Sermon / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Season Of Pentecost All Saints Day (Observed) / Sunday November 5th 2017 - / Revelation 7:9-17 / One in Christ
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 5th 2017: All Saints Day (Observed) / Revelation 7:9-17 "One in Christ"
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.
“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.”
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. “Behold a host arrayed in white like thousand snow-clad mountains bright! With palms they stand: Who is this band before the throne of light? These are the saints of a glorious fame, who from the great affliction came and in the flood of Jesus’ blood are cleansed from guilt and shame. They now serve God both day and night; they sing their songs in endless light. There anthems ring as they all sing with angels shining bright.” This is the first verse of “Behold a Host Arrayed in White,” we’ll sing it at the end of the Service today; this hymn is inspired by the words found in today’s first reading. This reading from Revelation chapter seven has St. John witnessing a great multitude of people, a multitude of the faithfully departed that no one could number standing before the throne of God in heaven. One day this will be you. You will be in that host arrayed in white, clad in your baptism, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, your robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb who is Jesus your Lord: Forgiven, redeemed, triumphant before the throne of God.
Some days this seems so far off. It might seem far off on a happy day. The day of your wedding, the birth of a son or a daughter, their first birthday, the first day of a trip you’ve planned or years, the day you graduate from school, that moment when you put the key in the front door of your new house, turn that key and walk in. Some days this seems so far off because you are suffering or someone you love is suffering. They are in the hospital, your child is sick, your job is terminated, your doctor says “its cancer,” you pick up the phone to call the crop insurance adjuster after surveying a bumper crop destroyed by a merciless blanket of hail. Yes, both in times of happiness and times of tribulation and distress Eternal Life may feel far off; it simply doesn’t cross your mind.
Perhaps in times of tribulation and distress, the Christian might stop and turn their eyes to the heavens hoping to see Jesus returning on the clouds. Perhaps in the rough times the Christian who takes their eyes off of themselves and turns their eyes to Jesus and His cross and passion might pray “Kyrie Eleison” – “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” Yet often the trouble of the day is a distraction when it comes to the prospect of future suffering which might happen tomorrow and in like fashion it is also true that the joys of a day, a moment, can overshadow future glory too.
When a loved one dies, someone dear to us; Thoughts of them joining the host arrayed in white in heaven with Christ can come to mind. And at such times, such thoughts can be a mixed bag of emotions. On Thursday we had a funeral for Fern Siurko and we will have another on this Tuesday for Emma Hodel. Last Tuesday at our Reformation Day Service we heard this quote from Pr. Solie and on Thursday at Fern’s funeral I mentioned this same quote from the Reformer Rev. Dr. Martin Luther who at the death of his 14 year old daughter Magdalena Luther, his daughter who had died in his arms at home following a brief and painful illness in the year 1542, once she was at rest said of his daughter, “You will rise and shine like the stars and the sun, how strange it is to know that she is at peace and all is well and yet to be so sorrowful.” Magdalena had passed through her final and great tribulation; she’d passed through death to go in Christ Jesus to her heavenly Father. She’d left Martin Luther, her earthly father behind, to live another 4 years on earth; she’d left her mother Katharina von Bora behind to live another 10 years on earth, as she – Magdalena – joined that great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, clothed in white, with a palm branches in her hands, joining her voice with theirs, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Her folks, her family, were left to morn her death until they too would join that great multitude. You know what this is like. It may not be a 14 year old daughter or a son; it might be a wife or a husband, a father or a mother, some other close family member or friend. Today we remember and commemorate those who are close to us here at Mount Olive, fellow members, family and friends who have died with their faith in Christ and have gone on ahead of us. And at such times, like today, our hearts and feelings can be a real mixed bag of emotions.
