Sermon- All Saints Day (observed), November 4th, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Carson City, NV
“All Saints: Eschatology and Ecclesiology”
“All Saints: Eschatology and Ecclesiology”
All Saints Day – a favorite of mine – a day rich in theology. Here we find ecclesiology – that is, matters concerning God's church. We find Sacramentality – the oneness we share at the rail and font with all of God's people of all times. We find Christology, of course, Christ in all our doctrines. And we find Eschatology – the matters concerning the end of days. The judgment. The kingdom to come.
Watch and see, Christians, how once again many people will get all fouled up by a false eschatology. Wait for December 21st of this year and the conclusion of the infamous Mayan calendar – to see how our media and culture will bombard us with end times speculation and fear. Why is it, that even those who don't read the Bible, go to church, or even call themselves Christians, seem to know and fear an imminent end? Perhaps it's the hard-wiring of God's law in our hearts, and a sense, however dulled, that all of us have sinned and deserve God's judgment. That when our day comes, or when the end of the world comes for all, either way we will stand before the throne and answer for our sins. Dull it, ignore it, harden your heart – but the law will stand forever and accuse the sinners who break it.
Thanks be to God for the grace and mercy he shows to us in Christ! We, the people of God, the children of God, the saints of God – will stand in the judgment. We will not stand on our own, but only in and through Christ – who has paid our price and forgiven our sins, and promised us mansions in heaven. We need not fear the end, rather, we pray with the saints of all ages, “come quickly, Lord Jesus”. For that final day is our day of victory, our day of triumph, our final hope.
Still, some Christians avoid the book of Revelation like the plague – or one of the plagues therein. Some find it hard, confusing or troubling. Scary images of demons and monsters, natural and supernatural disasters. And great suffering. Some are put off by its seemingly cryptic use of numbers, or strange imagery. And some, on the other hand, are overly fascinated with this last book of Scripture – and find ways to misread it, and misuse it.
But The Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John is worthy of our study, or attention, and our hearing – in that in brings us some of the most powerful words of comfort – eternal comfort – in all of Holy Scripture. These words at the end of the book give us assurance that God already knows how it all ends – and that he is victorious – and that his people triumph with him. Not through great power and glory, but by the blood of the lamb.
And our reading this All Saints day fits the bill. It is a picture of a great multitude dressed in white robes. who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. This is a picture of the church in final glory. This is a picture of our future. This is the destiny of the church.
Who are these people? That's the question John is asked by the elder. And we can expand on the answer a little.
Who are these people? They are people from every nation and tribe, people and language. They are white and hispanic, they are african and european and asian. They are from all times and places where the Holy Spirit has called sinners to faith by the Gospel. By missionaries and pastors, parents and teachers, friends who confess and witness and bring others to the throne of the Lamb.
Who are these people? They are wearing white robes – robes which have been washed. And boy did they need to be washed. Formerly, those robes were stained and soiled with sin. Robes needed to cover the nakedness and shame that began when their parents first sinned and hid in the garden. But no longer. Now, it's a robe of righteousness. Now it's the robe of baptism, of faith, a very putting on of Christ. They have washed their robes, not with bleach or detergent, but with the holy precious blood of Christ. Yes, Christ's blood is the only basis for our salvation. Though your sins were as scarlet, in Christ, they are white as snow.
Who are these people waving palm branches? They are evoking that first triumphal entry of the Messiah – on Palm Sunday. There the crowds waved their branches and sang, “Hosanna”, that is, “Save us now.” But on that day, the day of his final coming, the day of his ultimate triumphal entry, the Hosannas will come to fruition. He will come with his angels in glory to bring salvation full circle. To bring his people a resurrection like his, to make us like him, risen, glorified, reigning with him forever.
Who are these people singing? They sing in joy – like the saints of all ages. They sing to the Lamb who brings them salvation. They are all the company of heaven, in chorus of praise to our God. They are all the saints, and we join their song even today as we gather around God's word and receive Christ's body and blood.
- They are people of promises fulfilled, and just look at these promises:
- They are before the throne of God. They are not cast away from God's presence, but stand in his very throne room. They are not sent away in punishment, but enjoy the honor of his Holy presence.
- The serve day and night in his temple - They, all of them, serve as priests, for they have been made holy.
- God shelters them with his presence - nothing can harm them under his watchful care.
- They neither hunger nor thirst – the want for nothing, they lack nothing.
- The sun doesn't scorch them with heat – for here there is only comfort.
- The Lamb is their shepherd. The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. He guides them, he guides us, to springs of living water – the same water of grace and mercy that quenches the parched soul. The water that flows from his throne, from him...
- And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, yes, from our eyes. What an image. That God himself would wipe the tears from your eyes. Even today, he does so, then and there, he will do so fully.
One final thought for this all saints day – in a few moments we will observe a tradition that many others do on All Saints day – the tolling of bells or chimes for the departed Christians from our midst during the past year. As each name is read, we give thanks for the life of this child of God, this saint, lived among us. And as each name is read, we might picture them, decked in the white robe of righteousness, waving a palm branch of their own, and joining the great multitude of saints. For those loved ones of ours, who die in the faith, and for us, there is precious promise in Christ. Their future – our future is sure.
On this All Saints Day, rejoice that in Christ there is forgiveness, life, salvation. In Christ we live, and will live, forever, will all the saints. And that God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and from yours.