Monday, November 3, 2014

All Saints Day 2014
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
Chatfield United Methodist Church
Revelation 7:9-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ 14I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then the elder said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Who are these, robed in white and where have they come from?

We see them almost everyday as we drive the freeways, highways and byways of our city. Small crosses by the side of the road, a teddy bear being slowly decayed by the weather, a wreath of artificial flowers being blown about by the wind of the passing trucks. Memorials.
Remembrances of someone who was killed in a motor vehicle accident. A mother and her child, a teenager, a father, a son, a daughter. Gone through a careless act of speed, inattention or intoxication.

Gone but remembered.
Do you know that these roadside memorials are universal? In every place I have traveled crosses or flowers sit on the sides of roadways as a remembrance. I have seen them in Chile, way out in the desert, in Jamaica, Palestine/Israel…

Especially chilling are those recent ones where the skid and crime scene paint marks of the accident are still visible. You know in seeing that, not only has someone died there, someone has recently died there.

We must be careful that these roadside memorials do not become so much a part of the landscape that we forget what they can remind us of: life ends.
How staggering; yet necessary is this message to us who are so intent on living, Life ends.

Not to dwell on this in a morbid way but in a life giving way.
It is good for us to contemplate death once in a while.
To contemplate, to consider our own death. 
For what we believe about the end of our lives has a great deal to do with how we live our lives.

We sing today of that great cloud of witness that surround us. That witness to us of life and death abundant. That great multitude robed in white from every nation and tribe. Who surround us with remembrances of their love, their convictions of living and their belief that this living and dying that we do is worth it if we see God in the midst of our lives.

But this can be a real challenge for us can’t it? For how can we speak of this? We live in a scientific age that demands we speak only of those things we know through scientific study and experience. In order to prove this is true, we need to set up a research group, develop a control group to study and conduct experiments, or at the very least we must put out a survey.
But the very nature of death gives us none of these options. Death can only be spoken about in the language of our Faith.

And for some of us the language that we have learned about faith and dying is not very comforting or hopeful.
For we have been taught that in the end we will meet God and God will judge us according to our sins verses our good works.

Now this wouldn’t be so bad if we were truly constantly and always saints. Or at the very least. Gandhi’s or Joan of Arc’s or Mother Teresa’s.

We are invited by this text to learn a new language. To be taught the truth about God, about faith, about ourselves; so that we can have the language of grace not condemnation and damnation to talk about our life and our death.

How did these white robed saints from all corners of the earth from every tribe and nations get to be the great cloud of witnesses?

Remember the story of Lazarus? The friend of Jesus who had been in a tomb for three days? Remember what Jesus did when he got to the tomb even though he was warned of the stink of the grave?
He walked up to the tomb, ordered the stone rolled away and He called out:
Lazarus come forth! Lazarus come forth!

Now notice, Jesus didn’t ask God, is it all right for Lazarus to be raised? Has Lazarus been good enough for this miracle? Does his good deeds out weigh his bad. Jesus simply and miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. Showing to all those standing around the power and love of God.

No where in any of the Gospel stories does Jesus weigh the goodness of the people he helps.  No where!  People are healed, released from oppression and bondage and forgiven of their sins simply because God loved them. Even those who the law condemned.  For God so loved the world...

Hear of it in this way.
Today we will celebrate together the Holy Meal of God, the communion service.
We have not divided this room into those who are worthy of the supper and those who are not. You will not be asked to prove that you have done just enough good during the week before you are served the bread and cup.

We will not say in the invitation: Those who count themselves worthy of this meal can come forward, the rest of you stay in your seats. (I have been in some churches where this is the practice)

On the contrary, the invitation is without restriction. Come, come, all who desire to learn more and experience more the Grace of God. This meal is available to each one of you. The food of Christ, the Grace of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit is for each one of you. No one is forbidden. No one is left standing by the side of the road. No one is turned away hungry. 
This is the language of our faith.
Or hear it this way: from the words of Brian at the Story People  The funny thing is you were invited from the very beginning & maybe you forgot. Or listened to someone else who forgot.
But, just so you know, we're going to keep inviting you, again & again, until you remember. So, you might as well jump in now with us & start living before it gets out of hand.
At this table we know the already but not yet fully realized promise of God which we read in Revelation 7:
Who are these robed in white? They are the ones who will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and Christ will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
This love and grace and freely given forgiveness and wholeness of God is the true language of our faith. So that when we speak about death we can speak truthfully about gates being flung wide open,
for just as we are freely invited to this table, God eagerly waits for us to gather at the table of that great eternal banquet.

Who are these robed in white gathered from all corners of the world? They are you and me who eat freely from God’s table.

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