“Despised and scorned, they sojourned here; But now, how glorious they appear! Those martyrs stand, A priestly band, God's throne forever near. On earth they wept through bitter years; Now God has wiped away their tears, Transform their strife to heav’nly life, and freed them from their fears. They now enjoy the Sabbath rest, The heav’nly banquet of the blest; The Lamb, their Lord, At festive board Himself is host and guest.” This is the second verse of “Behold a Host Arrayed in White,” again we’ll sing it at the end of the Service today. Do you remember what I said in the children’s message about Holy Communion? In this second verse of this Hymn we’ll sing about those who have go on ahead in Christ that, “They now enjoy the Sabbath rest, The heav’nly banquet of the blest; The Lamb, their Lord, At festive board Himself is host and guest.” This last part about Jesus being the Host of the meal while at the same time providing Himself as the meal at this banquet of the Lord’s Supper is important. The faithfully departed are with Christ Jesus, they go where He goes, St. Paul in Colossians 3, says “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” This promise isn’t only for the faithfully departed, it is certainly theirs, but it is yours too in your baptism. So when we say “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious Name, evermore praising you and saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of heavenly hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” We join our song with theirs; we join our song with those coming out of the great tribulation. We join our song with those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. We don’t simply join our song across time and space but we in Christ join them and they join us in the Sacrament. At the communion rail the whole body of Christ comes together and what we hear in Revelation seven comes to pass when it says, “He who sits on the throne [Jesus the Good Shepherd] will shelter them [the saints in light] with His presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore” We in Holy Communion join with them receiving a foretaste of the feast to come, yet we receive the same forgiveness in Christ that they have likewise received. We receive the same presence of Christ that they enjoy at rest. At the Communion rail, “we feebly struggle, they in glory shine; yet all are one in Thee [in Christ], for all are Thine [for all are His, we all belong to Christ who has redeemed us].” The Communion rail, be it here, or at the Hospital, or in your home or at the seniors home is the most blessed place on earth for it is there that heaven and earth come together in the person of Christ Jesus, it is there that the Holy Spirit bring Life and immortality to light in Christ.
We may be weepy at the Communion rail when we feel the pain of loved ones separated from us in death but this is a temporary thing, and even in the midst of it we can remember that in Christ we are together in Him. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” And then in Ephesians 4 he likewise writes, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,
“When He [That is Christ Jesus] ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”
We are not truly separated from those who have faithfully departed in Christ for as we’ve heard in Christ we the faithful are one, we simply wait the happy reunion, the blessed rest in Christ Jesus. And in the mean time we rejoice in Holy Communion, we rejoice in God’s Word, and in the fellowship of believers the Holy Spirit has called us into here in this place.
One last thing, when our reading says that the multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages who are clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, around the throne of God, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Those palm branches are a sign of triumph. They have been brought across the finish line of the race of life, they have had their fruits harvested in, they have sowed the Word of God along the way, and they are triumphant in Christ Jesus. And so we will sing in the third and last verse of “Behold a Host Arrayed in White,” these words, “Oh blessed saints in bright array Now safely home in endless day, Extol the Lord, Who with His Word Sustained you on the way. The steep and narrow path you trod; You toiled and sowed the Word abroad; Rejoice and bring Your fruits and sing Before the throne of God. The Myriad angels raise their song; O saints, sing with that happy throng! Lift up one voice; Let heav’n rejoice In our Redeemer’s song!”
So today is a day to cut through the distractions of life, to commemorate the faithfully departed and to remember that we in Christ will join them even as we are one with them now in Christ Jesus. For all the times you’ve forgotten your place in Christ and taken your eyes of the finish line to throw a pity party for yourself, or to revel in life to the exclusion of your future glory in Christ, take heart there is forgiveness for you in the Blood of Christ Jesus which washes your robe clean, just as it has washed their robes clean. The forgiveness that is theirs, in Christ, is yours in Christ: A gift of God for them, a gift of God for you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, 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.
 Matthew 6:34
 Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton, Chapter XVII entitled “The School for Character,” page 237.
 Colossians 3:3-4
 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
 Ephesians 4:4-8