often described as gold, full of light and beauty that defies earthly imagination,
Jewels, fruit, greenery, abundance
Multitude vs. 144,000
Though the church of God is but a little flock in comparison to the wicked world it is not a
little bitty group, every language, nation – a great harvest
144,000 tribes of Israel sealed by God
Envision a crowd to man to count – imagine a crowd of people from every walk of life,
every culture, every nation
It is a reminder -There is plenty of room for all in the kingdom of God
They are in the presence of God
The word for robes “stolas” – long robes, fancy robes for leisure
Purity, complete righteousness
Not because of our perfection but because of the Blood of the Lamb
Free from fear and guilt
Palms of conquerors – signs of thanksgiving and celebration
Emblems of victory – victory over the world, the devil and the flesh – the war has already
been won – the victory is His
Marveling over the message of salvation through Jesus Christ
Crying out - Shouting - "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to
the Lamb!" - God alone is the author of salvation of man
How exciting, exhilarating – not a Sunday morning Methodist worship – can you imagine
what it would be like tobe in the midst of this glorious worship service.
Worshipping God –
on their faces in humility (profound reverence-humility not just in spirit but also in behavior)
Because he saw them thru the “great ordeal”
Of various kinds
Because there is no more weeping, hunger no thirst, nor scorching heat, the sun
will not strike them ( for God is their sun)
free from all needs, wants and desires
God providing their all and all
Because he is guiding them
No more guessing God’s will
They are singing “AMEN! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and
honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!
A hymn of praise in Perfect harmony between the angels and the saints
Without ceasing – night and day
7 things - Recognizing God’s divine perfection
Heaven is a state of service, a state of rest but not sloth-a place of praising
It is our promise too --We can have great joyous expectation of death
They are cheering us on from the heavens saying “it will be worth it, hang in there” – the victory has
been already won
watching over us, in the same manner as they watched over you while they were on earth.
So sing the song of the redeemed – “AMEN! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and
honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!
You can judge ones Christian religion by its capacity to set man singing (Paul’s writings
burst into song – in the jail, Psalms
The Song is not just for then but now!
It is the work of heaven, “we ought to being it now, to get our hearts tuned for it, to
be much in it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as happiness, will be perfected.” (Matthew Henry Unabridged)
Are you singing?
May on some future All Saints Day when we have left this world, may our descendants be led to experience the victorous joy of knowing we are in heaven standing by the throne of God with the multitude of saints – waiting for the day when they will join us.
We see what is the work of heaven, and we ought to begin it now, to have our hearts much in it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as our happiness, will be made perfect. —Matthew Henry Concise
The way to heaven is through many tribulations; but tribulation, how great soever, shall not separate us from the love of God. Tribulation makes heaven more welcome and more glorious. It is not the blood of the martyrs, but the blood of the Lamb, that can wash away sin, and make the soul pure and clean in the sight of God; other blood stains, this is the only blood that makes the robes of the saints white and clean. They are happy in their employment; heaven is a state of service, though not of suffering; it is a state of rest, but not of sloth; it isa praising, delightful rest. They have had sorrows, and shed many tears on account of sin and affliction; but God himself, with his own gracious hand, will wipe those tears away. He deals with them as a tender father. This should support the Christian under all his troubles. As all the redeemed owe their happiness wholly to sovereign mercy; so the work and worship of God their Saviour is their element; his presence and favour complete their happiness, nor can they conceive of any other joy—Matthew Henry Concise
The blessedness to which they are now advanced, being thus prepared for it.
(1.) They are happy in their station, for they are before the throne of God night and day; and he dwells among them; they are in that presence where there is fulness of joy.
(2.) They are happy in their employment, for they serve God continually, and that without weakness, drowsiness, or weariness. Heaven is a state of service, though not of suffering; it is a state of rest, but not of sloth; it is a praising delightful rest.
(3.) They are happy in their freedom from all the inconveniences of this present life.
