All Saint's Day 2022
“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. 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 will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Let’s back up here and explain just exactly what is unfolding in this passage because once we really see what St. John Saw, what he had revealed on that Island named Patmos, it is something that almost requires tears.
The book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse of St. John is 22 chapters long so today we’re roughly 1/3 of the way into it at this point. First, John is told by Jesus to write 7 letters to 7 churches about what they will experience because of their faith and life. Then, in chapters 4 and 5, John sees the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Throne of God that we get to see in fullness of Chapter 7.
What we hear about today is a picture of the myriads the faithful across all of history joining together in the temple of God. Today we get to see you, and where you, end up.
A number of years ago they retired the Jersey for NBA star and WSU Alumni Klay Thompson. The game sold out almost instantly and I remember talking to a preschool dad who managed marketing for the Athletics Dept. who said they hired a dozen photographers so they’d have an image of what our Colosseum looked like when it was full. The game was wild- celebrities were there, we had a HUGE upset over Oregon AND if you were there - you may remember everyone recieved matching shirts.
This is what Revelation 7 is doing - it is capturing and reminding the church of what the end of History looks like. Its an upset, a defeat of death through the death of another, the world is uniform yet incredibly diverse, gathered for a single purpose and apparently there are still concession stands handing out food in the eternal banquet because we are not hungry in eternity.
So let’s relive some of this hope today through these passages. This passage specifically highlights Temple Theology and the Lamb.
It is crucial that we see where this temple is located. This is important because if it is somewhere off in space then all of a sudden the resurrection becomes less of a big deal. Perhaps these people in the temple are just spirits, souls.
Verse 15 ends up being the crucial passage for this.
“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.
Those words ‘Shelter Them’ take us all the way back to the tabernacle or the tent of meeting. The tabernacle was the tent that was built by Israel and it traveled with them all through the wilderness. The word shelter them in greek is eskonosen- literally pitch a tent. This tent was made of animal skin. Animals that gave their lives so people could meet with God.
Here is what I appreciate about the imagery of the tent as opposed to the stone temple. A tent can travel, in fact it is meant to travel. John certainly appreciates this as well as it is how he starts his gospel:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
You all remember this thing but it is so important it bears repeating: that word for dwelt among us? Eskonosen. Pitch a tent. Friends on all saints day we must remember that the human body, by the body of Christ, is the Lord’s temple and that exists metaphysically today, and physically, tangibly in eternity.
I have a tweed cap that I like to wear during the winter. It’s warm but more than that it belonged to Mike Rydbom who gave it to Phil Sitze who gave it to me. It reminds me of the saints who have, and continue to, provide life- not just physically but also spiritually and emotionally for me.
All Saints day is about taking hold of the promise that God will one day come back and make His home with us again. He will travel with us in our eternal home.
I realize that this language of home is somewhat fraught for some. Home is not a safe place but full of fear, tumult and even trauma. This is where the last two verses of that reading are important:
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 will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Look at the language that this passage ends with. Instead of rivers of tears there will be rivers of life.
The other day Natalie and I were coming back from Spokane and we stopped to grab pizza at Papa Murphys. When I went in I instantly recognized one of my fellow patrons without seeing his face. It was the funeral home director and I knew his posture and we both were quite happy to see each other and converse in a setting outside of a funeral! Then I watched him walk away I saw him get in his work car- a black Chrysler van and I couldn’t help but wonder, what is in the back of that van. I’ve been in that van, I know what that van is for.
Seriously, what a welcome relief it was to see him outside of hurt and loss.
I know that this season has been challenging. I know I’ve certainly not made it easier. We’ve lost loved ones to death and too often we have lost living friends to caustic remarks and stiff necks.
We need all saints day because it gives us the hope that even our tears are redeemed and forgiven by our good and gracious God.
The image that the Apocalypse uses here is startling and reveals the absolute redemptive power of God.
Who is our God that comes to dwell with us in this temple home?
The lamb on a throne?
According to the book of Leviticus almost every sin is atoned for or paid for with a sacrifice of an animal. Most personal sins are paid for by slaughtering a lamb in front of the temple and then throwing the blood of the lamb on the altar and burning the rest of the lamb.
Imagine a lifetime of this. Constantly shepherding sheep to the temple where they would die in your stead, hundreds of lambs across a lifetime- more than hundreds if you happen to be like me.
Then, John tells you that the lamb will not be on an altar but a throne.
More than that the lamb will reverse the role and will now become YOUR shepherd.
Is it really a role reversal - didn’t the lamb always provide life?
Either through their body or sacrifice the lamb has always cared for you.
When John the baptist first saw Jesus do you remember what he said?
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Today is about developing an appreciation for those who give life. Who gave you life? Who do you give life to?
Friends, Christians remember the lives of those who went before us - who cared for us and gave us life. Today we remember our Shepherd King will return and graciously rule through life giving service.
Today we remember that in Jesus even our tears shall become rivers of life.