1 John 3:1-7
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. 2Beloved, 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.3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.5You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
9After 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.”
13Then 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 he 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.”
All Saints Sunday Sermon by Mother Beth
I mentioned last week the story of a Cdn soldier, Cpl Nathan Cirillo’s tragic death, as he guarded the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. With the reports of that attack came the reports of a related story. A story of those who rushed to try to save his life. One of those people was a Lawyer named Barbara Winters. Barbara was on her way to work that day when she heard the gun shots and ran toward the sound instead of away from it. Barbara tells about helping Nathan Cirillo and how she knew how important it was to tell the soldier that he is loved. “Your family loves you. Your parents are so proud of you. Your military family loves you. All the people here, we’re working so hard for you. Everybody loves you.” The impromptu team kept waiting for an ambulance, desperately willing Cirillo to hang on. “You are so loved,” Winters told Cirillo. “We’re all trying to help you.”
If you don’t hear anything else today, hear this – You are loved. We hear in I John 3, “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. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
The two important things for you to note in these sentences are the phrase “that is what we are” and “now”. This letter assures us that there is no delay on God’s love. He is not waiting for us to become something more, to act any differently. His love is for us now. God calls us “Beloved” because that is what we are.
As we celebrate “All Saints”, we might want to ask “What is a Saint?”
And we know that the apostles are named as Saints because of the great example that they set for others. They have been canonized by the Catholic Church and all agree and acknowledge their special behavior.
But the good news of the readings today, is that we are all saints – loved by God. That does not mean that we are perfect or that we always do or say the right thing. A true saint is that one who has been able to really accept the news that they are loved by God and walk in that love.
Saints are those whose lives have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is from the place of transformation – of Christ in us – that we are empowered, enabled, entrusted with the grace to respond to others – to exercise compassion – to put on love. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
– it is not stirred up from inside – it is not something that we store away until ready to use – It is something external – apart from us – like clothing that we put on. Where do we get this from? From God, of course.
And those of you who pay attention to what you put on your physical bodies know that when you clothe yourselves you do it with a specific purpose in mind. You put on work clothes to work – so that you can settle into that task. You put on formal clothes for a special event and when you do you carry yourself differently – you might even behave differently. Clothing can impact your demeanor. And so it follows that when we put on God’s love – that changes us – that allows us to behave differently.
The reading from the book of the Revelation shows us this beautiful picture of the saints around the throne of God. Worshipping together – focused not on ourselves but on God. It is a glimpse of what is to come. It is a promise of what will be not just be for ourselves but all those who have gone before us.
Walking this journey can be difficult. But, did you know that walking is literally a series of falls? And life feels like that sometimes – we take a couple of good steps in the right direction and then something happens – we mis-step or get disoriented. Sometimes when we struggle we think we are being faithless. When we struggle or doubt or fear, we might think that we are letting God down. But that’s just not true. Martin Luther, in the middle of his reforms, once took up the matter of the “marks of the church” – preaching, sacraments, and all that. He left it pretty much unchanged, but added one “mark” – struggle. He figured that where there is faith there is also always struggle.
And that’s helped to remind people that struggle, doubt, feeling overwhelmed, wondering if God is out there – these aren’t signs of failure or lack of faith, but are actually a testament to profound faith as we wrestle with such deep questions and thereby take God seriously. (If this weren’t true, would we have so many lament Psalms in the Bible?) And so when we feel at our most low, and wonder if we have lost our faith, God names us among the most faithful. Blessed are those who struggle!
It is possible to persevere and all the more so when we know where we are headed and what is waiting for us. We are strengthened by the resolve of others – the great crowd of witnesses.
We do not walk this road/this life alone. Saints are not bigger or better – they are those who continued to run and finished the race. They are those who keep on keeping on.
They are those who got back up when they fell down and those who found a kind word to say in the face of adversity. They are those who relied on God to bring them through difficult times.
They are the beloved of God and the good news is – so are you and I.
You are here for a purpose. God has a plan for your life – Don’t worry about gaining notoriety or recognition – commit each and every day to God as an opportunity to have a positive impact on someone else.
Let the stories of those who have gone before us or who walk alongside us encourage you to continue on the journey.
Resist the urge to see others as competition and choose to see them as fellow pilgrims who along with us sing “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!”
The “Te Deum” from the Book of Common Prayer in the Morning Prayer service names this saying, “The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee; The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee; The noble army of Martyrs praise thee;
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee, The Father, of an infinite Majesty; Thine honorable, true, and only Son; Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.”
Beloved, we are the Church Militant, they are the Church Triumphant and one day we will all stand before the throne and sing together.
Take heart – you do not walk this journey alone and God says to you and I today – “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are.” Amen.