[1.] From all want and sense of want: They hunger and thirst no more; all their wants are supplied, and all the uneasiness caused thereby is removed.
[2.] From all sickness and pain: they shall never be scorched by the heat of the sun any more.
(4.) They are happy in the love and guidance of the Lord Jesus: He shall feed them, he shall lead them to living fountains of waters, he shall put them into the possession of every thing that is pleasant and refreshing to their souls, and therefore they shall hunger and thirst no more.
(5.) They are happy in being delivered from all sorrow or occasion of it: God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. They have formerly had their sorrows, and shed many tears, both upon the account of sin and affliction; but God himself, with his own gentle and gracious hand, will wipe those tears away, and they shall return no more for ever; and they would not have been without those tears, when God comes to wipe them away
—Matthew Henry Unabridged
whom this work was committed-to an angel, another angel. While some of the angels were employed to restrain Satan and his agents, another angel was employed to mark out and distinguish the faithful servants of God. —Matthew Henry Unabridged
God will have a greater harvest of souls among the Gentiles than he had among the Jews. More are the children of the desolate than of the married woman.
[2.] The Lord knows who are his, and he will keep them safe in times of dangerous temptation.
[3.] Though the church of God is but a little flock, in comparison of the wicked world, yet it is no contemptible society, but really large and to be still more enlarged
—Matthew Henry Unabridged
Their station-before the throne of God, attending on him, and about the saints, ready to serve them.
(2.) Their posture, which is very humble, and expressive of the greatest reverence: They fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God. Behold the most excellent of all the creatures, who never sinned, who are before him continually, not only covering their faces, but falling down on their faces before the Lord! What humility then, and what profound reverence, become us vile frail creatures, when we come into the presence of God! We should fall down before him; there should be both a reverential frame of spirit and a humble behaviour in all our addresses to God
(3.) Their praises. They consented to the praises of the saints, said their Amen thereto; there is in heaven a perfect harmony between the angels and saints; and then they added more of their own, saying, Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. Here,
[1.] They acknowledge the glorious attributes of God-his wisdom, his power, and his might.
[2.] They declare that for these his divine perfections he ought to be blessed, and praised, and glorified, to all eternity; and they confirm it by their Amen. We see what is the work of heaven, and we ought to begin it now, to get our hearts tuned for it, to be much in it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as happiness, will be perfected.
—Matthew Henry Unabridged
A great multitude This appears to mean the Church of Christ among the Gentiles, for it was different from that collected from the twelve tribes; and it is here said to be of all nations, kindreds, people, and tongues.
Clothed with white robes As emblems of innocence and purity. With palms in their hands, in token of victory gained over the world, the devil, and the flesh.
Notes for Verse 10
Verse 10. Salvation to our God That is, God alone is the author of the salvation of man; and this salvation is procured for and given to them through the Lamb, as their propitiatory sacrifice.
—Adam Clarke’s Commentary
And serve him day and night Without ceasing; being filled with the spirit of prayer, faith, love, and obedience.
—Adam Clarke’s Commentary
Living fountains of water A spring in the Hebrew phraseology is termed living water, because constantly boiling up and running on. By these perpetual fountains we are to understand endless sources of comfort and happiness, which Jesus Christ will open out of his own infinite plenitude to all glorified souls. These eternal living fountains will make an infinite variety in the enjoyments of the blessed—Adam Clarke’s Commentary
(It seems the 144000 is the remanent that God saved so that he could bring salvation through Christ. They are the heritage.)
Book of revelation begins with the seven letters to the churches of that time, then it moves to the heavens and takes us through time past present and future that we might know of the promise of God’s joy.
Satan is not cast to earth until chapter 9 and we know Satan exsists now because Jesus told us so.
