Sermon All Saints Day (Observed) /
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 6th 2011, “All Saints Day” (Observed), Revelation 7:9-17.
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 honour 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.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
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.”
(Revelation 7:9-17 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine, We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine.” Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” What we have here is two sides of a coin. It’s all one coin, but one side is tails and the other side is heads. So it is in the body of Christ.
Our text starts with the phrase, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number,” After this? After what? Well Saint John was just given a vision of the 144,000 (This is the church militant), this is us, here on this side of paradise. The perfect whole number of the entire church; this is ‘we who feebly struggle.’ It is a vision of the church, a vision of the faithful from all time, who are going through the tribulation of living in a fallen world plagued by sin and suffering and tears: A picture of all who are being shepherded by the Good Shepherd through the conquered gate of death and into life everlasting. A pathway made clear for you by Jesus, who is the Lamb of God. With His death He conquered death and with His life He gives you life. That is the one side of the coin, which is the Body of Christ.
The other side of the coin, which is also the Body of Christ, is the focus of the text before us this morning. (This is the Church Triumphant) It is a picture of the ones who are no longer going through the tribulation of a world mired in sin and suffering but of the ones who havegone through the tribulation and are on the other side, where they live before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night! “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” They are the ones who are sheltered with the presence of God the Father, these are the ones who don’t have hunger, who don’t have thirst, who are protected for all time, who are guided by Christ Jesus to springs of living water; these are them who have every tear wiped away from their eyes by the very hand of God.
Two sides of the same Coin; this is what it’s like: This is what the Body of Christ is like. As Christians we are frank when it comes to the facts, the body of the Christian dies and the soul goes to be with Christ Jesus, at which point both we and they wait for the last day when the resurrection of the dead will occur and then there will be only one side of the coin. The Triumphant Body of Christ fully united in paradise, fully united in the new heavens and the new earth.
In the mean time, the world looks at things almost purely from a biological view point: They say, there’s the biologically living and there’s the physically dead. But in Christ Jesus all are alive, Jesus said, “Moses showed [this to be true], in the passage about the [burning] bush, where [Moses] calls the Lord, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Not the God of dead men but of the living, Jesus continues saying, “Now [God the Father] is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.” So it is in the Holy Trinity, The Body of Christ is not half dead and half alive; the Body of Christ is life! Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus also said, “I am the resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
As Christians we believe that all who are in Jesus are alive but what about those who are not part of the Body of Christ? What about those who don’t share in the life of Christ Jesus? Well if you are not alive, you are dead. With Christ those who are physically dead are still alive, without Christ those who are physically alive are spiritually dead. They may look alive but there is no Jesus in them.
Now people psychologise life and death differently in the world. One area in culture where people focus on death and life, and what it means is in horror fiction: One way they do this is with the idea of Zombies. There is even a popular show called “The Walking Dead” which had 10 million viewers in 122 countries around the world last week. So what is a zombie in modern popular fiction? A zombie is a dead body that is animated, even in its decaying state, it lumbers or runs around, and in a mindless evil fashion it seeks out the living to do violence against them. Within Zombie fiction a zombie is a dead thing. Without God we too would be dead, in fact Saint Paul writes, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” In Zombie fiction there are few instances where a zombie can be made back into a living breathing human being with a soul and a mind. But what about the people of the world who like fictional zombies are dead, the ones who are spiritually dead, the ones who are dead in their trespasses and sins? What about them? In Zombie fiction generally all there is left to do with the zombie is to destroy them. Is that what we are called to do as Christians who live in a world with people who are still dead in their sins? Are we to destroy them? No, As with Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones the question is, “Son of man, can these bones live?” How do the dead become the living?
