You Heard Their Voice
All Saints' Day, Year A, RCL Revelation 7:9-17, Matthew 5:1-12
The Book of Revelation is not one of my favorite books. The stories it presents are often obscured by coded imagery, ancient oracles, and numerology, which few, if any, of us truly understand. But today, we have more clear imagery. We are shown a multitude of people, from all over the globe coming before Christ the Lamb. We are witnessing this portrayal of Judgment Day, the day of our resurrection and entry into the heavenly kingdom.
Our Christian hope tells us that we are one of these countless beings dressed in white. We are amongst all God’s faithful people, including those who came before us and those who will come after. Through our faith in Christ's life, death, and resurrection, AND through our death and our resurrection on the last day, our clothes, or maybe our souls, are washed white with the blood of the Lamb. The passage says that the Lamb is our shepherd who will guide us to the springs of life, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. I could end my sermon right here, for this is, in a nutshell, the Gospel message. Through our faith and in Christ, we have eternal life. Though this is our Christian hope, and it is what we profess every Sunday, I’m not sure we realize to the extent that we are physically connected to this group clothed in white.
When we come here, to this communion rail, we never come to this rail alone. We are with this great cloud of witnesses. There are more people here than just those in the pews around us. Every Christian who has come before you is joining you at this rail to partake in the foretaste of the heavenly banquet. I know this is a hard concept to think about. It may be even harder to believe that all these people are physically here with us. It's much easier to believe that they are only spiritually present. But I say they are physically here
Imagine for a moment if there was a poltergeist in this room running around messing up (Insert Name)’s hair, tossing books at people, and making noise. Few of you would say you are only spiritually impacted by that being. You would know that you were physically impacted. This being physically touched someone in the pew next to you. You heard their voice and the sound of a Prayer Book getting tossed across the room. When Christ was resurrected, he was with his disciples in a physical body. He ate with them, he sat with them, he talked to them, he asked for them to touch him. Was he a spiritual being? Well, yes. But he was also a physical being.
The distance between a physical and spiritual being is very thin. Each of us are physical and spiritual beings. When I close my eyes and think of my grandmother's apartment, I can smell it. I can hear her footsteps. I can feel her presence. If I lean back, ever so gently, while thinking of my grandfather, I can feel his warm embrace. Is this just a symptom of an overactive imagination? Or is this simply a spiritual connection? Or could it be a physical connection that is beyond time and space? In my conversations, I know some of you feel the presence of a lost loved one, a parent, or a spouse. And we in this church still feel the presence of Lannie, Charlie, Susan, and so many others.
When we think of dimensions, we commonly think of three: length, width, and height. Many of us understand time as being the fourth dimension. But this thought is a century out of date. The fourth dimension is spacetime. It’s not just time, nor is it space, it’s a convergence of these two inseparable things. As I mentioned this idea isn’t new. It’s been around for 100 years and pioneered by Albert Einstein and Max Palank. But the term has just recently made its way into the mainstream because the average person is now being exposed to aspects of quantum mechanics and the very odd way it works.
I’m not going to go into details of quantum physics, but for us, this means that an event that happened in this very moment from one perspective could have also happened thousands of years ago from another perspective. In other words, someone who died two thousand years ago could easily arrive in the presence of God on the same day you do, even though you died thousands of years apart. Or for that matter a loved one who died yesterday may already be in heaven, even though they arrived at the same time you do, years into the future. So, I believe that when someone dies, we don’t only have a spiritual connection but a physical quantum connection.
For most of us, I expect that this sounds like wonderful news. We will be rejoined with our loved ones. But for those who may have been abused, this may be horrifying. When we look at the end of this passage from Revelation we find that we are not the same in heaven as we are on earth. We are in the presence of the almighty whom we worship day and night, God gives us shelter where there is no more hunger or thirst, and every pain and tear will be wiped from their eyes. The things that we are unable to change about ourselves here on earth, God brings to perfection in the next world. While here on earth, it may be that we have disdain for someone, yet when we arrive into the next life we will have the same grace and ability to forgive that God has for us.
This is why Christ can claim blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. Blessed are those who are persecuted or reviled. It's not that life here on earth is wonderful all the time. And I suspect for those Christ is talking about, it’s not wonderful most of the time. But in the next life, our hardships become blessings, and our generosity and our ability to help those now in this moment, become blessings.
We are connected in deep ways that science is only beginning to touch on. But our faith has held up this connection before we could write it down. On this All Saint’s Day, remember that your loved ones are not a long way away, for they are with you now and always.