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. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
And 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 worshipped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I 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.
For 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.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for 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.’
The Word of the Lord.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Amen.
1 John 3:1-3
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. 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. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
After almost 10 years together – I am sure you have all picked up on the fact that I talk a lot! For as long as I can remember – words have just tumbled out of me. All day – every day. (I even talk in my sleep!)
I talk to Jason and to Jack and to Will (if he lets me get a word in). I talk to Cheryl, and I delight in talking with other equally amazing Lutherans throughout the week.
I talk to myself. I also talk to the people on the radio and the television. Sometimes I talk to them with great – even fiery passion! Occasionally the people on TV get me so worked up – I get a little preachy! Sometimes I get really – really preachy!
One thing that always and I mean ALWAYS gets me worked up is bad theology. Bad theology makes me batty! And bad theology is EVERYWHERE!
One of the most prominent “bad theology” declarations I hear people on television and the radio make over and over and over again is that because someone is a Christian – this person should be less sinful – less broken – less damaged – and generally less of a messed up mess than the rest of humanity.
They will point indignantly to an historical figure and express shock that this person was flawed – broken and sinful while also daring to “call himself a Christian!” And they do the exact same thing when talking about Christians who are alive today. They call these Christians hypocritical and cluck in disgust at their obvious flaws and humanity.
“No – you have it all wrong!” – I find myself preaching at the radio. “ALL human beings are broken – flawed – and sinful. Christians are human beings too. So Christians are going to be broken – and flawed and sinful and imperfect too!”
And really – that is the whole point of Christianity isn’t it? If we were perfect none of us would need a Savior! If we got everything right all of the time – Jesus wouldn’t have needed to died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins!
Christians aren’t perfect. Christians certainly aren’t better than the rest of humanity. Christians are broken and sinful. But we are all saints too!
Most of the time when we think of saints – we think of those folks who were really good at being Christians. Those people who were spiritual super-heroes and award-winning followers of God.
We think people become saints because of their own actions. That what makes someone a saint is how good she is. That Saint is a title you earn by being an amazingly awesome Christian.
But the truth of the matter is – people do not become saints because of their actions. Folks don’t become saints because they sinned less than the rest of us. In fact – people don’t become saints because of the things they do or because of the things they don’t do.
People become saints because of God’s love for them. God’s love is what makes people saints. And since God loves all of you – that makes you saints too.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ made each of you holy when he died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus made you a saint on the very same day he made – Saint Paul and Saint Matthew and Saint John saints.
Even if it is hard to believe sometimes – all of us gathered here today are saints. God’s love and forgiveness make us saintly.
On All Saints Day – the saints we remember are those who have died and live in heaven with God. Today we remember and give our Lord thanks for those folks who made a difference in our lives.
Who encouraged you? Who inspired you? Who taught you about being a person of faith in this world? Who shared God’s love with you?
The saints I remember today – are folks who shared God’s love with me. Who helped me understand what it means to be a child of God.
None of them are famous. None of them were perfect. All of them sinned and fell short of the glory of God. All of them had days when they doubted and struggled. They messed up. All of them were ordinary people just like us. But what made them different – what made them special was they were and still are God’s people.
I remember and give God thanks for a man named Chris who taught an intern pastor so much about courage and faith even as he was dying of brain cancer at just 28 years old.
I remember and give thanks for a farmer named Dave who always gave God the credit for all that he had in this world.
I remember and give thanks for our friend and neighbor Duane in Minnesota. For his warm hospitality and friendship.
I remember and give God thanks for Maury who always had an amazing joke to share.
And for Suzanne who welcomed a terrified intern pastor into her heart and home. And for Monica who did the same thing when I was a brand new – and even more terrified pastor.
I remember, and I thank God for all of these saints and for so very many more.
Who do you remember? Who showed you a bit of what God is like? Who tried to love their neighbors as themselves, and to love God? Who loved you? Who blessed you?
Saints are not perfect people. Saints don’t always get it right. Saints sin. Saints can and do sometimes make a great big mess of things. Not a single saint who has ever lived was perfect – but in spite of their own failings and shortcomings each of these people are saints. They are saints because of the love of Jesus Christ. And so are you.
Remember the saints. Take strength from them and give God thanks for the saints you have known. Give thanks for their lives – and for the love they shared with you. Give thanks for the ways they blessed you. Give thanks. Each one of them is a special blessing to you from your loving Lord. And remember that we have all blessed to be a blessing to others. Truly this is Good News. — AMEN.