Message: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
Today, we officially celebrate All Saints Day. In the life of the church, we believe through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ eternal life is revealed to us. Those who have gone before us, those who have died and now live in God’s heavenly kingdom, are with us through God’s never ending love. We recognize these folks who are with us forever more, particularly on All Saints Day; the day in the life of the church when we commemorate those heroes of the faith.
History tells us of people who because of their deep faith, their trust in God’s grace, their love of God in Christ, the sacrifices they have made to reveal God’s world and reveal God in Christ to others, they are singled out, marked as holy, saints of God and may be assigned a particular day on the calendar where they are thankfully remembered.
All of us have precious people in our lives: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family members, children, friends, co-workers, mentors, teachers, sons and daughters; those beloved now living in the nearer presence of God. Through some, God’s glory has been revealed and served as an example for us in our own journey. For others, those who have perhaps doubted and questioned, even those who have failed to believe, we trust God’s tender heavenly embrace is a revelation for them as they now live in eternity.
Even with the comfort of God’s revelation about them in the highest heavens, we still miss them and our life is most definitely changed because of those who once with us are now gone.
On this All Saints Sunday, we read from the book of Revelation envisioning just what God’s heavenly kingdom may be like for our beloved. Revelation, the twenty-seventh book of the New Testament canon, for most of us, is confounding. Revelation, while often imaging violence, oppression, and fear, at the same time imagines visions of hope, possibility, and comfort. The book is written to rebellious folks suffering persecution for their Christian beliefs in the first century, and refusing to worship the Roman emperor.
Revelation is characterized as apocalyptic literature: the revealing of hidden images messaging the glory of God for a people burdened and overcome by darkness and oppression. The Christian writer, John, envisions symbols and signs which interpret hidden meanings about the universe and God’s heavenly kingdom. While often the story line does not issue a clear order of events, with angels flying throughout raging seas and blazing fires, trumpet loud voices bellowing through the air, a seven sealed scroll clutched in the arms of the Lamb of God releasing victorious horse and rider with each opened seal, surrounded by great crowds of every nation, every people, too numerous to count, the pictures, while vivid, reveal comfort in troubled times.
In the vision we imagine today in John’s revelation salvation is pictured for all as a vast multitude, emerging from a great ordeal, victorious in silky, white robes, gloriously waving palm branches, celebrating and singing out, “salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
We take comfort in this saving vision from Revelation as we reflect on those lost to us in the past year, those whom we miss and long for, those dear ones, close to us; those known to us only through news reports and shared stories, and those who are with us still but suffer from loss of another sort; loss of memory, loss of physical mobility, loss of health, loss of spirit, loss of hope; these we name in our hearts and souls today as saints of God. We can be assured: these saints, under the shelter of God are washed in the saving blood of Jesus Christ, before the throne of God where they will hunger and thirst no more and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Saved from every trouble, now the kingdom of heaven, revealed, is theirs.
God’s kingdom, God’s world, reigns for all, and is being revealed through each and every one of us, not just in what will be but, the kingdom of heaven, within us, through us, among us, here and now.
Sitting atop the mountainside, often a place of revelation, especially as it was for Moses as he received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, Jesus twists and turns the Law revealing God’s loving grace as he delivers the Beatitudes to his rag tag congregation perched with listening ears. Blessed are you who are at the end of your rope. Blessed are you as you suffer loss. Blessed are you who are powerless. Blessed are you as you thirst for justice. Blessed are you as you waste your time helping those who cannot help themselves. Blessed are you who stand with integrity. Blessed are you who cooperate. Blessed are you who refuse to compromise. Blessed are you as you shoulder insults. Blessed are you, saints of God, says Jesus, as God is revealed to you, to us, this day.
In our blessedness, Jesus isn’t asking us to roll over and play indifferent to the revealing truths behind misconduct, dishonesty and the horror of mass destruction. In fact, in our sainthood, granted to us through the grace of God in Christ, Jesus is teaching us to rejoice in happiness as God has our back in times of discord, God walks beside us along the paths of sorrow, God provides for us all that we need, God fills us, God puts things right, God reveals: God has a place for us in God’s world and God isn’t letting go, no matter what.
We are, my friends the multitude, the great cloud of witnesses, those worshippers robed in white, saved from shame, from fear, from trouble, called holy, blessed, revealed as children of God, rewarded as this body of Christ, we call the church, beckoned to be about Christ’s work in the world. On Tuesday, show who and what we are as the body of Christ. Vote. Vote believing God in Christ is blessing you in your choice of candidate and given you the privilege, and the right, to reveal God’s world of love, peace, compassion and the healing generosity of spirit. Together, let us GROW to be all God intends us to be as a governing body in this country and as the church. Let’s make a difference.
As you know, these few weeks, we’re in our season of annual giving entitled, GROW. Last week all received envelopes containing opportunities for us to pledge our commitment to giving as we strive for a pledge promise for each and everyone. Thank you for revealing God’s truth, as we GROW to make God’s world known. Your envelopes display a narrative budget. Look at how God is revealing God’s world to Epiphany as the body of Christ’s blessed people. 35% of the budget feeds, fuels and nurtures folks in our thanks and praise to God through worship. 41% of our budget is spent toward outreach, largely caring for the community around us.
Please, make a pledge commitment and offer to God next Sunday, November 12th in worship. First, pledge as a sign that Epiphany is 100% all in. Second, pledge to reveal that Epiphany is purposeful about revealing God’s world, right here on this corner. Thank you for giving prayerful consideration to your generous commitment. God needs us to be God’s most blessed kingdom dwellers. Thanks be to God, that we may serve as the revelation of God’s great love, mercy and goodness.