Have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads - Secured the servants of God of the twelve tribes from the impending calamities; whereby they shall be as clearly distinguished from the rest, as if they were visibly marked on their foreheads. (were this was already done the rest is taking place as John watches)
Notes for Verse 4
Verse 4. Of the children of Israel - To these will afterwards be joined a multitude out of all nations. But it may be observed, this is not the number of all the Israelites who are saved from Abraham or Moses to the end of all things; but only of those who were secured from the plagues which were then ready to fall on the earth. It seems as if this book had, in many places, a special view to the people of Israel.
Standing before the throne - In the full vision of God.
And palms in their hands - Tokens of joy and victory.
I saw four angels - Probably evil ones. They have their employ with the four first trumpets, as have other evil angels with the three last; namely, the angel of the abyss, the four bound in the Euphrates, and Satan himself. These four angels would willingly have brought on all the calamities that follow without delay. But they were restrained till the servants of God were sealed, and till the seven angels were ready to sound: even as the angel of the abyss was not let loose, nor the angels in the Euphrates unbound, neither Satan cast to the earth, till the fifth, sixth, and seventh angels severally sounded.
Amen - With this word all the angels confirm the words of the "great multitude;" but they likewise carry the praise much higher.
The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honor, and the power, and the strength, be unto our God for ever and ever - Before the Lamb began to open the seven seals, a sevenfold hymn of praise was brought him by many angels, Revelation 5:12. Now he is upon opening the last seal, and the seven angels are going to receive seven trumpets, in order to make the kingdoms of the world subject to God. All the angels give sevenfold praise to God.
These are they - Not martyrs; for these are not such a multitude as no man can number. But as all the angels appear here, so do all the souls of the righteous who had lived from the beginning of the world.
Who come - He does not say, who did come; but, who come now also: to whom, likewise, pertain all who will come hereafter.
Out of great affliction - Of various kinds, wisely and graciously allotted by God to all his children.
And have washed their robes - From all guilt.
And made them white - In all holiness.
By the blood of the Lamb - Which not only cleanses, but adorns us also.
Notes for Verse 15
Verse 15. Therefore - Because they came out of great affliction, and have washed their robes in his blood.
Are they before the throne - It seems, even nearer than the angels.
And serve him day and night - Speaking after the manner of men; that is, continually.
In his temple - Which is in heaven.
And he shall have his tent over them - Shall spread his glory over them as a covering.
Neither shall the sun light on them - For God is there their sun. Nor any painful heat, or inclemency of seasons.
Notes for Verse 17
Verse 17. For the Lamb will feed them - With eternal peace and joy; so that they shall hunger no more.
And will lead them to living fountains of water - The comforts of the Holy Ghost; so that they shall thirst no more. Neither shall they suffer or grieve any more; for God "will wipe away all tears from their eyes."
In sharp contrast to the 144,000 of the children of
Israel (verses 1-8) who have been "sealed," this group cannot be numbered. The reference to their languages, nations and tribes indicates that they are probably not Jews. The white robes they wear represent purity. The palms that they waved remind the reader of those that were waved at the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40) or of the palms waved on Palm Sunday (John 12:13).
The ordeal through which these people have come could either be the series of calamities described in earlier portions of the book of Revelation, or others, such as those alluded to in Matthew 24 or Daniel 12.
The multitude around the throne of the Lamb reminds us that there is plenty of room for us all in the kingdom of God. Neither their language, nor their tribe, nor their nation kept them from the presence of God. God has already made room for us all in heaven. Are we making room for us all on earth — in the church?
These are they who have come out of the great ordeal. What are the great ordeals through which we come? through which our "saints" have come? We rejoice that, for them, the ordeal has ended and they are worshiping in the presence of God.
As I told the children, All Saints Day is the day after
Halloween, and it is a day on which Christ’s people remember
those who have gone before them in the faith and who now have
found happiness in the eternal kingdom promised to us by God.
All Saints Day is a day on which we remember special people,
people who now dwell with God in heaven.
people whom the scriptures and the church call saints.
