Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

All Saints

"For All the Saints in Time and in Eternity"

Rev. 7:9-14

November 2, 2014

Today is All Saints Sunday. It's kind of like the Memorial Day for the church. On this day, we remember those who have gone before us to the Lord. The text today is from St. John's Revelation but a different reading.

Read Text: Rev. 7:9-14. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, 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!"And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."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.

Today is the celebration of All Saints. Like Memorial Day in May, we often think we need to do something. In May families make treks to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of their loved ones. Now, it seems many churches have added a "something to do" for All Saints. Last All Saints Day at my aunt's church, the names of those who died in the last year were read and family members came forward to light a candle in their memory on the altar. It was supposed to be a gesture of remembrance and help bring closure to families.

Here's the problem. What is dreamed up in theory doesn't always carry over well in reality. When it came time for my aunt's family to approach the altar and light her memory candle, one of my cousins was so overwhelmed with grief that he had to leave the service. Instead of being comforting, the candle ceremony opened the pain all over again.

Where do these ideas come from? It must be the need to do something, even though there's nothing we can do. And, what's this "closure" business anyway? It's another silly, overused word. There is no closure. To close is to shut away or remove from sight. We don't want our loved ones forever lost from our memories. They have given us blessed memories. Why should we want to lock them away?

Be honest. Lighting candles and reading names from a list is small comfort when what we really want is our loved ones back with us safe and well. But, that's not going to happen. So, lighting a candle or reading names from a list is becomes a poor substitute for what we really want. Here's the question: How do we find hope and comfort on this All Saints Sunday?

The vision of St. John in Revelation gives us comfort in knowing that our loved ones are safe with the Lord. "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." Their trials, their struggles and their pain are now behind them. They experience only that peace that surpasses all of our human understanding.

That's fine for them but what about us? There's more. Although our loved ones are gone from us, there is a place where we meet. It's at the altar. Our comfort is here, this morning. Listen to the words of the liturgy, "Therefore with the angels, the archangels AND ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN!" Don't you see? The company of heaven is not a sea of faceless masses. In and among the company of heaven are the faces of those you know and love. They are gathered around the throne of the Lamb.

This is the communion of saints we confess in the creed. As we gather around the Holy Supper this morning, we are one with them. Here is where we meet them. Here the seen meets the unseen. Here time meets eternity. Here the immortal touches the mortal. Here God touches us. Here we meet our loved ones. Their song is our song. Here is the continuum that transcends time, space and death. Here we are all one.

Gathering around the altar to partake of the Lord's Supper this morning is more powerful, more meaningful, and more significant than lighting a candle or reading a name from a memory list. Here we are one with the whole company of heaven. The sacrament links us not merely to Bethlehem and Calvary, but to the whole world beyond the grave.

Today as we remember our loved ones who are with the Lord, we can rejoice that God so loved the world that He gave us His Son Jesus. Because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He opened the way to heaven to us. We rejoice in the faith and love He gives us. We rejoice with all He has done for us and for our loves ones who now stand in His glorious presence.

If you only remember one point this morning, remember this: their joy is our comfort. Yes, we miss them. Yes, we often wish we could have had them with us longer. The promise of Christ's resurrection is that it is ours as well. Our loved ones who rest in the Lord know only peace and joy. This is our comfort this morning. They are safe with the Lord. One day we will be gathered to be with them numbered among those who stand around the throne of the Lamb.

Our comfort today will be changed to joy everlasting. We will experience their joy. With them we will shout, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


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01/26/2014
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