Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for October 30, 2011
Saints Past and Present
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
All Saints Day 2011
Begin with “Our Saints” video.
I love working with that presentation every year. Whenever I start with it, the first time through brings a few tears to my eyes. One of our regulars who is out of town this morning wrote me earlier this week and said, “Thank you for the work you put into this every year. I think it’s great for us to remember them. Most of the time I feel like I’m the only one who still remembers my loved one who died.” Thanks to all of you for sharing your saints with us today.
The official date of All Saints Day is November 1, just two days from now. The Feast of All Saints involves the tradition of remembering all the saints together and dates to the early history of the Church, which affirmed “the communion of saints” as the mystical Body of Christ, transcending both time and space. This collective feast reminds us that each of us has our own special gifts, and we are each called to do something holy for God.
Our practice is actually more similar to what we call All Souls Day where in some traditions there has been a distinction between remembering the official canonized saints on All Saints Day and commemorating those whose names are not on any calendar, but are cherished as models of faith, or are dearly loved family and friends. They, as well, are part of that great “cloud of witnesses” that encourages us in our spiritual journey.
I love the observance of All Saints and All Souls Day in MCC. It reminds me how our founder, Rev. Troy Perry refers to us as Saints when he preaches. I also like it very much because it allows us to assign status to so many of our loved ones who have lived on the margins, to many who have experienced extreme oppression and poverty and discrimination. It reminds us that God does not make mistakes and that God has never created a piece of junk. God has never created a single person to be less than or to be labeled “outsider.” You see, Saints, we are all insiders in the kin-dom of God, where we experience equality and justice for all with no exceptions. Our Saints are not just saints for our local community or for a little power point presentation that we see each year. Our Saints are God’s saints. They are equal to the ones whose names we find on liturgical calendars. They are equal to the ones canonized by the Catholic Church. Our Saints are God’s saints and it is because of so many of them that we are gathered here this morning. So we give God thanks and praise for all of them and we honor them today and we recognize that every time we gather in this place we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who support us and love us and agree with us as we seek God’s face in all that we do.
Remember the words we heard from Revelation this morning, and before that let me just say that this is just one example of the way the Book of Revelation is filled with good news for us. “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!”
Do you know why the multitude is worshiping God in this way? Let me see if I can break it down simply. In the book of Revelation, Rome, the great oppressive nation of biblical times is referred to as Babylon or even as “The Whore of Babylon.” Rome’s political rulers are masters of oppression and discrimination and injustice and breaking the backs of the common people in order to build up their own kingdoms. I do not have time this morning to go into detail, so let me refer you once again to Dr. Barbara Rossing’s book, Revelation Exposed. God comes up against Rome/Babylon, not in some great war called Armageddon that leads to the destruction of the planet and everything in it. In order to make sense out of this, we must always remember God’s great gift to us in the Son of God, Jesus. In light of that we see a scene in the great courtroom of God. Babylon/Rome is on trial for all the evil they have perpetrated on God’s people. God is the judge and the Lamb of God represents God’s people. Rome’s evil deeds are listed and compared to the amazing love of God expressed through the Lamb of God. The people win and the evil empire is convicted. Lamb power saves the day. The people are then taken on a mission where they are allowed to see what is coming down in the newly established kin-dom of God. It is a beautiful kin-dom with a river of life running through it. Beside the river is the Tree of Life which bears many kinds of fruit. And the good news is that in God’s new kin-dom the fruit is not restricted, it is for all of us to eat. God’s people are then brought back to earth with eyes wide open and everything they see looks new, shiny and beautiful. They are so inspired by what God has shown them that they begin working to establish the kin-dom of God, God’s new city, right here and right now. They come to realize that God has no plan to blow up what God has created and called very good. God has no plan to wipe out millions and millions of people as the “Left Behind” theorists would suggest. Revelation clearly teaches us that this New Jerusalem, this new Gainesville, is coming down to us. It never suggests that we are going up to it. The new city of God will descend to us and God’s loving kin-dom where all people experience equality, justice and respect is established right here among us. It’s all about Lamb power over war power. It’s all about life over death. It’s all about renewal over destruction. Those of you from my class say it with me…LAMB POWER!
What is our part in this? Our part is to build the kin-dom of God right here. To love the way God first loved us. It is to live our days in peaceful and nonviolent ways, to speak against and stand up to injustice in our own communities. It is to live under the overriding influence of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus says, I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly. Live, my sisters and brothers. Live in Love. Live abundantly. Live under the influence of Lamb Power. You know what will happen when we do that? You will become a saint to someone, too. Someone will remember you in the ways we remember our saints this morning. You will become one of God’s saints, too.
Lamb power. Love it, live it and share it. You are, you are becoming and YOU will be the very saints of God.
God bless you this morning. AMEN.
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 worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever 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 sacrifice of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship God day and night within God’s 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 will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”