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11/05/2017

Revelation 7: 9-17         “Hunger, Thirst, Heat…NOT”        BUMC                                            Rev. Jerry W. Krueger        Nov. 5, 2017        All Saint’s Day

Today is All Saints Day.  The day set aside for those of us in Christ’s Church, to recall our loved ones who have died.   Halloween, or All Hallows Eve is the precursor to this celebration. In San Antonio where I grew up, “Dia de los Muertos,” Day of the Dead, is celebrated with cemetery visits, building a small altar to the deceased loved one, and staying all night with other people, having a party of sorts.  There is a parade downtown with singing and dancing, all to remember our loved ones who have gone home to be with God. 

When my wife Susan and I were in SA last year, it was Day of the Dead. Her Mom, Dad and niece were with us visiting from Ohio, and it was a cultural shock to them, to see the great celebration, the faces made up like skulls, the small altars holding various iconic items for the individuals lives, like a can of Diet Coke and favorite DVD, a picture of a family or a dog, or a car they restored, or the people they worked with.  Dia de los Muertos, and All Saints Day, they are celebrations not for the end of life, but for the joy of life lived. Celebrating our resurrection hope in Christ, and moving to our eternal home around the throne with Christ.

You won’t golf in heaven. It’s not biblical. But if you profess Christ, you will stand with the great multitude around the throne, and praise God in your heavenly mansion. ALTHOUGH Buckman, Buster, Sweetie, Fuzzy, Toni, Beano, all of my pets WILL be in heaven, for they are God’s creations and brought me great joy and comfort.

In the Book of Revelation there is a hint of what we will encounter in heaven, for those of us, who profess Christ. Apostle John receives his Revelation, is taken up to heaven and hears this teaching, this guidance from Jesus Christ. These are the Christ’s words, not just John’s words.

Jesus through John, addresses the Great Multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes, all people and all languages. The saints in the Great Multitude identify with the “lamb of God,” and their status as a group is characterized as, dignified and defiant!

They stand with the Lamb, (Jesus Christ) around the throne of God with palm branches in hand. Like at the Fest of Tabernacles in Leviticus in the Old testament, or like in Jerusalem‘s crowd welcoming Jesus on the back of a donkey, like a victor.

This Revelation text states, that for those who die in the Lord, who have professed Jesus Christ on earth as Lord and Savior, that there is a reward in heaven of no suffering, no hunger, no heat, no thirst, that awaits us in the next life, in our eternal home, after this physical life.

Now hear me church, Revelation 6:9 tells us that there will be suffering on earth, and our faith in Christ does not protect us, or inoculate us from suffering on earth. The text says, we who live out our faith, or tell the story of Jesus, WILL Suffer for Christ. We will most certainly suffer on behalf of Christ for telling the Gospel story, and we will suffer for moving against the world’s tide of self-servitude.  So singing “Tell me the Stories of Jesus,” is almost like asking for suffering. Right?

The world DOES NOT want our story to be told and action taken on behalf of the Christ.  The word says, “Serve the poor, but NOT in Jesus’ name. Feed the hungry, but NOT in Jesus name. Do good works, but NOT in Jesus name. Just do all these things, because we are good people. Leave faith out of it.” And that is simply, Humanism.

Hear me church. The message of Jesus Christ is offensive to the world’s sensibilities, and desires. "Paul preaches of “the offense of the cross “in (Galatians 5:11) He also says in 1 Corinthians 1: 18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Our faith in Christ IS counter cultural to what the world proclaims as success. We say “have mercy, compassion, forgiveness, grace. Live in love- despite the hurtful actions or evil we encounter in the world.” The world says, pay back should rule, and that Jesus thing? it’s just a lost, irrelevant cause.

Christ has suffered for each of us, and as we suffer, or grieve, or wrestle with health issues, with the direction of our life, or family lives, or disappointments in life, so too does Jesus Christ who walks alongside of us in our distress, suffer.

As a UM pastor for many years I have done hundreds of funerals. And this text from Revelation is one that is heartfelt, poignant, and brings comfort to those who grieve. But it is also a scripture steeped in blessing.  This Revelation text is one of comfort and tenderness, NOT found elsewhere in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 7:  16-17, these two verses are a blessing, particularly for those who have suffered hunger and thirst in the present age. Physical hunger and thirst, yes, but also hunger for poverty to be lessened, for the thirst for righteousness to be realized in our families, schools, business, government, in relationships, and in the world around us. We desire the tears of the oppressed to be dried, with the assurance of newness of life and assurance, that Jesus Christ continually encourages his people to stand for Him. Even while suffering.

We want life and justice to be modeled like in the Old Testament Book of the Minor prophet Amos 4: 24, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” That is what we desire. The Apostle John who this Revelation from Jesus Christ comes, has addressed those who are lukewarm in their faith. And he’s addressed those whose tendency it is to easily conform to society, and reflect society’s values, rather than the radical values of Jesus Christ lived out in love, grace, compassion and mercy that Jesus teaches and embodies.

So on this All Saint’s Day, what of us who may be suffering, grieving, or wondering, what is this life about?  We who profess Christ will one day surround the throne of grace in heaven. And what is required of us?

We are called, commanded to love God and neighbor. But there are other specifics in which we must engage.  We must identify ourselves as a Christian, and make no apology. For some, that is a stumbling block. Will people know you are a Christian by how you live your life?

This mandate from Revelation proclaims to each of us, 1. Witness for Christ, stand for Christ, take action against evil, all in Christ’s name.

2. Refuse to compromise your faith, just to get along with the world.

3. Strive to live in the Way of the Lamb, inside, and outside the church. That may require an entirely new way of viewing the world you live in, so that, we see the great multitude includes in heaven, many whom we did not expect.  The text in Revelation says that people from every place, all tribes, every language, every ethnicity, are all …ALL standing before the Lamb, praising his name.

John identifies opportunity for individual salvation, which is available to all throughout the world, to all people, if they profess Jesus as Lord and savior, and live for Christ.

This All Saints Day is reflective of all saints, from ALL times, which spans ALL continents. This is about the Church triumphant. Our suffering is not OUR suffering, it is in reality, and Christ’s suffering.

My guiding scripture as a person, as a Christian, as a pastor, father and spouse is 2nd Timothy 4: 7. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”  Our lives on earth are to be about taking action for the Christ, about living for Christ, so lives will be transformed for Christ, and the world is transformed.

As we remember, celebrate, recall and honor those Christians who have died in the faith on all continents, in all centuries, from all nations, we give thanks to God in heaven who resides on His throne, that our lives have been influenced , made better by the lives of those who have gone on before us in the faith.

On earth we proclaim our faith in Christ, stand against evil and injustice in the world, we keep our faith intact, and strive to live in the way of Jesus Christ, with all people.

In Christ Jesus there is no darkness at all, and today we celebrate the gift of new life, found in the light of our Lord whom we proclaim as Savior, Jesus the Christ.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And all of God’s saints, said, “AMEN.” 

NEXT PAGE Explanation of all saints and communion

Sacrament of Holy Communion on All Saint’s Day.

Open table, all invited, Communion by intinction, gluten free available, mobility issues we come to you. Invited to light a votive candle on the table for loved ones after receiving communion. Then you may return to your seat. 

(BOW p. 74)  Family members of those who have passed away this year are invited to stand as their loved one’s name is read, the chime sounds, and the candle is lighted. Prepare your hearts and minds, and  please turn to p. 12 UMH.