Jesus has an answer, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” This is echoed in Saint Paul when he writes, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Jesus, the Lamb of God: Jesus our Good Shepherd says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
The Small Catechism explains baptism saying, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.” In Baptism the dead are made alive, when you hear the word of God read to you God is working to make you alive, when you hear a sermon preached to you God is working to make you alive, when you receive the Lord’s Supper God is sustaining this life in you. When you spurn the community of God, when you avoid the congregation of the saints you cut yourself off from the life of the Body of Christ, when you break the third Commandment, “Honour the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy” you are in danger of death. "But Church?" you say, "I'm not sure about that! It's just a social club and it's boring, and you have to know someone to go, don't you?" Well, Church really isn't some social club, even though we can be very social; we don’t judge church based on if it’s entertaining enough, although we can be entertained in worship; we aren’t just a collection of families, yet we in Christ are a family. Church is more than the sum of its parts, we are called a congregation but what is it that we are congregating around? We congregate around Jesus, Who is the only source of life, the only source of eternal life. Without Jesus we starve. Going it alone is hard and dangerous. There is great joy in congregating together. There is great joy in community. This is what our text from Revelation shows: It shows a vision of that final community; the congregation of heaven. Jesus says, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Penn Jillette part of the comedy and illusionist team Penn & Teller related a story of a man who came up to him after a performance and gave him a Gideon Bible, that he’d written in, and Pen Jillette said that the guy who gave him the Bible came off “as really kind and nice and sane and” Pen said “[he] looked me in the eyes, and talked to me and then gave me this Bible.” Pen didn’t start doing cartwheels for Jesus, but he commented that “If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell—or not getting eternal life or whatever—and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Penn Jillette is an atheist and even he’s open to hear someone tell him about Jesus. I’ve know people who wished that they believed and might if they had a friend, a family member, a neighbour, or maybe even a complete stranger share the word of God with them. Remember, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Wait just one minute! You say! “Now pastor I know you were just talking about zombies from horror movies and such and I know some people find the idea of death scary.... but ... sharing Jesus, sharing God’s Word ... now that’s really frightening.” What did Pen Jillette say? “If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell—or not getting eternal life or whatever—and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward [or scary, or frightening] . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Don’t be afraid; “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” We pray to God, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire;” Listen to the Holy Spirit as He leads you to tell others of Jesus, and the life we have in Him. In baptism Jesus put His seal on you, you have been sealed into Him, but Jesus didn’t put that seal over your lips.
In a variety of ways Jesus uses each of us to reach out to others because He is always growing the Body of Christ, the two sides of the coin which is the body of Christ is always growing larger. Today I go out to Immanuel Frankslake and I baptize a little boy Declan Ashton McKay, by the command of Jesus, by the word of Jesus, by the water together Declan will be made alive in Christ Jesus, he will have his sins washed away, he will be given a robe as white as freshly fallen snow and one day Declan will pass from this side of the coin of the Body of Christ to that other most glorious side. Next Sunday we will be putting in the first set of the stain Glass windows, we will dedicate them and we will likewise remember again that members of this congregation of followers of Jesus had memorials made in their honour towards the completion of this project. We don’t do a project like this to honour the dead; we do these things to honour the living, for in Christ they are alive. When the hosts of heaven, when that side of the coin of the Body of Christ gather round the communion rail with us, we are not communing with a dead Jesus, we are communing with Jesus Who is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” All those gathered there are living, even though we are separated for a time.
Jesus knows how painful it is to be separated from family, in anguish, from the cross, as He died for our transgressions, as He died to make us live, He found Himself separated from His Father by our sin, and Jesus called out “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Sin separates us from God, sin leads away from life to death. The separation Jesus experienced was but for a short time, Three Days later Jesus was risen from the tomb, the first born from the dead, no longer dead but alive so that you might have life, both now and forever. And not just life but forgiveness: forgiveness for ignoring the gift that’s been given to you, for living a life of danger and sin when you are called to light and life, forgiveness for failing to open your lips to tell others of the life they could have in Christ Jesus; forgiveness for letting our fears get the best of us when the spiritually dead would be bettered served by the word of God.
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.” Good Christian Friends, you have this robe as a free gift, as we remember the faithfully departed, we remember that we are all alive in Christ Jesus (both we and they), we look to increase that blessed number, and we pray for a happy reunion in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord, have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 “For All The Saints” Lutheran Service Book. Hymn Number 677 verse 4.
 John 14:1-3
 Luke 20:37-38
 John 14:6
 John 11:25-26
 Ephesians 2:4-5
 Ezekiel 37:3
 John 5:25
 Romans 10:17
 John 10:27
 Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House, 2006, page 23.
 John 5:26-29
 2 Timothy 1:7
 Matthew 27:46
 Colossians 1:18