St. John the Divine, in his Revelation, shares with us in his
vision several glimpses of heaven and of what the life of the
saints is like there.
Today’s reading from Revelation was one of those
In that glimpse we see that in heaven there is a multitude that
no one can count,
a multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language on
and that this multitude stands before the throne of God and
before the lamb, and loudly proclaim God’s praise, saying:
Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.
And we see too clustered around the throne of God the elders and
the angels and the four creatures of God,
and they, like the
multitude, praise God saying
Praise and glory and thanks and honour and power and
strength be to our God forever and forever - AMEN AMEN
We see as well in this glimpse into heaven that the eternal life
is not only a life of exuberant praise.
My friends, no one - not even John
can really tell us just how wonderful heaven is,
and certainly no one can tell us just where it is,
and exactly what it feels like and looks
but also my friends, no one can tell me, and no one should ever
tell you, that it does not exist.
The saints are there, the saints we remember this day.
I know it because at times I can feel them around me,
telling me to hang in,
telling me to be faithful,
telling me that something wonderful has happened to them and
that it will happen to me as well.
Who are these saints that speak to me, reminding me of what I
should do, and what God has planned for me?
Well - the saints that occasionally reach out to me, the saints
that I think of, are my personal saints,
they are people who by their actions and words revealed the
love of God to me.
They are people who, before they went to heaven, strived in their
own special way to be faithful,
and in their faithfulness, they touched my life and gave me a
special gift, always a gift of love, often a gift of wisdom.
I have tried to do the impossible today and describe to you in
poor and inadequate words a little bit of what heaven is like,
because I want you all here today to think about heaven and about
the saints you have known,
the saints who are now at God’s side praising him and
watching over you, in the same manner as they watched
and cared for you or for someone special to you while they
lived on this earth.
So what I am going to do now is briefly describe a few of the
saints I have known, the ones that still talk to me even though
they are not here.
As I tell you about my saints, I want you to think of your
saints; and, after I am done, I will say a just a few more words
about saints and about heaven and about us here on earth.
They were saints to me,
they were faithful in their way to God
they lived out the gospel as best they could.
Who do you remember?
Who showed you a bit of what God is like?
Who sought to love their neighbours, and to love God?
Who loved you?
The list of Saints, my friends, includes on it a list of
notable people. People like the Apostles, Men and women like
Saint Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila.
But the list of saints includes not just the famous people, not
just the ones that bishops and popes have declared saints
because of their deep faith and impressive works.
No - the list of saints includes all those who love God
and who have striven to love their neighbours as themselves.
It includes all those who have sought to be faithful to Jesus
Christ, those who have washed their robes in his blood.
A saint is someone who is different, someone, who, because of how
they loved God and led their life is worth imitating.
They are not perfect people. Even the most famous saints,
those men and woman the church as a whole points to,
were not perfect.
Saint Peter was inconsistent,
Saint Paul at times seemed a little arrogant,
Saint John and Saint James wanted honour and glory,
and the list of defects goes on.
All the saints, as the expression goes, had feet of clay,
but they, for all that, had something worth imitating,
something worth remembering.
Saints are people who made a difference to others and people who
made a difference to us, because they attempted to love and serve
God, and to love and serve God’s world.
Each of the saints that I remember in some way directed my to
God, they revealed by some portion of their lives that God made a
difference to them. And because of their faith they made a
difference to me.
That is what being a saint is all about - making a difference
a positive difference,
a loving difference,
the kind of difference that inclines the hearts and minds of
others to God and his praise.
Each one of us, my friends is called to be a saint,
and, each one of us because of the love of Jesus Christ,
can be a saint.
At times it can be difficult to live up to this calling,
at times it is hard to love,
at times it is hard to do things that shows God’s care,
at times it is hard to not just to act on our faith,
at times it is hard even to have
Brothers and sisters - we will join the saints with God in
Heaven. There is a room reserved for us with them and the Lamb,
We see as well that there, next to God, there is neither hunger,
or thirst, or heat, or pain any more - and that God himself wipes
the tears from the saint’s eyes, the tears that they shed here in
this life, and that while God soothes them, the Lamb - our Lord
Jesus, leads them to the springs of living water, the springs of
joy and goodness evermore.
