He will wipe away tears
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who loves you with his very life. Amen.
The holiday season is quickly approaching, honestly, faster than I was prepared for. And with that comes a whole bunch of planning. If you are anything like my family, that means preparing for family gatherings. From Thanksgiving meals, to Christmas celebrations, to whatever else. One of the greatest joys though, is going to a holiday party at someone else’s house where every detail is taken care of. From the moment you walk in and are greeted with a warm welcome, to the moment you leave, every detail is planned. The house? decorated. The food? Amazing. Experiencing this is a true joy.
But what often is lost is the fine details that go into preparing something like that. If you have hosted a gathering like this, you know the work that goes into making sure every need is taken care of. Cleaning the house. finding the decor. Planning the meals. Cooking the meals, cleaning up afterward, and even more than that.
And its very easy, when you are a guest, to miss the details.
In our text from Revelation today, the apostle John is treated to such a gathering, such a part, a celebration where every detail has been taken care of. But in the midst of all the grandeur it’s easy to lose the fine details. Let’s take a look.
The book of Revelation has long fascinated thoughtful Christians. The book is packed full with stories and images that are strange to think about, and often times, absolutely terrifying. We see wars. We see rumours of wars. We see the devil himself seek to form an unholy trinity to try and overthrow the church. We don’t have the time to unpack the whole book today.
But we do have a text from it for this morning, taken from chapter 7. This chapter describes a host of people, an army of people who are ready to enter into paradise, to enter into the new creation, to live with God forever. These are the countless people who survive the great tribulation, that time before Christ returns, who are now ready to be with their God in his eternal kingdom.
And i can’t even imagine what it would have been like to be John seeing this. After experiencing the other sights and sounds of the vision, he is now seeing a glimpse of the new creation. He sees angels. real actual angels in their terrifying beauty. He sees the cherubim with their strange 4 sided animal heads and he tries to put this to words. He see the victorious lamb who was slain. He sees this great crowd of people chanting as they march, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”
He sees the city, so splendid that gold is as common as dirt on the side of the road, a place so brilliantly shining, that gold is like dirt. He sees the crystal river, the rainbow green throne. He sees the tree of life. He sees a city that is so massive in scale to hold all the people. He sees the 24 elders who lay their crowns before the feet of the victorious lamb. He sees the wedding feast that doesn’t end. If you take a look at the bulletin cover for today, the artwork that’s on it, this is what you see. You see the river and the tree of life, John and an Angel, the victorious lamb next to God on the throne. But the picture doesn’t catch all the details.
But John in the gospel text does. John notices the small details. Somehow, as he’s taking it all in, he sees a very small, a very personal action that God takes. It’s like a parent whose child has fallen down and is hurt. The parent rushes over, bends down, looks at their child, and wipes away the tears from their eyes. “it’s going to be ok. You’re ok. Everything is alright now.” And John sees God do this. God, our heavenly Father, sees the multitude who enter into eternal rest, this group that no one could number who have survived the great tribulation, and God approaches them, he bends down to them, wipes the tears out of their eyes and it is as if he says, “it’s ok now. You’re ok. There is no more sin, nor more suffering, no more hurt, or hunger, or thirst, or need. I am your God. You are mine. And I will care for you. Always. Welcome to your new home.”
There in the city of gold, behind the pearly gates as the cherubim, seraphim, and angels sing for joy. John notices the detail, that even our own artists miss. John sees all the planning that made the party great. He sees it. He see God caring for his people in a very real, very personal way.
So today we celebrate All Saints Day. Today we remember all the saints who have gone before us and who rest from their labors. We give thanks to God for the witness the bore, for carrying the faith and passing it down to us. We give thanks that God used them to proclaim the Gospel that we too might trust in Jesus for everlasting life. And we give thanks to God that they have no more tears. That God wipes the tears from their eyes, as we look back at them we also look forward to God doing the same for us.
Because It is no secret that we are living in times of tribulation. Now don’t here me wrong, this isn’t some kind of, “left behind series” type thing. But it is a challenge to be a Christian in our world today. Even in Melrose, as religious as our town is, it’s still hard. It seems like each and every day, there is a new way to sin. The internet has provided so many ways for this. If that weren’t challenging enough there is this disdain for Christian teachings on creation, on salvation, on sins, on grace, on so many things. If that weren’t enough, there are more and more distractions pulling us away from Christ. Vocational obligations, apathy, a feeling of being overwhelmed and worn out. All of this and more is pulling at us, causing this tribulation, these trying times that we live in.
While these challenges we face are difficult and trying, they aren’t the first challenges to face Christians. Our parents had their challenges. So did our grandparents, and their parents, and so on and so on. And on all Saints day, we look at them, we see what they went through and we ask, “How did they do it? How did they endure their times?”
And the answer is amazing. They turned to, they trusted the God who steps down off his throne to wipe away tears from our eyes. To the God who pays attention to the details. John gives to us an image of the Good Shepherd caring for his sheep. A god who knows what his sheep are enduring and need. This is a God who isn’t far off but one who care about every aspect of our lives. After making the grand place for us to dwell, after creating heaven, after promising the new creation, he doesn’t stop there. He still knows what it is to come through hurt, through pain, through tribulation, and he cares for you. So he bends down and wipes the tears away from their eyes.
He knows what it is like because he experienced it. When Jesus walked the earth he experienced trials and tribulations.And he took action to put them to an end. He died on the cross. He died on the cross, rose again in order to prepared a place for you. In order to make a road, a path, and a destination to his eternal kingdom. That all of us, everyone who has lived who has been washed in blood of the lamb, may enter into paradise, into an eternal rest with God in his kingdom.
All Saints is, yes, a day where we stop and remember those who have gone before. But if that’s all we do, we miss the important details. All Saints Day is a day where we give thanks to God. To your God. To the God who brings you through the tribulations you experience. Today, we give thanks, praise, and adoration to the God who steps off the throne, who bends down and wipes away tears from our eyes. Amen.