November 01, 2020
(All Saints Day)
By Pastor John Partridge
Matthew 5:1-12 1 John 3:1-3 Revelation 7:9-17
In J. Rachel Reed’s book, K-9 Korea: The Untold Story of America’s War Dogs in the Korean War, she says,
“Aren’t we as a society better, stronger, when we have these best examples of humanity to rest our hopes on? And aren’t we better when we can look at the failures of humanity and vow, ‘Never again’?”
I think that’s a great question. Aren’t we better when we look at our failures and vow, “Never again?”
Many of us have done exactly that. We’ve failed and made some bone-headed decisions, we’ve chosen poorly, we’ve chosen quantity over quality, we’ve worked too much and played too little, we’ve said “yes” when we should have said ‘no” and “no” when we should have said “yes” and a made a host of other regrettable decisions and afterwards many of us learned from our mistakes and promised ourselves, “Never again.”
And, as we celebrate All Saints Day and remember those members, family, and friends that are no longer with us, we also remember, and hold on to, the words “never again” and the deeper meaning that they have to us from our understanding of scripture. We begin this morning with the words of Jesus, and his sermon of the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:1-12.
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.
Jesus proclaims blessings upon the people who are typically looked down upon, ignored, and pushed aside by the ambitious and the powerful as well as those who are struggling with loss. And it is in these words that Jesus reminds the entire world that God cares more about peace and purity than power, more about comfort and compassion than cash, and more about mercy and morality than money. Jesus reminds us that God is proud of you when you do the right thing, even if the world persecutes you and lies about the things you did. And, while it never seems to difficult to imagine, during this election season it seems easier than ever to understand how the people can manipulate and twist the truth into anything they want it to be. But as long as you are honoring God, and working toward the goals of God’s kingdom, then God calls you blessed and promises that, while persecution and unpleasantness may come to you on earth, blessing and reward have already been set aside for you in heaven.
John the Apostle puts it this way in 1 John 3:1-3,
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.
John says that God loves us so much that we will be called the children of God. God claims us as his own and the world misunderstands us, and our motives, because they do not know him. But because we live here and have not yet passed over from this life into the next, we cannot yet see what our new life will look like. But we do know that when Christ appears, or when our lives end and we go to live with him, we will see him as he really is in all his glory.
And in Revelation 7:9-17, John also writes about his vision of heaven and a hint of what we will see there after our time on earth has ended.
9 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.’
While John speaks specifically about the saints of God who were killed during the great tribulation, we are given a glimpse of heaven and of God’s love and compassion for his children. What’s more, it is here that we find those words that we’ve said to ourselves. On earth we’ve learned wisdom by saying “never again” to the bad decisions of the past, but we are unable to do anything about some of the hardest parts of our lives. In this life we often can’t do anything about pain, suffering and death, but John says that once we begin our new lives God says, “never again.” Never again will there be hunger or thirst. Never again will there be scorching heat, or bitter cold. Never again will there be mourning, crying, pain, sorrow, suffering, or death.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
And so today, as we celebrate All Saints Day, and as we remember those whom we have lost in the past year, as well as all of our friends and loved ones who have been lost to us, we also rejoice in the new life that they have with Jesus Christ. Because we remain on earth, we also remember our calling to faithfulness, righteousness, mercy, and compassion. We remember that, as followers of Jesus Christ we must continue his work as we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak for the voiceless, care for those who have no one to care for them, and in every other way possible to preach the Gospel, rescue the lost, and be Jesus to the world.
But, at the same time, while we continue our earthly struggles with frustration, hunger, thirst, pain, persecution, suffering, grief, and death, we look forward to the day when we too can rest from our labor and say…
… “Never again.”
You can find the video of this worship service here: https://youtu.be/6ge6H8IvMao
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, 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 or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.