Remembering The Saints
"Remembering The Saints"
Little Rock Original Free Will Baptist Church
The Rev. Philip R. Taylor
First Sunday in November, Year C
Lessons: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-17; Psalm 149; Matthew 5:1-12
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-17
2Then I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea,3'Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.'4And I heard how many had been sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel... 9After that I saw that there was a huge number, impossible for anyone to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted in a loud voice,10'Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' 11And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four living creatures, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God12with these words: Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.13One of the elders then spoke and asked me, 'Who are these people, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?' 14I answered him, 'You can tell me, sir.' Then he said, 'These are the people who have been through the great trial; they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.15That is why they are standing in front of God's throne and serving him day and night in his sanctuary; and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.16They will never hunger or thirst again; sun and scorching wind will never plague them,17because the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.' 1
1 Alleluia! Sing a new song to Yahweh: his praise in the assembly of the faithful! 2Israel shall rejoice in its Maker, the children of Zion delight in their king;3they shall dance in praise of his name, play to him on tambourines and harp! 4For Yahweh loves his people, he will crown the humble with salvation. 5The faithful exult in glory, shout for joy as they worship him, 6praising God to the heights with their voices, a two-edged sword in their hands, 7to wreak vengeance on the nations, punishment on the peoples, 8to load their kings with chains and their nobles with iron fetters, 9to execute on them the judgement passed-to the honour of all his faithful. 2
Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them: 3How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 4Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance. 5Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill. 7Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. 8Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognised as children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11'Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. 3
Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the power of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, you did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by that same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen
From my childhood, I recall November 1st or the first Sunday in November as the day when our minister remembered in prayer all the people from our church family who had died during the previous year.
One year he went back and got the names of all those who had died since the church was first founded over 100 years earlier. That particular Sunday stands in my memory as being the Sunday when I heard the longest prayer ever, from any minister of any denomination.
Another memory from those first Sundays in November is that we referred in our prayers to all those dead people as saints. One year the name of a young person who had died a few months earlier was read in the list of saints.
I remember wondering at the time how he could have been a saint; he was only eleven years old. How was it possible that there were many saints and that they were all around us?
The hymn we sang on All Saints Day had the answer to my question. However, it was many years later before I really heard the words. Oh, I sang the words many times but it took me many years to really hear the words. An old hymn that we sang every November said it this way:
I sing a song of the saints of God
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green:
they were all of them saints of God and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
They loved their Lord so dear, so dear
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right, for Jesus' sake,
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast:
and there's not any reason no, not the least,
why I shouldn't be one too.
They lived not only in ages past, there are
hundreds of thousands still,
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.
Yes, they lived not only in ages past and there are hundreds of thousands still and the world is bright with those joyous saints and you can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church even, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea for the saints of God are just folk like us.
Now I understood. My mother was a saint for her sacrifice. My Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Cosby, was a saint for her faithfulness. The minister, Mr. Baldwin, was a saint for his piety. The youth group leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Raabe, were saints for their courage in shepherding all those teenagers.
Now I understood, or I though I did.
Then along comes Jesus and Jesus says something very strange and unsettling about saints. He says,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and seek after righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
Blessed are the reviled and the persecuted."
As always, Jesus takes us to a new level of understanding, if only we are willing to go with him.
I thought that saints had plenty of spirit but Jesus says, "those whose spirit is poor will inherit the kingdom."
I thought that saints were always joyful but Jesus says, "some will mourn for the sadness and cruelty of life but they will be comforted."
I though that saints were strong and in charge of things but Jesus says, "the meek will inherit the earth."
I thought that saints were already righteous but Jesus says, "those who seek after righteousness will be filled."
I thought the saints always defeated their enemies but Jesus says, "they show mercy and that mercy will be shown to them."
I thought saints lived perfect lives but Jesus says, "what's in your heart is the real story of your life."
I thought the saints were God's holy warriors but Jesus says, "the real children of god are the peacemakers."
I thought that the saints always won over evil but Jesus says, "they suffer and are persecuted for their willingness to live lives of love and forgiveness."
How then could that line of the hymn be true which says, "for the saints of God are just folks like me, and I mean to be one too"?
How could I ever live up to the standard that Jesus sets in the beatitudes?
The answer is, I can't, not without God's help, God's grace, and God's forgiveness.
The good news is that Jesus also proclaims a message of forgiveness, a message that says that God requires a lot of us but that God is also merciful and forgiving.
When we fall short, we can always return to the loving, forgiving arms of God.
Beloved Paul says it best in Romans 8: "...nothing... will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus..."
Free Will Baptists have a very important theological understanding of sainthood. You make that theological understanding real and visible when you observe the ordinance of the 'Washing the Saints Feet'.
That holy ordinance calls forth and celebrates humility in the faith community. For as Psalm 149 says, 'He will crown the humble with salvation.'
The ordinance also proclaims loud and clear that as the old hymn says, 'the saints of God are just folk like me and I mean to be one too.'
Today, on this first Sunday in November 2004, I ask that each of us pause and take time to reflect and remember the saints who have gone before us.
Let's remember and honor in our thoughts and prayers all those men, women, and children who have fought the good fight, who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and who will stand with us and a number 'impossible for anyone to count' before the great throne, praising God.
Let's also remember the saints still among us: especially the weak, those who mourn, the meek, those who seek what is right, the merciful, the good hearted, those who make peace through forgiveness, and those who suffer persecution because of their love of Jesus.
How should we as faithful people remember the saints?
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus asks us to share the bread and the cup and to do this 'in remembrance' of Him.
The Greek word that we have translated as 'in remembrance' in the Gospels is 'anamnesis'. The full meaning of 'anamnesis' is to remember a person or event from the past, to bring that person or event into the present via our memory, and to thereby change the present and the future through our remembering.
As we remember the saints, including those still with us, let us bring those memories into the present so that the present might be changed and, God willing, that the future might be changed as well.
The potential change that this anamnesis brings to our present and future, honors God. It also honors the sacrifice of all the saints who have gone before us and all the saints still among us.
Can I be a saint? Can you be a saint? I believe the clear answer is yes!!
How many saints are there? How many will there be? Those questions are answered by the lesson from Revelation, Chapter 7.
9After that I saw that there was a huge number, impossible for anyone to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted in a loud voice,10'Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'
The standard that Jesus sets is indeed a high standard.
But we are assured of forgiveness too in God's kingdom. We are to be welcomed into that great multitude of saints that no one can count.
We are to also stand before the throne of God at the end of time and sing along with all the saints:
"Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb."
Beloved, if there are any here who have not made a public commitment to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I invite you to come forward when we sing the commitment hymn.
A member of this congregation will pray with you here at the alter and help you with joining this faith community at Little Rock.
As we sing the commitment hymn, let's all of us remember the saints who have touched and still touch our lives with their love and sacrifice.
After we have finished the hymn if you would like to remember the saints in your life in prayer, please come forward and pray with me at the alter rail.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be all honor, power, dominion, praise and glory, this day and forevermore. Amen.
- Ezk 9:4.
- The sacred number 12 squared and multiplied by 1000 indicates the totality of the saved.
- Is 49:10.
- Is 21:4; Is 25:8.
1The New Jerusalem Bible. 1995, c1985. Includes indexes. (Re 7:9). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
2The New Jerusalem Bible. 1995, c1985. Includes indexes. (Ps 149:1). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
- Ps 37:11
- Gn 13:15.
3The New Jerusalem Bible. 1995, c1985. Includes indexes. (Mt 5:1). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.