05 November 2023
Sermon By: Rev. Dr. Robin A. Reed+
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico
St. Francis of Assisi Church, Lake Placid
Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Wales
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
God gives us a glimpse of heaven and invites us to be poor in spirit.
What do you expect heaven be like?
An 85 year old couple married for almost 60 years tragically diesin a car crash
After arriving at the Pearly Gates St. Peter shows them their mansion in a prestigious golf course community. “How much is this going to cost?” asks the old man. “It’s free, said St. Peter, this is heaven.” Looking out the mansions’ windows onto the beautifully manicured 18th holes, the old man asks “What are the greens fees?” “This is heaven, you play for free,” said St. Peter. Later, visiting the club house, the couple sees a lavish buffet of international cuisines laid out, the old man asks again “How much does it cost to eat?”
Taking a deep breath to minimize his frustration, St. Peter replied “Good sir I reassure you, this is heaven all is free.” “Well, St. Peter,” chimed in the man’s wife, “Where are the low fat, low salt and low cholesterol tables?” St. Peter joyfully replied, “This is the BEST part. You can both eat as much as you like of whatever you like, never put on weight or get sick. This my friend is heaven.”
As the wife took a deep sigh of relief her husband became enraged “This is all your fault, “ he says to her “If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins and low fat yogurt we could have been here ten years ago!”
Today we celebrate All Saint’s Day, November 1st and All Soul’s Day November 2nd and remember holy women and men, blessed saints commemorated by the church and ordinary people held closely in our hearts who have shared their journeys, listened and guided us to walk with Christ and gone on before us to experience the “ineffable joys” God has prepared for those who love God
This morning God give us a glimpse of heaven, inviting us to be and become poor in spirit. Our first lesson, from the Book of Revelation, yes Revelation. Is both eschatological, about the world’s end times and apocalyptic about the future destruction of the world.
The Book of Revelation concludes with the victory of Christ Jesus over Satan
and those in the great multitude marked by God’s seal on their forehead, protected eternally by God in heaven.
John, an eyewitness to the incarnate and glorified Christ, writes from exile on the Island of Patmos about 95 AD and offers us a small peek through a window into heaven. Imagine with me other times you have had a sneak peek, gazing through a jewelry store window glimpsing beautiful, sparkly necklaces, watches, and rings inside. And through John’s words we catch a glimpse of paradise, a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribes, peoples and languages, standing before the throne and the Lamb palm branches in their hand, their robes washed white, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, crying out “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the lamb.”
As you listened to John’s testimony what image moved you the most? Perhaps the enormous crowd caught your attention. Christians from all corners of the world gathered together united, untouched by the “isms” of our day, Ageism, Racism, sexism, nationalism. One “Us” with no “thems”. A crowd freed from our human potential to push and shove, step on toes and be rude to one another.
An enormous inclusive crowd. No one is left out there are no cliques, all understand one another as friends, followers of Christ. This enormous crowd fulfills Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s vision, God’s people are victorious and liberated, free of everything that separates them one from another.
Can you imagine in this time of world warfare, political divisions in our country,
violence in our own communities what a relief and a joy it would be to be united as one respecting the honor and dignity of every human being, standing around God’s altar here on earth. Or perhaps as you heard John’s glimpse into heaven the characters in the magnificent scene caught your eye. Among the enormous crowd were Angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven standing before the Lamb’s throne in God’s presence proclaiming the glory of God’s name, 24 elders,
four living creatures or four Angels, each with a different face representing aspects of Christ Himself who ministers to His church. Jesus the lion, the Messiah king, Savior of His people, Jesus the servant, an ox who bears our burdens, Jesus the Son of Man, a man both human and divine, Jesus and the Son of God with the power of an eagle.
Can you imagine yourself standing face to face with Christ the risen, triumphant Lamb who has paid the price for your eternal salvation and taken away the sin of all the world. Some day you will. And, I suspect, all of us will be on our knees.
And then wanting to ask Jesus a LOT of questions. Each believer in that holy crowd reminds us that Jesus keeps his promise for our salvation all who believe in Him will be saved. What a dream to inspire us to live faithfully!
Perhaps in your glimpse into heaven you were moved by the believers in action,
Focused, engaged, joyful, they worship Christ the Lamb. No one seems one bit nervous or trying to make a good impression or even is rushing about. Their focus is on Jesus not on themselves. In their songs of praise and joy, they chant loudly what they believe, God is the Creator, Redeemer and Savior.
All things belong to God. Through Jesus Christ God has accomplished salvation
for all believers in Him. They trust by His presence they will never be alone, no longer hunger or thirst and be sheltered and led by Jesus to the springs of the water of life. The waters of LOVE, what a magnificent glimpse into heaven!
Now you may wonder as the elder asks who are these people and where did they come from? Back in John’s day these were people who let go of their reliance and belief in the oppressive Pax Romana. The Roman Empire that did not deliver on economic or political promises and persecuted followers of Christ mercilessly. And today these are people, like you and me who find our true peace and salvation in God and Jesus Christ. Now their lives, or our own lives, have not necessarily been filled with spiritual ease or untouched by pain, sorrow, or loss like the saints that have gone before us and live among us we too are called to endure the great tribulations of life, affliction, division, troubles and especially testing of our faith which Jesus warned in the Beatitudes will happen as we witness and minister in his name.
John reminds us in Revelation the great multitude, and we ourselves today, who endure tribulations, will be rewarded in heaven with God’s protection, provision, presence and a new life.
Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes his code of ethics and conduct for believers in today’s section from his Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes contrast external worldly values with eternal heavenly values and turn our world upside down. The first will be last, the last first much like the 10 Commandments which are summarized in the First Commandment....You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
Jesus teaches us to endure our tribulations with the First Beatitude…Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed or fortunate indicates a person has been or will receive a blessing from God in the future. Those who are poor in spirit may or not be poor financially but they recognize their reliance upon the world for their identity. Power, wealth, position, status and the emptiness and sinfulness in their actions.
The poor in spirit over their lifetime turn away from their self, their need to be right and in control and to learn one step at a time to seek God’s wisdom and guidance in prayer. And the poor in spirit name and claim their sins, repent and receive God’s mercy, the forgiveness of sins done and left undone and embrace God’s grace, God’s abundant blessings to open God’s doors to possibilities none of us ever deserve. Slowly with God’s help the poor in spirit let go of their earthly dependence upon merit, wealth, or power, fully embrace their deepest identity as children of God, make their heart in right relationship with God. This is what Jesus calls us to do.
This week I saw a powerful documentary entitled After Death a rigorous scientific exploration of folks’ experiences with Near Death occurrences put out by Angel Studios which created THE CHOSEN. Afterwards hearing John’s testimony of the great multitude and the folks’ near-death experiences I concluded none of us need fear death for as John years ago and these folks here today testified when believers die, we will enter a new realm. A Kingdom with Jesus clearly at the center reflecting, inviting, and empowering PEACE and LOVE.
The ineffable joys God has prepared for all who love and follow Christ and people who die denying our Lord’s love and resurrecting power cross over and fall into a tailspin in a hellish dark space until their hearts soften completely and they realized they need our LORD, become truly poor in spirit and cry out to Jesus to be saved.
Then almost instantaneously the downward spiral changes direction toward God’s Kingdom of light and love. For God wants to save all God’s children who believe.
Where are the places in your life? It feels as if you are falling away from God into the darkness? Become poor in spirit, cry out for HIM so you can live fully in God’s Kingdom of light and love right here on earth.
Cover Image: https://melaniejeanjuneau.blog/2016/11/01/all-saints-day-art-and-refelctions/