Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, today we join with both the saints in heaven and those around the world in singing Your praises. You alone are the Lamb of God that has taken away our sins. You alone are the King of glory Who has given to us the key to heaven through Your blood. You alone are the Beginning of everything and the End of everything. Yes, in You we live, move, and have our very being. Today we praise You from the core of our souls. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST WHO ALONE TURNS SINNERS INTO SAINTS!
TEXT: Revelation 7: 9-17
Dearly Beloved Fellow Saints:
What’s your favorite cross? Is it the plain, bare cross often worn simply around the neck? Such a cross reminds us that it is empty because Christ has arisen from our graves. Or, is your favorite cross the crucifix with the broken body of our Lord attached to it? Many are drawn to such a cross because it’s a graphic reminder of what it took Jesus to save our souls. Personally, I like the Celtic cross best. It has equal points with a circle imposed over it. It is to remind people that the unbroken eternality of God (the circle) is all wrapped up for us in Christ’s cross.
Church architecture is a visible reminder to us of our God. Our church is basically all about triangles. We have the big triangular windows, triangles in the beam work, and triangles on the four peaks of the church and hall. It’s a reminder that our God is Triune, 3 Persons in One Godhead. He holds us up, like He holds up the roof of our church, grounded in love. Hence, we should look at everything in life from a perspective of love. That being said, we have various half-circles, too. Think of the curved altar rail, the curves on the back of the altar piece, the circular curves carved into the chancel furnishings. 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 graphic reminder to us each week that:
YOU COMPLETE THE CIRCLE OF SAINTS!
Our lesson is a glorious 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 comprising only a few select people? No. We’re told of a crowd there which no one can count. We’re told that people of every generation, of long-forgotten nations from every continent speaking every language are there! God’s grace is universal! Christ’s love and forgiveness extend to all. Yes, “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And what is the truth that His saints in heaven confess? “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
I find it very comforting to sit in church with my fellow believers who confess exactly what I do. I find it comforting to know that my father and mother are in heaven right now, along with all those members I’ve buried, heroes of the faith like Paul, Moses, Adam and Eve—that all of us are on the exact same page right at 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 the same thing right now, 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 often thought: “Heaven will be boring. After all, you just sit there all day 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 God-made. 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 amazing truth that He Made Peace With Them! Jesus Christ won that peace on the cross. And by dipping our souls into His blood and righteousness—think baptism—He makes us clean, holy, pure and spotless in His sight.
So, 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. “The Lamb at the center of the throne.” Couple that sentence 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 sentences prove that heaven is like theater in the round. Christ is always the center of attention for both the saints in heaven and those, like us, on earth. 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 recall our loved ones who have gone on the live with Christ and experience all this right now. We do not glory in their attempts over trying to be “good people”, but in God’s holiness which covers them and makes them perfect in His sight. We also 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 around His altar rail—He reminds us that God’s Church is eternal and we’re part of that blessed, multitudinous circle of faith. It is for this reason we join our voices to those of all the saints 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!”