All Saints Sunday
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who calls us children of God,
for that is what we are. Amen
The world is in turmoil right now.
It seems like everywhere we turn
people are in conflict,
people are suffering,
whether it is the war that is raging in Gaza
taking the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians,
gun violence closer to home,
those in Mexico trying to recover from the aftermath of a hurricane,
let alone all the other examples we find in our individual lives,
loved ones struggling with health,
lingering grief from losses near and far.
So what do we do in the face of all this suffering,
where do we turn?
As people of faith
we turn to the promises of God,
God’s visions for the future,
and God’s truth of the present.
And we do not turn alone,
we are joined by the saints of all times and places,
saints who have lived through the turmoil of their own times,
whose faith carried them through,
whose faith continues to carry us through.
Our readings for today,
this All Saint’s Sunday,
make it abundantly clear
that life as a saint,
that is a baptized child of God
is not easy.
John of Patmos, in his vision,
sees a great multitude gathered around the throne of the lamb,
and what seems to qualify them to be there
is that they had passed through some great ordeal,
persecution and martyrdom perhaps
and now finally, having washed their robes in the blood of the lamb,
they are free to worship God day and night,
no longer afflicted by hunger, thirst, heat or sorrow.
In the beatitudes from Matthew
Jesus names those blessed by God
whose earthly life indicate that no such blessing is present,
those who mourn,
are poor in spirit,
who seek righteousness
and especially those who are persecuted for the sake of Jesus.
And Jesus makes clear elsewhere
that his followers can expect to be persecuted,
‘those who want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me’ Jesus tells the disciples.
Contrary to the false gods of society
who promise to make life immediately better,
given the right incentive of course,
our God names the reality
that it is often darkest before the dawn,
that things will get harder before they get easier
That death comes before resurrection
and God promises that it will be worth it,
it will be worth it to participate in the struggle
to live on earth the ways of heaven.
Because when God’s will is done on earth as in heaven,
when the kingdom of God comes in its fullness,
there will be peace,
and not just an absence of violence
the peace that builds one another up
as all live together in common good.
Look at the great multitude in John’s vision
People from every nation and tribe,
speaking all the languages of the earth,
this is usually a description of people in conflict,
yet here they are gathered around the throne
worshiping God together
and what brought them together?
Was it the most powerful leader or nation?
No, it was God,
and as they worship they cry out
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb”
and that is the simple truth of it all
Salvation will not come from powerful governments,
nor from bigger and better weapons,
salvation won’t even come from crowds of well meaning protestors,
Salvation comes from our God.
Our God who chooses to go through suffering
to the new life on the other side,
whose followers do likewise.
Salvation comes from our God
who is already at work in the world,
the good news that Jesus proclaims to the crowds
that gather around him is that “The kingdom of God has come near”
Jesus is kicking off the coming of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven,
and even if the work is not yet complete
it means we can start living the kingdom life right now.
Often the promises of God are put off into the future,
the afterlife even,
but when we listen to the beatitudes again
we hear that the blessing comes right now,
yes there is a future promise attached,
but the poor in spirit,
those who mourn,
those who are meek,
who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
they are blessed right now in the present tense,
because their way of living,
while reviled by the world,
is the way to living into the fullness of God’s kingdom.
So what do we do in the face of all the suffering of the world?
We remember the saints who have gone before us,
and their lives and faith in the face of suffering,
we turn to the visions of the future
that paint a picture of all different types of people
gathered together in peace and praise,
with God at the center of it all.
We remember that salvation is from our God,
and that our God has gifted us with salvation
and taught us to live the way of God right now
even as the turmoil swirls around us,
and if all of that still seems too much
in the face of the troubles of the world
we fall back on the love of God,
God who has claimed us as children, forever.
Listen again to the promise from 1 John:
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”
we are God’s children now,
right now in the midst of everything,
and that will not change,
we are God’s children now and forever. Amen