Rev. 7: 2- 4, 9 -14
In John’s vision of he City of God he sees a great multitude so vast no one can could possibly count them. They were from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands and they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb.” With this multitude were the angels, the elders and the four living creatures who all prostrated themselves before the throne worshipping God and exclaiming: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
This vision gives us a glimpse of what we can expect in heaven is a vast multitude of saints from every nation, race and tongue all no longer foreign to each other but of one heart and mind crying out in one language and in one purpose for they understand salvation comes from God and God alone. This is the message of the saints who have gone before us. We honor them because they have overcome the human weakness of self indulgence and self preservation while we remain timid and self conscious of our faith before others.
If nothing else, this feast of All Saints should make us do more than give these men, women and children honor; we should examine our own response to the gift of salvation. Why do we behave as if our faith is a private thing? Why do we believe that while in church we need to be reverent and that means quietly sitting or kneeling with our heads bowed in prayer? We are taught that is the proper posture when we are in front of God who is always present to us in the tabernacle. We are quick to shush someone who is talking and are critical of parents whose children are not still or quiet.
The saints whom we honor today are crying out before God. This certainly is not reverence as we have been taught nor is it even close to our concept of a proper attitude while in the presence of God. The saints are joined by the elders and angels worshiping God and acknowledging that he and he alone is worthy of honor, glory, wisdom and thanks. He alone has given us the grace to overcome all that separated us from his love and mercy. He and he alone has cleansed us and made us holy men and women able to stand up and acknowledge him as Lord. We fail to understand that even if we are martyred it was because he has given us the courage and strength to always stand and acknowledge him.
Every saint had a conversion experience opening their eyes, heart and mind to embrace Christ and his gift of righteousness. Sainthood is the fruit of conversion and not a reward for holiness because that holiness is a work of God who promised to change our hearts. Paul calls all those who embraced the gospel message “saints” because they were willing to give witness to their belief that Jesus Christ was the messiah and they lived according to the law of love.
Did their act of embracing of Christ make them saints or was it that as soon as they did embraced Christ as Lord the love of God and forgiveness transformed them? Their sinfulness was touched by grace and they knew that Salvation is a pure undeserved gift from God and God alone.
I find it a relief to know that I cannot earn my salvation by any work or effort on my part but I also know that what God offers me so freely demands a response from me. Each of us must respond to God by moving out of our comfort zones to give God glory, honor and praise for his gift of salvation. That is the proper response for his embracing us in our sinfulness and clothing us in righteousness – this is modeled for us in John’s vision of heaven so we might as well begin visibly and verbally giving God glory now.