In heaven there is no suffering, nor death, nor grief;
all that has passed away, a new reality has come,
a new life has come, a glorious life...
It is a life in which there is peace, and joy and praise;
a life in which there is ecstasy and excitement,
love and tenderness,
It is a life lived in a setting that is often described as
golden, as full of light and beauty,
a setting which defies earthly imagination,
and so is described in terms of wealth and abundance,
in terms of jewels and fruit, and greenery,
in terms of all the
things that a person here on earth could ever
Have you ever been in a large crowd, I mean, a really large crowd?
Although I have been in some pretty big crowds, when I think about the giant crowd
mentioned here in Revelation 7, I simply cannot fathom it! I can’t imagine seeing a crowd that is
so large that it cannot be numbered.
I was visiting the website for the Guiness World Book of Records, and out of curiosity, I
thought I would look up some records for large crowds. I discovered that
1. The largest crowd to be “slimed” was 731. Yes, on March 12, 1999 in Birmingham, England,
840 litres of slime was poured upon 731 people in a fundraiser for Comic Relief.
2. The largest crowd to gather for the purpose of blowing bubbles, met in Upton Park, London
England, in May of 1999; 23,680 people assembled there in order to blow bubbles
simultaneously. (The British do like to gather for the strangest purposes!)
3. The largest crowd for a regular season football game is 102,368, for the Los Angeles Rams
against the San Francisco 49ers, at the Los Angeles Coliseum, California, USA, on November
4. The largest number of visitors to a single department store in one day (and it’s not
WALMART!!) is an estimated 1.07 million who shopped at the Nextage Shanghai, in Shanghai,
China on December 20, 1995.
5. The greatest number of live spectators for any sporting event is 10,000,000 over a
three-week period at the annual Tour de France cycling race..
All over the world, people gather in large crowds for many purposes, but as exciting as some of
those gatherings might be, they all pale in comparison to the innumberable crowd of Rev. 7.
I want you to try to envision this giant crowd of people in Heaven. Take a moment to try to
imagine such a sight. People from every walk of life, every culture, every nationality -- so many
people that they cannot be numbered. And then, notice the angels who join in on the praise and
worship of Jesus Christ! WOW! Can you imagine what it would be like to be in the midst of
that glorious worship service?
But as we envision this fantastic heavenly host of angels and men giving praise to God, it
ought to cause us to think. This Heavenly vision should cause us to think about the great scope
of the Great Commission. Let’s notice 4 things as we consider a glimpse of this glorious crowd:
A GREAT MULTITUDE
A John says of this crowd, that it was so large that “no one could number it.”
1. All John saw was a crowd, so large that it was impossible to count!
2. There were obviously a lot more than the 144,000 (since he knew their number)
B But here’s the exciting part! Notice who made up this crowd.
1. It is a crowd made up of all nations. “Ethnos” = ethnic groups.
2. It is a crowd made up of all tribes. The word “tribes” = “offspring, generations of
people.” To me that suggests large families of people.
3. It is a crowd made up of all “peoples”. Peoples = “laion” (leity) = “all populations”
4. It is a crowd made up of all “tongues” or “languages”
C So who makes up this great and glorious heavenly crowd?
1. All ethnic groups and their offspring.
2. All peoples of every language.
3. In other words, from every background and breed, every country,culture, and clan,
from every district and dialect, from every region, race, and rank, from every lineage,
locale and language, GET THE POINT? Every group will be represented.
A GREAT CELEBRATION
A John describes this crowd as wearing white robes.
1. The word for “robes” is “stolas”, which were “long robes, fancy robes for leisure”
White is symbolic of purity or righteousness.
