Posts Tagged ‘Revelation 7:9-14’

All Saints According to Titanic 11-2-14

This sermon is based on Revelation 7:9-14, one of the assigned readings for All Saints Sunday. Within the sermon I take a look at the tiny glimpse of what lies beyond death based on this passage from Revelation.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/all-saints-according-to-titanic-11-2-14

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Today is a busy day for us here at Underwood Lutheran isn’t it? (pause) In addition to all the normal aspects of worship, we’re celebrating All Saints Day…we’re joining with three young people in our congregation to celebrate a milestone in their life of faith…we’ll share in Holy Communion together in a few more minutes…it’s a busy day…about the only thing we’re missing is a baptism, then we’d have all the bases covered. (pause)

By now, I’m guessing that you’ve picked up on my tendency to relate pretty much everything to a movie…and today is no exception…As I thought about all the different things that we are packing into worship today, I started relating it to a film that does the same thing…Titanic, the 1997 powerhouse that covered all the bases. It had everything…a love story…intrigue…action…comedy…dancing…betrayal. (pause). Oh and somewhere along the way, the boat hits a iceberg and sinks right?

Interestingly enough…the final images from Titanic seem to hold a lot of the same images that we heard in the passage from Revelation. In the conclusion of the film…the narrator Rose…a very old woman who had been on board the Titanic…who had made a promise to her great love before he died that she would go on…dies in her bed after a long full life…and in the afterlife, she is transported back on board, where she walks through the lavish dining room among a great multitude of other people…a great crowd of individuals…too large to count…individuals from all walks of life…rich and poor, old and young, passangers and crew…all those who had died in the great ordeal of the ship sinking…and as Rose walks through all those people she is reunited with Jack…her great love…they embrace…the crowd all cheers…they are together forever…and no more tears are shed among these people. (pause)

Sound about right? A great crowd…those who have died, experiencing a great ordeal…and nor more tears in the afterlife…Titanic…and today’s lesson from Revelation. Hmmm…maybe James Cameron was reading this when he wrote the script.

There are many images from that movie that come to mind for me as I ponder on this passage today…one of which is the look of terror on the face of one passanger as the water comes rushing up to him…and he knows that he’s about to die…that he’s about to experience the unknown.

That sense of fear, or apprehension tends to be associated with the book of Revelation does it? It’s one of those books in the Bible that we tend to steer clear of…and why? Well, because its full of imagery that we just don’t quite understand…but we know that its related to the last days…to that great unknown when Jesus comes back…and to be sure, Revelation is full of crazy stuff…but in the midst of all that craziness…all that stuff that we tend to shy away from…we find that God is giving us a glimpse of what’s coming…its certainly not the entire picture…but it’s a glimpse.

And so perhaps its fitting that we hear these words today, on All Saints Sunday…as we sit here today and remember those who have gone on before us…those who have followed the path that one day we will all face…those who have tasted death…and what lies beyond it.

Often times in life, especially when we encounter death…we begin to wonder just what lies beyond it…sure we have the promises of God that we are saved from our sin…and that Jesus has gone on before us into death…doing something about it…preparing us a room in God’s heavenly house…but really…that’s about it…and if you’re anything like me…you see a lot of unknowns in all that. And perhaps in these moments we experience apprehension or fear about just what’s gonna happen. (pause)

Now I won’t stand here today and claim to have all the answers…because I’d be lying if I said that. But what a gift God gives us today, as we sit here thinking about death…thinking about our own mortality…what a gift to catch this little glimpse.

A great multitude…beyond measure…from every nation and tribe and people and language…standing before the throne of God…For with God there is no distinction…and all are welcomed regardless of where they came from…and together in one voice this great crowd declares the truth that salvation belongs to our God…and they find joy in it because they know not only that its true…but they know that God chooses to share it with us…and so they stand there and praise God before his throne into eternity.

And we hear a few verses later, that these are the people who have come through the great ordeal…but just what is this great ordeal? What is this great tribulation that they’ve come through? (pause) If we think about that last image from Titanic, the great crowd is made up of people who died on the ship…and I think this great ordeal that the author of Revelation is talking about is quite similar…this crowd, praising God on the throne, is made up of those who have lived life and through death been delivered from it…the great ordeal is our lives…the ups and downs…the back and forth…the good and the bad…because that’s life isn’t it? Even life as a believer…its tough.

We experience much hardship in life…and following God…believing in Christ…it doesn’t give us a free pass from suffering…it doesn’t eliminate pain…it doesn’t take away anguish…it doesn’t stop us from mourning…mourning the death of those we care about…mourning the trials and tribulations that we experience in our lives.

As I stand here before you today…I know some of these stories of suffering. For some of you it’s a lost job, lost income. For others, there has been the hardship of watching a loved one deteriorate and die. Others struggle in relationships…there are countless stories just in this room today, not to mention the countless stories of all those who have come before, all those living now, and all those to come in the future…Life, wonderful as it is…joyous as it can be…is a great ordeal…and to deny this is to deny the truth.

But yet, our lesson today tells us that those washed in the blood of the lamb have come through this ordeal…and their robes are white…gleaming…cleaner than any soap could ever make them…and in the great beyond…in whatever lies beyond this life…beyond this great ordeal, the blood of the lamb has cleansed those saints of everything that tainted them in life…sin is gone…suffering is over…pain is no more…because God has taken it away.

There’s one more image from Titanic that has always stuck with me, and ironically, it’s a direct quote from today’s scripture. Late in the movie, as the ship is about to go down…the weight of the water in one end begins to pull the ship up vertical…and in the midst of that a crowd of people cling to a priest…and he himself is clinging to post in order to hold himself steady…and he utters the words to these frightened people that God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes…and there will be no more death.

In the end…we know that death claims us all…just as it has claimed those saints that we honor here today…but we also cling to the hope that we find in God’s promise that death does not get the last word in our story…God does.

And when each of us walks that final road of this life…and when we leave behind the great ordeal that is this life…we cling to the promise that we will join that great multitude…and we too will wear the white robe…washed clean in the blood of the lamb…and we cling to the hope that God will wipe the tears from our eyes, because death and pain and suffering will no longer hold us.

And make no mistake this hope that we cling to is wonderful…but yet we also realize that we live in the tension now…here in this life…We know that we still experience the hardships and the pain…and we still experience the tears…because for us, Revelation chapter 7 hasn’t happened yet…and so in these times, when we find ourselves looking forward to the end and wondering what lies beyond it, we look to the end of Revelation. The final words of the Bible are Amen, come Lord Jesus.

We say Amen, because we believe this to be true…and we say Come Lord Jesus because we anxiously wait for him…and we live in the tension between the two…The tension between the Amen which leans back to the promises that God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ is for you…and between the Come that leans forward to the day when we stand before the throne, content in the presence of our maker and redeemer.

So today, as we find ourselves in this tension between Amen and Come Lord Jesus…and as we remember those beloved saints who have gone on before us while we still struggle here in our great ordeal, we cling to the promise that Salvation belongs to our God…and that he shares it with us today. Amen.

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