The Ones Clothed in White Robes!
All Saints 2014-“The Ones Clothed in White Robes!”-Revelation 7:2-17
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Book of The Revelation to St John, the 7th Chapter.
“9After 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, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And 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, 12saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today is a day of the Church Year when we focus on the goal of our faith and remember those who obtained this goal. All saints Day transports us to the place in God’s House which Jesus prepared for all who believe in Him. All Saints Day opens our eyes to look into the abode of God and see all that we who are God’s people anticipate to receive.
The Revelation to St John opens for us the very gate of heaven to see with wonder and awe the great and glorious vision of eternal life before God’s throne and in the presence of the Lamb of God. we hear the heavenly choir singing the “Great Te Deum”, the hymn of eternal praise to the eternal God. “To You O God be glory!” Indeed to God alone be glory.
As John describes the vision glorious, we see a great throng of people arrayed before the throne of God and before the lamb. They are dressed in white robes and hold palm branches in their hands. They lift their voices in praise and honor to the eternal God.
This is reminiscent of the Palm Sunday crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. Upon that day, the people sang Hosanna to the Son of David and proclaimed Jesus to be the blessed One who came in the name of the Lord. Jesus was welcomed into the City of God and declared the King for whom the people were waiting.
A few days later, this man once hailed king David’s son was soon betrayed into the hands of His enemies. Wrapped in the chains of a common criminal, Jesus was condemned by his own people as a blasphemer and turned over to Gentiles to be executed and laid in the grave. Jesus’ lifeless body was anointed according to custom, wrapped in a white shroud of death and laid to rest for what some thought would be time and eternity.
Very little is changed since that time, some 1981 years ago. There are those who sing praise to this Son of God and there are those who would silence his voice and message. Why would people still want to silence the voice of God’s Word made flesh? Who are they? Where do they live? What are they doing? What do they look like?
There is a police detective, Lt. Joe Kenda, who is host of a police reality show. He recounts the events from the murder cases he investigated during his time as an active police detective. He solved close to 40 hundred murders. He says the cases are all the same and the people all look the same. The cases are the same in that a life is taken. The people look the same because murders look like you or me.
The same can be said for those who want to silence the voice of Jesus. It could have been our hands that arrested Jesus. It could have been our faces in the crowd demanding Pilate to release Barabbas. It could have our voices shouting, “Crucify! Crucify!”
Like the enemies of Jesus, we do not always want to hear the voice of God calling us to repentance. We are comfortable in our rebellion. We justify our disobedience. We say, “Others are doing it.” “I’m not hurting anyone.” “It won’t matter if I do this just once.” “It’s not really wrong.” Instead of singing praise to God, “te Deum,” we sing praise to self, “me Deum.”
However, we are in God’s house today. We come to repent of this self-divination. We come to look again upon the marks of our salvation. We come to receive the work of God who redeems sinners. We come to sing praise to God for His mercy. We come to remember those who throughout the ages sang the praises of Jesus upon this earth. Their voices precede ours this day as we gather in this sacred house of God. They gathered here and in other places like this to rejoice in the message of God’s grace and mercy revealed in the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.
God gives us reminders of this need to gather for such worship. He calls us to repentance through the preaching of His Word. He cleanses us in heart and mind from the vestiges of sin and rebellion. In heart and mind God creates the gift of faith that creates the desire to seek after righteousness. Jesus refers to this in the beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel account as a hunger. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
This is more than just earthly food and drink. God touches our lives and turns our eyes and minds heavenward. Thinking and seeking heavenly things, God gives us the will and the strength to continue steadfast in faith. Being steadfast in faith we will seek the seats which are at the marriage feast of our Bridegroom Jesus. This is what the pews in this sanctuary represent, seats at the feast of Heaven. When we gather here for worship, we, also, are gathering with the saints who are before the throne of God in his Temple.
The liturgy reminds us of this truth. The words of the Preface always include, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: ….” Even the architecture of the sanctuary teaches this same truth. The communion rail will always have a slight or very apparent curve to it. If the rail were to be complete it would form a circle. Kneeling with us each Sunday before the altar of God we gather with the saints on earth and the saints in glory. We feast together at the marriage feast of the Lamb who was slain and is alive again. This Holy Supper celebrated on earth is a “foretaste of the feast to come.”
The Word of God and the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood are holy food for the redeemed people of God. In these gifts God satisfies the hunger and thirst for righteousness. In these gifts God purifies the heart in preparation for the forgiven sinner gaining entrance into the very presence of God. This truth is as the Revelation to St John reveals.
John looks out over a vast assembly of people in the presence of God. They are dressed with white robes. Earlier John watches as God dresses these holy people. They have finished their course in life and rest in the presence of their God. Yet they are seemingly not content. For, they cry out to God and ask how long until the consummation of the age? When will God bring to an end the time of trial and tribulation upon the earth? When will the struggle of faith be concluded for those who still remain this side of eternity? God clothes the saints before his throne and tells them a little while longer. The end will come when the number of those who suffer as did the saints of old is complete.
We are moving closer to that time day by day. Our fellow believers, the world over endure all manner of trial for being named brothers and sisters in Christ. Such treatment is coming to our doorstep as our nation seeks to silence the voice of Jesus Christ through legislation, the actions of special interest groups and the will of politicians. If you are one to speak against ungodliness and perversion of God’s will, then you face the possibility of persecution.
Yet our Lord reminds us such things are necessary, defending the Faith and proclaiming the Gospel to a Godless world. With that defense will come greater trial, but the reward remains even greater.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
We give thanks to God for the faithful witness of those gone before us in faith. We rejoice that they now rest from their labors and are before the throne of God in His kingdom. We pray to continue faithful and expectant of God’s future blessing when we finish our course of life and are welcomed into the kingdom yet to come.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen