30 October 2006

An All Saints Day Homily from Yesteryear

All saints goes wrong when one sees the great crowd and starts analyzing and poking at them, focusing on them, instead of focusing on what they are focused on. For when you look at the crowd the one thing that surely strikes you is that they are all staring in the same direction, gazing upon the same object, with the same look of astonishment and awe and love upon their faces. Otherwise they are very different – some were among the rich and some the poor, some black and some white, some struggled with this sin and some with that, some thought one thing and some another. Oh, they are a very eclectic crowd in so many ways. But the thing that holds them together as ONE crowd is the object on which they are fixed and the love and awe that shine from them as they rejoice to look upon what they look upon. So one does not analyze that look and imitate it outwardly so that one can “fit into the crowd.” Instead, one pushes this way and that to get in and get a glimpse of what it is that they are all so focused upon! Because if you do that, then you too – no matter what the unique struggles and burdens of your life - will come to wear the same look of astonishment and awe and love on your face. Not because you’re trying to be like the crowd, but because you also see what the crowd has seen – and you’ll drop to your knees too, and awe and love will shine from your face as well.

What is it that they are all looking at? Moses told you: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned on them from Seir; He shown forth from Mount Paran. And He came with ten thousands of saints; from His right came a fiery law for them. Yes, he loves His people; All His saints are in your hand; they sit down at your feet; everyone receives Your words.”

They are all look at the One who comes to them. The Lord who comes with a fiery law and yet an even greater fire of love for them burning in His heart. The Lord who gathers His saints around Him so that they sit at His feet to drink in His words. Images of Mary, sister of Martha, not being distracted from the one thing needful. Look into Mary’s face and you’ll recognize the face of the saints. Those who listen with rapt attention to the words of the Lord – words that reveal an astonishing reality: what goes on in the heart of God toward this wayward lot of humanity. Words that reveal a love for us that has no cause in us, but that overflows from His heart of love.

Even more are you told in Revelation. A multitude so great that no one could fix a number on it – from all the nations, tribes, peoples and tongues of the earth – and what is that they are focused on? No on themselves! Where are they staring? Not at each other! They are all facing the throne of God and of the Lamb. Clothed in white, waving their palm branches, singing aloud: “Salvation comes from God and from the Lamb!” Do you see the look of awe and wonder on their faces? They are now seeing Him with the eyes of the body whom they had heard before with their ears. He is their Joy and their Delight. They sing with the Psalmist: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” And what a portion He is! “They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits upon the throne will shelter them with His presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God Himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” A huge portion, indeed! More than they could ever dream or imagine, is given to them.

And so they stare into the face of Him who is the Gift of all of this and more. A gift they know that not one of them could ever have deserved or earned. A gift that is all the more astonishing because of how it was given. For it wasn’t as though this God simply said: “Oh well, they’re a rebellious lot, aren’t they? But we’ll just have to overlook that.” No. The very source of the astonished look of awe and love that shines from the faces of this crowd is that they know that God did nothing of the sort. He overlooked not one of their trespasses. He forgot not one of their transgressions. He punished every sin in complete justice. But He did like this: He sent into the flesh His Beloved Son to be the Lamb. The Lamb on whom would be loaded every last transgression of this crowd – and even more – even the transgressions of those who will not look upon this Lamb and who refuse to see what He has done. And this Lamb, loaded down under that weighty burden, carried every last sin under the scathing wrath of God; the unbending, unyielding, uncompromising righteous anger of God. And He did it for all, for love of all, for love of you. Crying out to each one: see I have borne your burden that you may be blessed with my blessing. That I may lay my blessing upon you. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no inquity.” (Ps 32:1,2).

Nor did that Lamb perish under that burden. But having died, He lives again. Forevermore bearing the wounds that mark Him as the complete and final and full sacrifice for sin. “A Lamb as it had been slain” is the way St. John describes Him, the way that His saints see Him. A Lamb that died under our burden, but that lives forevermore. And His very life is the sign that what He offered for us has been accepted as enough and more than enough by His Father.

And so the crowd stares at this Lamb! Sings to this Lamb! Falls down before this Lamb, this Lord Jesus! This is what makes a saint, what makes one part of the crowd, that from the heart one sees Jesus as this Lamb and so forever in love worships and praises Him!

On the mountain Jesus sat and around Him gathered his disciples. And He spoke blessing on them as they looked into His face. Blessings that they would only fully realize when they came to know that the One who was blessing them was none other than their Lamb, the Lamb given them by God. Blessings that would reach their ultimate fruition when they stood before Him with the whole crowd on that glorious day and experienced the unspeakable comfort of a nail-scared hand, gently touching each face, and wiping away every tear. Blessed indeed are all who in that crowd! All saints. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Christ-centered Gospel Sermon! Thanks for sharing it. Then He will wipe away every tear. Now this message brought tears, as I thought of those who are already there, and as I remember that I (and all believers) are there in Jesus, and will be there. All Saints... Thanks - + Herb