Summary: An All Saints/Souls Communion sermon that encourages living in anticipation of getting to our eternal destination.
When We Get There
There are times when I look back at my childhood and think, My parents must have been crazy! It was nothing for us to be enjoying a quiet Saturday morning and mom and dad would decide we needed to go do something. So, we’d pack a picnic lunch and load into the car for destination unknown – well, at least unknown to my sister and me! We would sometimes drive for hours to arrive at a park or a historic location. My favorite parts of these journeys were usually the car rides to the destination. Christa and I would pass the time trying to guess where we were going and what we would see or do when we got there. The anticipation of the destination was almost always what made the car rides bearable – even when the unexpected (like flat tires or over heating engines or traffic) delayed the journey.
As I read the scripture passages for this morning, I was struck with this same sense of anticipation. This same excitement about arriving at a destination and being greeted by the sights and sounds and activities of that place. Today as we observe All Saints Day, we focus on the glory of heaven - the destination - that awaits all the faithful children of God. Imagine being in God’s presence, dressed in the white robes of glory, waving the palm branch of victory and singing praises of salvation that belongs to God! Isn’t that enough to make you excited to be a faithful child in the here and now?
I’ve often heard people in different situations make comments about not being ready to die… but quite frankly I can’t wait! I can’t wait to be called to God’s eternal Kingdom and to live in eternal praise! The anticipation of arriving at the ultimate destination makes living life worthwhile. Don’t you think?
This week as I prepared this message, I was time and again drawn to Revelation 7:14. John of Patmos (the author of Revelation) sees the multitude dressed in white praising the one seated on the throne. And one of the elders turns and asks John, “Who are all these people and where did they come from?” And John replies, “Sir, you should know.” And the elder says, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
I was captivated by the idea of coming through the great tribulation. Now, our evangelical brothers and sisters would speak of this passage in terms of the Great Tribulation (with capital G – great and capital T- tribulation). They see the Great Tribulation as a specific event. Most of them equate the Great Tribulation with the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. So when they read this passage, they are immediately drawn to the prospect and hope of that time when Christ will return and all the faithful alive in the world will be whisked away to join in praising the Lamb upon the throne. That is undeniably one possible reading of this passage.
But I want to suggest this morning another reading. A reading that talks of the great tribulation with lower case g and t.
Let’s face it, none of our lives are without trials and tribulations. Tribulation quite simply is hardship and suffering. Many people in this world live daily a life of great tribulation. I think of families torn apart by drugs and alcohol. I think of the millions of people living in sub-standard housing, drinking contaminated water, and eating garbage out of dumps. I think of people losing homes and jobs in the current economy. I think of the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are persecuted, those who are insulted and who suffer all kinds of evil because of their faith in Christ.
Brothers and sisters, look around - our mortal lives are lives living in great tribulation! This mortal world abounds in hardships and suffering: cancer, Alzheimer’s, death, miscarriages, war, poverty, natural disasters, disappointments, opportunities lost, opportunities squandered and the list could go on… couldn’t it? I bet if I gave each of you a piece of paper and a pencil, and if you were all truly honest, you could make a list of suffering that you have had to or are traveling through right now. Though some of us try to put on a good face, the truth is we have all had hurt and suffering in our lives. The truth is we have all had hardships and troubles. The truth is none of us are perfect, and neither are our lives… no matter how great our faith.