All Saints’ Day (C)
November 3, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the first reading from the Revelation to Saint John, which was read a few minutes ago.
When you think back to your childhood, do you have fond memories? I’m thinking way back to when you were two or three, maybe even four? That was a pretty stress-free time, wasn’t it? You got to stay home and play with mom. When you fell and bumped your knee, someone was there to pick you up and kiss it better. You spent your days coloring, putting stickers all over the house, having tea parties with your stuffed animals. You hung out with dad, learning to catch a ball and sitting in his lap in a truck or a tractor. Good times, right? The most stressful thing about life was learning to use the big person’s potty or to adapt to your new sibling.
But was it really stress free? Even as children we can pick up on bad things going on around us. Some of you never got to know your mom or dad. Maybe your parents were around, but they were cold and distant. They didn’t hug you or tell you they loved you. And we all had fears: the dark, dogs, the boogeyman (or is it boogey-person?), thunderstorms, a parent, a neighbor. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The first few years go by and you start school which is exciting, scary, but exciting. Some of you can’t wait to go to school, others, well, you’re reluctant. You learn your ABC’s and how to share. When school is over for the day, you run home for a snack and cartoons. You race outside to play with your friends, or you plop down in front of the TV to play video games. When you’re in High School, you hang out with your friends at football and volleyball games. You’re working and making a little bit of spending money. Maybe you’ve got your first car and that means you have some freedom. There are prom dates, first dates, serious relationships. The first text or Snapchat from someone you like. The Instagram post liked by a bunch of people which makes you feel special.
But is it exciting all the time? School teaches you that some kids won’t like you for no reason at all. You learn that kids are mean and that certain subjects in school are hard. You struggle to learn. It’s a stressful and lonely time. You don’t have many friends. You found out what it really means to be hurt when you get dumped the first time. And don’t forget planning for after high school! The university or DMACC or a job. Then there are deaths that hit close to home; a favorite grandparent, a student in your school. I remember people telling me that these “are the best years of your life!” and all I could think was, “Please God don’t let that be true!” “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
After High School comes a time of new beginnings as high school graduates became young adults. You head off to college or your own apartment. You spread your wings, free of mom and dad’s control. You have your whole life ahead of you, and it comes quickly. A new job, a new spouse, a new home. You enjoy this time with friends, friends you’ve known since you were in kindergarten. Then comes the baby or was it the babies? This is a time of exciting new beginnings. Cuddling the newborn, watching them roll over or crawl. Taking their first steps, saying Mama and Dada.
But is that really true? These are new beginnings, but they come with their own share of problems. You spread your wings to fly and you crash to the ground. You need mom or dad, but they can’t or won’t help you. The never-ending stream of bills suck your paycheck dry. Don’t forget the sick children. The babies that died. The children that died. You get fired or laid off. The stress adds up which leads to fights that sometimes lead to a painful divorce. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Eventually though you reach a stable time. You are older and wiser. You’re established in your job and marriage. Your kids are involved in sports, activities, and hopefully church. You walk with your kids as they prepare for college. You get excited at the prospect of an empty nest. Life is comfortable. Maybe not always financially comfortable, but it’s a stable status quo.
But is this always true? There are plenty of unstable moments. You hate your job, but you’re stuck with it. The kids are growing up and you’re hearing from them less. There’s the worry about college expenses and retirement. Your parents are aging, and the increased responsibilities stress you out. Your parents and siblings die. You’re looking forward to a time of freedom with your spouse and grandchildren, and it’s suddenly, and unfairly taken away, as you’re widowed. You’re exhausted from taking care of a hurting spouse or children. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
After all that comes retirement and the golden years. The stress of working is done! You’re enjoying your grandkids and great grandkids; you feed them sugar and send them home! You have fewer responsibilities. You can do what you want, when you want. Cards with your friends. Golf with your buddies. Coffee at Kathy’s. You’re can relax and enjoy the slower pace of life.
But are they really the golden years? Your body is breaking down so there are new hips and knees. The kids and grandkids don’t come by as often you would like. There are the endless doctor visits. Your body is getting weaker so you can’t do what you want to do. You’re getting older, but your friends are dying. Your siblings are gone. Your spouse is gone. You’re pained by the death of children and grandchildren. All the while, you know the day is coming when you will die too. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
So maybe there’s no such thing as the best years of our lives. Every day, every year, every decade has its ups and downs. How I about I share something that will make it better? The best years of your life aren’t years at all! In Revelation 21:4, John hears a voice promise, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This is what we look forward to! We eagerly anticipate an existence free of sin and all its hellish consequences. You’ll stand before the throne of God experiencing absolute perfection for a timeless eternity!
This waits for you because Christ has conquered everything! Loneliness, pain, sorrow, anger, depression, disappointment, worry, stress, hurt – everything is overcome by Jesus for you! John sees this: “Behold, a great multitude that no one could number…standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Salvation belongs to Christ and He has given it to you! That’s why you can look forward to something better than the years in this life.
Listen to John to see why this is true: Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This means the dirty, grimy robes you wear, the robes made filthy by the sin, sorrow, pain, all the garbage of this world, are washed in the blood of Jesus and they’re magnificently white! This means that whatever emotional or physical pain you’re bearing, whatever spiritual turmoil you’re enduring, whatever tribulation you’re experiencing, isn’t going to last forever. It may seem like it, but it’s not!
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” All this is waiting for you! It’s what you can look forward to because everything that weighs you down was crucified with Jesus. Jesus leads you by the hand through the dark and stormy nights. He promises you in the Psalms that He’s your refuge and strength. He assures you in Isaiah that He can’t forget you. He announces in Romans that nothing can separate you from His love. He declares in I Corinthians that Death has lost its sting! These are God’s promises for you and every single one of them has been kept and will always be kept by the Lamb who sits on the throne.
Today is the day we celebrate All Saints’ Day. It’s the day we remember those faithful who have died, especially those we lost this year. And all that we heard before, all the promises made to us, have been fulfilled for them! They are with the Lord! They’re part of the multitude that stands around God’s throne singing those familiar words, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” We know that we’ll see them again too! Until then, you who are saints in this life through Christ join with them every time you worship! Every time you sing, This is the Feast you’re singing with the invisible saints who’ve gone before! The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the feast to come, a glimpse of what waits for you. All the sorrows of this world will fade and disappear on the day that you pick up a palm leaf and stand before the throne of God.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen