November 05, 2017
(All Saints Sunday)
By John Partridge*
Revelation 7:9-1 1 John 3:1-3 Matthew 5:1-12
Being the first Sunday of November, today we celebrate All Saints Day and remember all of our friends and family that we have been lost to us. Already we have named some of them and lit candles in their memory, but each one of us could easily name other friends and other family members that we remember, and think of, daily. But although they are lost to us, we still remember and we still love.
This is not the kind of love that Meatloaf sang about in the 80’s when he wrote Paradise by the Dashboard Light where in one verse he swears that he would love his girl until the end of time, and in the next is praying for the end of time so that he can end his time with her. When we think about genuine love, about love that lasts, or when we think about “forever love” what we are thinking about is more like the Forever Love that Gary Barlow wrote about when he sang,
Now I’m deep inside love and still breathing
She is holding my heart in her hand
I’m the closest I’ve been to believing
This could be love forever
Or maybe it’s like the Forever Love that Reba McEntire sang about when she said,
The first time I laid my eyes on you I knew
We’d spend this life side by side
I still feel the same though you’re so far away
I swear that you’ll always be my
But I think even that falls short. Because in the end, since our marriage vows are “to love and to cherish until death do us part” we are reminded that human love may only last as long as our lives on earth. But there is yet another kind of love that loves more deeply, and that does last forever.
This is the kind of love that Christian artist Francesca Battistelli sings about in yet another song called Forever Love where she sings about God.
You are my forever love
From the bottom of my heart I’ll sing to You
From the depths of who I am I love You
With everything inside I’ll run to You
‘Cause all that I’ve become I owe to You
Whenever we use the word ‘forever’ we remember that this life is not permanent, but we should also remember that this life is not all that there is. In the revelation of the Apostle John, he visited the throne room of God and offers us this description (Revelation 7:9-17):
9:1 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 before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 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, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 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.15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 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.’”
In this case, “forever” really means forever and “never” really means never. Those who are in the presence of God will never hunger or thirst, they won’t suffer as much as a hard sweat in the hot sun, and God himself will wipe away all of their tears. Forever.
Although he doesn’t use the word “forever,” in Matthew 5:1-12 that is exactly what Jesus means as he speaks about the future.
5:1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Rejoice and be glad, because the reward for the people who have suffered for their faith, and for those who have lived a life of faith, will given to them in heaven and that, as we know, is a reward that will last forever.
But what does that mean for those of us who have lost our loved ones and who remain on this earth?
In 1 John 3:1-3, we hear these words:
3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on 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. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
We are already the children of God. We have already begun to live a life that will last forever but the day is coming for us when we will become much more than we already are. This transformation has already happened for those who have gone ahead of us to eternity, they have already been given their new, perfect, and eternal bodies and they can already see Jesus in all of his glory but we know that, sooner or later, our day is coming. But because we know what we know, we have no need to fear that day because rather than something terrible, we know that despite whatever pain we may face at the end our life on this earth, the transition, at the other side, will be wonderful beyond imagining.
But as we wait for that day and as we live out our lives, we are called to dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ, to live our lives as Christ himself modelled for us during his life on earth, to seek peace, pursue justice, and to pour out mercy, compassion, and love into the people and the world around us. And as we do so, we are called to purify ourselves and live lives that honor God.
Although we mourn as we remember those whom we have lost, we rejoice in knowing that they are, today, perfect, holy, and unimaginably blessed in every way as they live in the presence of God. But at the same time, we also remember our calling to be worthy of the gift that awaits us. Let us honor God, and honor those that we have lost, by rededicating our lives to God, to his kingdom, to purity, and to all that is good.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.