2. They are also waving palm branches, another symbol of celebration.
B Can you imagine how exciting such a celebration would be? I mean, get this picture ...
1. Here they are WAVING palm branches, and “crying out with a loud voice.”
2. WHAT? No Baptists in the group?
3. Folks, we need to learn to worship, because we’re going to be doing it for a long time!
Listen to what this crowd cries out: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the
throne and to the Lamb!”
B In a nutshell, these folks are still marvelling about the great message of salvation
through Jesus Christ!
C Folks, the message of the gospel is the greatest message of all times. And this great
message is being proclaimed around the world! What exciting times we live in!
1. The Bible has been translated into more than 3,850 languages
2. Estimates are that more than 85,000 people are trusting in Jesus Christ every day!
3. I.e. Albania used to brag that it was a nation that was 100% atheist. It’s Palace of
Congresses was a virtual shrine to Communistic Atheism. But in 1992, Campus
Crusade for Christ was given permission to show the Jesus Film. Over 2,000 people
attended, INCLUDING TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. From that crowd, 700
people personally invited Jesus Christ into their hearts!
What once was a temple of communism is now being used as a temple of the Holy
God,” exclaimed the head of the government-controlled Albanian film industry.
D It ought to be our desire to share this great message with everyone!
But, you know, there is always reason for Christians to rejoice in death. You see, the missing person who has left an empty hole in our heart, is partying with the Lord! One author wrote, “God is planning a party…a party to end all parties. A feast. Not giggles and chitchat in the conference room, but wide-eyed wonder in the throne room of God.” This isn’t a party that begins at 6 and peters out at 9. This isn’t a brat party that ends with heartburn and endless cleanup. It’s an eternity of ceaseless celebration.
And Jesus wants you there more than anything—yes, you! That’s why he gave old Apostle John a glimpse of the heavenly party in Revelation. He wants us to know how to get there and what it’s going to be like so that we never lose focus of it.
How much more true that is when it comes to the party of Heaven. You must have to have the right clothes to be admitted into heaven. The Holy Maitre Di of heaven will not accept our shirts stained with sin and shame. He rejects our jeans splattered with the sticky jam of selfishness and lovelessness. He turns away the filthy ties of our tantrums, our lustful thoughts, our apathy.
But you will notice that all the people in heaven weren’t wearing filthy clothes. They were wearing white robes, stately, flowing robes of purity. It’s not that they never sinned, but their sins have been covered by Jesus.
We begin to get a picture of that in verse 15 and following. [Read the lesson]. I couldn’t help but notice that part in verse 15 that says, “He will spread his tent over them.” Literally, it says, “He will live in a tent with them.” It stood out to me because my family used to camp all the time. I wondered why God would use a tent to help us picture heaven. After all, a tent seems so temporary, something you stay in while you’re not at home. But what else do you think of when you think of camping or tenting?
You think of closeness, don’t you? When our family of six camped in a tent, we were so cramped together that we could hear every sound, smell every stink, feel every jostle that anyone made. It was no wonder that we were all ready to kill each other after the first night of our five night vacation. That got to be a little too much closeness.
But envision the closeness a baby has snuggled in at his mommies’ breast. Nothing to be afraid of; nothing but peace. He’s content. He’s with mommy and nothing bad can happen.
In heaven, God will be that close to give us the assurance that there’s nothing more to be afraid of, nothing but peace, nothing bad that can happen. There won’t be any more tumors, any more kids dying, anymore rejection and loneliness, any more aches and pains, anymore family fights, anymore failures and letdowns, anymore sickness or SARS. It will all be gone, and we will be close to God. No wonder He will be able to wipe away every tear from our eyes. In Revelation 21, John adds this: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling (tent) of God is with men, and he will live (in a tent) with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (vv. 3,4) To be with God! To leave behind this life of letdowns! What a party that’s gonna be!
