1 Jn. 3:1-3
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” I hear this verse and it reminds me of the prodigal sons desire to become “a slave in his father’s house.” Why is it we cannot see what God desires to lavish upon us: “...if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:17). Why do we not feel worthy and are willing to settle for less than who we are, willing to be slaves rather than sons and daughters?
John in his letter gives us a vivid picture God desires for each of us at the end of our lives and it is not for us to be slaves it is: “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb… They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”
This feast day will be ours one day. But today we find in that multitude, those people we miss, whose presence we wish was still here. Yet we know they are among the multitude of people who stand before the throne of God because of his grace and desire that “none shall perish.” We, each one of us, were created by God to be in his presence that has always been our destiny – to be in his presence.
In the future, somewhere someone will remember us this day and will look toward the heavens and give thanks for our being in their lives. I know there are some who have no one to mourn them and those who do not have a desire to mourn them is it possible for those to be among the multitude also?
Many years ago, as I ministered to people in hospice, some I had met before my visits and some I had never met. It was an there among the dying I learned the truth of God’s grace. Paul in his letter to the Romans confirms this lesson I learned in his letter to the Romans as he said to us “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom. 8:34-35).
I was present at the death of many of those I visited in hospice and I was blessed to witness an overpowering presence of Christ to the person at the moment of their death. Thirteen times, different people, different views of their own worthiness to spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God experiencing the embrace of Christ and to hear the same words the prodigal son heard, words we all long to hear “welcome you are home at last.”
This day I do not hope my sister Suzanne, my son in law Steve, my uncle David, in law’s Marie and Foster, parents Joseph and Helen and generations of ancestors before them are with the multitude before Christ. I know they are there in the place we long to be one day. Why am I so confident about this? God promised us: nothing can separate us from his love in Christ Jesus? Standing by the bedside of those dying individuals in hospice I witnessed grace and mercy. I witnessed the words of Paul happening before my own eyes and It taught a simple truth of God’s love and why “‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God” (Rom. 14:11 NIV). How could we say no to grace when it is offered to us?
No one dies alone. My father was not alone the day he died. Steve was not alone that day; the child who is abducted and killed by evil is not alone at that moment, Danny was not alone when that car struck him nor was Dan when his car struck a tree alone, a person who dies on an operating table is not alone. None of us will die alone for at that moment we will be in the presence of Christ.
Yes today we are celebrating all the unnamed saints who stand before Christ. We cannot take grace for granted. Just because God desires none to perish and his grace is always there for us we must open ourselves to receive it. We need to embrace it now as we live so our lives would be a witness here on earth. We stand before God each day and are offered a life in his presence where we with confidence can help others find that life of feeling the Father’s embrace freeing them from the guilt of the stupidity of how they squandered their heritage.
Today we celebrate those who attained the status of saints and we celebrate our own status as sons and daughters destined to join the multitude and be welcomed by those who went before us into the Fathers house. We who have been blessed by God are the witnesses here on earth to the same life with God enjoyed by the saints. We are called to bless others by our love of God.