Meditation on Revelation 7:9-17
Pastor Karen Crawford
All Saints’ Day
Nov. 1, 2020
What time is it? No, really?
I’m still trying to figure out the whole Daylight Savings thing. Did we really gain an hour by turning our clocks back, or did we lose an hour, since we had to get up an hour earlier?
Did you know that only a minority of the world’s population uses DST? Asia and Africa don’t. Parts of Australia do; other parts don’t. What’s even more confusing for Americans is that some states do and some don’t. I guess, everyone gets to decide what time it is. Arizona and Hawaii never bother to change their clocks, ever. They think they have an abundance of sunlight, all year round.
Daylight Savings was another one of Benjamin Franklin’s ideas, though he rarely gets credit for it. In 1784, he wrote an essay to the editor of the Journal of Paris called, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” He calculated that Parisians could save on candles by getting out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead. By his calculations, the total savings by the citizens of Paris would be the approximate equivalent of $200 million today.
Nothing came of it till World War I. Germany observed it to conserve fuel in 1916, and Europe soon followed. The U.S. adopted the Standard Time Act of 1918, which set summer Daylight Savings Time to begin on March 31 of that year. The idea was unpopular, especially with farmers. Daylight Savings Time meant they had less time in the morning to get their milk and harvested crops to market. Congress abolished DST after the war and left it up to local option. New York City continued to observe it, while rural areas in New York State did not. It came back in WWII, and was more common after that, especially since the 1970s, in spite of year round standard time being better for our physical and mental health.
So, I ask you again, what time is it? Really?
Jesus has a whole different idea about time than we do. 2 Peter 3:8-9 explains why: it’s all for the benefit of humanity! “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends,” Peter says. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’”
This is important for us to understand today, on All Saints’, when we look back to honor and remember the saints, especially our loved ones who went home to be with the Lord this year. We give thanks for the gift of their lives and how knowing and loving them has helped to make us the people we are today. We look back at the One whose work for our sakes has made us all “saints”—those who endure, says Revelation 14:12, and keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
On All Saints’, we look around the sanctuary and beyond the church walls to the entire community of faith, worshiping together, in person and virtually. We give God thanks for bringing us thus far through all the hard things that we have overcome together as a congregation, with God’s help. Because it’s been a hard year for all the saints. And we pray for the Spirit to continue working in us, so that we are pleasing to God in the future that God alone knows and holds in his hand.
And we look ahead to the Great Day of the Lord, when the promises of God come to fruition. We are filled with hope and courage and strength to keep on running the race with the Great Cloud of Witnesses cheering us on.
So, we look back. We look around and beyond to our community of faith. We look ahead and pray. For all the saints.
In the book of Revelation, we find hope for the Church of every age—persevering through times of suffering and trials, persecution and pandemics, waiting and longing for the promises to be fulfilled.
“Look! He is coming with the clouds,” says chapter 1:7-8, “and every eye shall see him; even those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of him. Yes! Amen. I am the Alpha and Omega,” says the Lord God, Who IS and Who Was and Who Is To Come, the Almighty.”
We can understand the book of Revelation better when we consider the time in which John of Patmos lived. The Roman Empire was huge, ruling over hundreds of cultures in the first century! From England to Africa to Syria to Spain, one in every four people on earth lived and died under Roman law. The Empire in the first century has been described as a mix of “sophistication with brutality and could suddenly lurch from civilization, strength and power to terror, tyranny and greed.” (https://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/index.html)
Rome had a state religion, with priests that led the formal worship of public gods, such as Jupiter and Mars. The priests paid tribute to the gods on behalf of Rome “to gain the blessing of the gods and thereby gain prosperity for themselves, their families and communities.” Roman gods didn’t demand strong moral behavior from their followers. The only thing that mattered was adhering to the religious rituals. Each god required “an image, usually a statue of relief in stone or bronze—and an altar or temple at which to offer the prayers and sacrifices.”
Think about how different the state religion was from the Way of Jesus Christ, a religion of the heart, seeking transformation, following Christ, loving and serving, submitting to God’s will for the sake of others.
We can imagine the people in John of Patmos’ time would be astounded by his vision—so different than their reality, just as it is different from our experience today, when the Body of Christ, though united by the Spirit, is broken by divisions too numerous to name. “A great multitude that no one can count, from every nation,” says Revelation 7, beginning at verse 9, “all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” The people of God in the Day of the Lord are no longer intolerant of diversity or differences of any kind, in language, culture, wealth and status, or the color of their skin; hearts and minds are centered on the Lamb of God, as John 1:29 tells us, who takes away the sin of the world.
They are clothed in white, reminding us of that scripture in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
What a radical belief for those living under oppressive Roman rule—that “salvation belongs” not to the Empire or anything in this world but “to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The same is true about those gathered on the mountainside listening to Christ’s teaching about the Kingdom in Matthew 5. They are astounded by his vision of a world so different from their reality, also in the Roman Empire, some years before. What’s amazing is that Jesus mixes the tense of his verbs; present and future overlap, because, well, God’s time isn’t our understanding of time at all.
God has already redeemed our past, present, and future in Jesus Christ!
What we read in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and in Revelation have already come true. The work for our salvation has already been done. What’s left is for us to live by faith and reveal a glimpse of this vision to the world that doesn’t know Him, a vision of a world where the poor in spirit ARE blessed. Where those who mourn ARE comforted. Where the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the persecuted, and the peacemakers ARE blessed.
“Rejoice and be glad,” Jesus says, “for your reward IS great in heaven!”
So I ask you again, my friends. What time is it? Really?
Time to serve others. To comfort those who mourn and share the burden of grief.
Time to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Join with Christ in His ministry of reconciliation. Pray for wisdom and courage to help heal what is broken in this world. May we resist the temptation to look the other way when we see injustice and oppression, prejudice and racism. It’s time to stand up to bullies. To speak the truth and not be afraid or say, “Nothing will ever change. Or it’s always been that way.”
Time to be united by faith in Christ alone and not let anything in this world, things don’t matter for eternity, divide or defeat us.
A thousand years is like a day for our Lord!
The Lamb on the throne IS our shepherd, guiding us NOW to springs of the water of life.
He wipes our tears away.
Let us pray.
Holy One, thank you for the vision to John of Patmos of the Lamb on the throne, the shepherd who guides us to drink deeply of the spring of the water of life. The one to whom salvation belongs. Thank you for all that you have done for us, helping us overcome difficulties not just this year, but always. Thank you for your everlasting presence with all the saints gathered here and those in every time and place. Thank you for the gift of their lives and their faith, and how we are different, better, because of them. Lead us to trust one another and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and share one another’s burdens. Comfort those who mourn. Heal the sick and those suffering with depression. Stir us to hunger and thirst for righteousness and teach us how to work for peace and justice. Give us eyes to see and hearts to reveal a vision of hope to those who are lost and hurting. Grant us courage to let go of the things that divide us, things that don’t matter in your time, for all eternity. Through the Lamb of God we pray. Amen.