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Think of these things, whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account." It’s certainly not healthy to become obsessed with death, but to ignore reality is just plain foolish! Someday, we must depart this world and stand judgment before God. How much time do we spend making sure that we are close to the only one who can get us into the party? How much time do we spend thanking him with our lives?
Today is All Saint’s Sunday. The day we read the names of those who have been buried from this congregation this past year. A day to put carnations on the altar to help us remember those who have died and have left a hole in our lives. But what makes a person a saint?
We think of people. People for whom special days, hospitals and churches are named after. We might think of more recent people – people who have made significant contributions to our world, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero who the people of Central America are asking the Pope to declare a saint these weeks. We might think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the young girl from Columbine High School who is reported to have declared her faith and was shot as a result. We might even include a grandmother or grandfather, aunt or uncle.
A bishop of Sweden once said “saints are those who make it easier for us to believe in God.” Robert Louis Stevenson said, “saints are sinners who keep on going.”
If we look in scriptures for people whom we might consider saints, we might include in our list King David. He wrote so many wonderful Psalms that still give us hope today. He was a powerful leader of his people, leading them to follow the God of Israel, holding in front of them the covenant and promises of God. But we would also need to remember the incident with Bathsheba, the lust and adultery that lead to murder. The idea of saint takes on a new dimension.
We might think of Rahab, or maybe we wouldn’t, the prostitute in Jericho who helped the people of Israel take possession of the promised land. She is declared as faithful for her trust in God. She is mentioned over and over again whenever the writers of Scripture want an example of faithfulness.
We might think of Peter, the faithful disciple, even with his ups and downs, his declarations of faith and his betrayals. He was the one who declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” but also “I do not know him.”
We might think of people on the list of those printed in the bulletin yet remember their failings.
Who are the saints? A saint is one declared a saint by God. A saint is one given the inheritance promised in Ephesians when we were “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” A saint’s identity is assured by God through baptism and this identity cannot be changed or lost.
We are declared saints, we are invited to live our lives in response to that fact. In Ephesians, Paul declares who they are and encourages them to live accordingly, even though we get the impression that he is a little disappointed in the fruits of their sainthood to this point. He speaks in past tense as he talks of God’s realities for them, “who were the first to set our hope in Christ”, ’we were marked with the promised Holy Spirit.” And he speaks in the future tense of his hopes that God “may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.”
A saint is one who is faithful in all circumstances, one whose identity is not shaken by the daily circumstances, the ups and downs of life.
the Communion of Saints...is talking about the way Christians commune with each
When we say, "I believe in the Communion of Saints," we are saying that we believe in the
power of the community of believers to strengthen our faith. It means we believe that together
we can make it...if we tie ourselves together we can get through most anything. We tie ourselves
to the saints of the past, to the saints of the present, and also, I believe, to the saints of the future.
It is our actions today that are available to tomorrow’s Christians for strength.
I think that knowledge, too, provides strength...because we tend to behave better when we
are being watched. If every word out of our mouths were taped, you can bet there would be a lot
of different conversations. If every action of ours was on video, you can bet that a lot of acts
would be cleaned up...unless, of course, you’re trying to make money on reality TV. Realizing
that our actions and words today have the power not only to help those around us now, but those
who will follow in the future can be a powerful incentive to the Christian heart.
We believe in the Communion of Saints. We believe that we are all tied together...that
WE experience a little of the never go hungry --- with communion and the bread of life
The church, the body of Christ is all the saints who have lived, who are living now and who will live in the future. The church is one person helping another person.
The church is made up of saints, who have been baptized into its body and who have received the grace of God.
There has been an All Saints’ Day from at least the beginning of the 3rd century, and probably before that, from almost the beginning of the Church. The Western Church settled on the present date, November 1st, in the 9th century, adopting the practice of the Irish branch of what we call today "the Anglican Communion."
