Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, today we join with both the saints in heaven and those around the world in singing Your praises and honoring You, alone. For You are the Lamb that has taken away our sins! You are the King of glory that has given us the key to heaven through Your blood. You are the Beginning of all things and the End of all things. Yes, in You we live, move, and have our very being. Today we praise You from the core of our being for giving us Your eternal love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO MAKES US SAINTS THROUGH THE GIFT OF FAITH!
TEXT: Revelation 7: 9-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners Whom God Is Transforming Into Saints!
What’s your favorite cross? That may seem an odd question, but I want you to think about it. Perhaps it is the plain, bare cross like the one on the wall above us? That cross symbolizes the resurrected Christ since He no longer hangs upon it. Or perhaps it is the crucifix adorned with the broken body of the Savior? Many “like” that cross because it is a graphic reminder to them as to what it cost God to save their soul. Personally, I like the Celtic cross best. That cross has a circle superimposed over it. It is to remind people that the unbroken eternality of God (the circle) is all wrapped up for us in the cross of Christ.
Church architecture is a visible reminder to us of our God. Our church is basically triangular. We have triangles in the big windows and triangles in the beam work holding everything up. That’s to remind us that our Triune God holds us up in life and that we should look out on life through the perspective of His love. But, we also have various half-circles, too. These semi-circles come to us from the old church in the form of the curved altar rail, the three curved panels of the altar back, and also are found carved into the pulpit and altar itself. These semi-circles are a visual reminder that we here on earth are but half the church—the other half being the church triumphant, the saints, in heaven. They are a reminder to us that:
YOU COMPLETE THE CIRCLE OF SAINTS!
Our lesson is a beautiful picture of heaven. In his vision, St. John is shown a glimpse of heaven which he describes to us. “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
Is heaven a little club? Is it comprised of only a few? No! We’re told that the crowd is a multitude that no one can count. We’re told that people of every generation, of nations long-forgotten, from every continent, speaking every language are there! God’s grace is universal! Christ’s love and forgiveness extends to all. Yes, “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of His truth!” And what is His truth that both the saints here and in heaven must confess? “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” I find it extremely comforting to sit in church with my fellow believers who confess the same things that I do. I find it comforting to know that my father in heaven, members that I’ve buried, heroes of faith like St. Paul, Moses, Adam and Eve—all of us are on the same page right this moment! Yes, all saints have a common bond. That bond being Jesus, the Lamb, Who gave His life for ours on the cross!
“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Aren’t you and I doing that same thing today? Isn’t that the reason we’ve come?—To praise God, the Triune God, from Whom all blessings flow? When I was a child I thought: “Heaven must be boring. After all, you just sit around doing the same thing over and over again.” But is it boring to never get bored because you’re filled with a singular joy that will never be diminished? That’s heaven, my friends.
“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Saints are never self-made, they are made by God. Saints are sinners who have been humbled enough to despair of their own attempts to make peace with the Almighty and by His grace have learned that He has made peace with them! Christ won that peace on the cross. And by dipping our souls into His blood and righteousness—think baptism—He makes us clean and spotless and holy.
What’s heaven like? What kind of life are our loved ones in Christ experiencing right now? “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Most of us know those words quite well. How comforting they are. But one thought leaps out at me. “The Lamb at the center of the throne.” Couple that statement with this earlier one from Revelation. “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.” Those two statements prove that heaven is like theater in the round. Christ is always the center of attention for both the saints on earth, us, and the saints in heaven. Likewise, He never turns His back on us. He’s the center of our universe and we’re His focal point. Yes, you and I complete the circle of saints!
Today we remember our loved ones who have gone to live with Christ. We glory not in their attempts at trying to be “good” people, but in God’s holiness which covered all their sins. But we also must remember that God is striving to make that circle around Him complete by including us. He includes us when we embrace His Word of truth, when He wipes away our tears via absolution, when He imprints His image upon our hearts via baptism, and when we commune in a half-circle—thereby reminding us that God’s Church is eternal and we’re part of that blessed, multitudinous circle of faith. And on account of all this we, too, join our voices with them in saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”