There is much modern confusion about the meaning of the word "saint." This confusion is due, in part, to movies about the Roman Catholic "canonization of saints," as well as to a resurgence of interest in books about "the lives of the saints" or painted pictures of the saints such as icons. But in reality, a saint is simply a human being, living or dead, that God has chosen for eternal life, and upon whom God has lavished his grace.
Thus All Saints’ Day was begun as a feast, not to honor human beings, but to honor God for his work of salvation and sanctification
We should remember with joy and thanksgiving the generations before us that answered Christ’s call and received the grace to become his saints. When we are afraid, we can ponder the fact that there is no trial or tribulation that we can face in our own lives that some Christian efore us has not conquered gloriously.
As we praise God for the victory that he has given to the saints now gathered around his throne in heaven, we can imagine some future All Saints’ Day, if our Lord does not return to end the business of this world during our lifetime on earth, when our descendants will praise God in heaven for the lives we are living now, and for the victory that Christ began to give us openly on the day of our Baptism, and continues in us today, if we are faithful.
saint, then, is only this: a human being who belongs to God, who has been set apart from the world by the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on a cross and received in the Holy Communion. Nobody else is a saint, and there is no other qualification. We are holy because of God’s action in our lives, or we are not. Every member of the Church in heaven is a saint; and every member of the Church on earth whose broken heart is faithful to Jesus Christ, who puts his trust in Jesus Christ and in nothing else, not even in himself, is just as much a saint right now.
All Saints is
such a wonderful and victorious and loving celebration that the Church allows
us to celebrate on the Sunday that follows, as we are doing today. All
Saints is the day of victory for the simple and quiet folk who are the
regular Christians of the church. It is not just the famous saints in the
Bible and down through the centuries like St. Francis or even Mother Teresa
who are called to glory; all Christians share equally in God’s glory. We
celebrate today that each and every Christian person at the moment of his or
her death crosses over into glory as a gift to them from the love of God.
Our loved ones who have gone before us are at this very moment gloriously
alive and feasting at the heavenly Table with God, just as we feast at that
same table with Him here today. We are also celebrating that God calls us--
that is you and me-- also to be saints and we too will someday sooner or
later live in the full glory of God.
On All Saints Day we think about the persons we love who have passed on
before us. We think about the love of our parents; church school teachers we
have known along the way; fellow members of this church or other churches
that we have known and loved. We realize that God uses ordinary folk to pass
on His light and love
During the year we don’t have many Bible readings from the Book of
Revelation, but on All Saints we do. Again we are told that God has a
special place around His throne for all of those who are sealed on their
foreheads-- a great multitude that no one could count. "The Lamb at the
center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to
springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their
eyes." Those who suffered the pain of living a life of love in this world
will have all of their sorrows removed by God Himself. That is the promise.
Our first clue in answering the question is found in the opening verses of
Paul’s Letter to the Romans, where he describes himself as "a Servant of
Christ Jesus" chosen and called by God to preach His Good News." In just a
few short words (one sentence in the Greek) Paul sets forth his devotion to
his Lord, his call to be a minister of God’s Grace, an outline of the
Gospel, its relationship to the world, and then he gives three definitions
of those who whom the Gospel has come: "Called to belong to Jesus Christ
…" "All God’s beloved …" Called to be saints …" ("God’s own people" … as
the Good News Bible puts it.)
Most of us would shrink from the thought that we are saints. If we had to
choose between the labels "saints" and "sinners", most of us, I’d reckon,
would go for the latter as the better description of who we are. Sinners
we are yes! But we’ve got to remember: We are sinners redeemed! It is
Christ, not us, who makes us His saints and calls us to be His own for others.
Fifty-seven times in the New Testament the word "Saints" is used. But
NEVER is it used in the Bible to designate any particular person. Always
the term is used to describe those who belong to Christ - saved
sinners. And always it is used in the plural. No specific person is ever
called a "saint" in the New Testament Greek, the reference is always to
the many: to the holy ones of God.