A sermon for All Saints Day, November 1, 2015
Trinity Church of Morrisania, Bronx, New York
Look! The home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them, they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Today is an important day. It is the Feast of All Saints, when we celebrate all of the holy people of God, of all times and ages. Today is also the first anniversary of the death of Father Allen Newman, who was priest in charge at Trinity for seven years. On All Saints Sunday, a year ago I first met you in this Church, and that has been more important for me than I can explain. But most important, today we baptize two new Christians into the Body of Christ.
The Book of Revelation is the Vision at the end of the Bible that opens up the possibilities for our future with God. It does this in the context of all the things that might happen, and particularly those that we would fear. A big part of those ghosts and goblins that we experience on Halloween (which is just old timey speak for the evening before All Saints Day) is that those ghosts and goblins represent our fears and the dangers that assail the saints of God—that assail all of us.
Our lesson today from Revelation shows God’s Holy City arriving, pure, without any of the hurts and harms that we human beings have wrought on themselves and one another. It says that it was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Two weeks ago, Paula and I were at a wedding. The bride is a person who is always beautiful, always stylish, always independent. But on this day, it was something extraordinary. She had chosen a beautiful dress, appropriate to the occasion, but it was the bride’s radiance that adorned the room. She was prepared for her new life, a future with her beloved, filled with hope, and filled with all those characteristics of each of them, including independence, intelligence and respect for others. That white dress was symbolic of going into that future unsullied and unafraid.
Those things are what that new Jerusalem represents—a future that God’s people entered, hopeful, fully alive, unsullied and unafraid. That city is the home of God. And a voice comes down from heaven and it says, “Look—the dwelling of God is among people.”
God is here with us, welcoming us, sustaining us, giving us joy and hope. But it also says something else: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Not that there will be no tears. We know we are talking about real life now. In real life there is suffering and there are tears, and God will wipe them away with his comfort and his presence.
We are baptizing these infants in this real world, a world in which many suffer, and many die. This month a year ago, we lost Allen and Keith. And there were tears. But in Jesus Christ, God has come among us, and dwelt with us. His facing death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead are also in that real world. God wipes away our tears and abolishes death by partaking of our life and death.
When we are baptized into Christ’s death that font is filled with all the tears of all the generations of our ancestors. But it is also filled with the fresh water of the new creation. The children will be baptized into the resurrection of Christ, where all tears have been wiped away and death is no more. They embark on a life growing up with the saints. There are saints in our background—of long ago, the apostles and martyrs of the early church; of recent history like Martin Luther King or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the young theologian who was executed by the Nazis or Nelson Mandela; or prominent contemporary witnesses such as Desmond Tutu or Michael Curry who will be installed as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church this afternoon; or people from the heritage of this parish such as Allen Newman, Keith Warren or Father Wendell Roberts.
But these children will also grow up among the saints who are right here and right now. You also have been baptized into the resurrection of Christ—we are all witnesses to Christ’s love, to his death and to his resurrection. We live together in this real world, and all of our children live with us in the reality of this world. And that reality is the life and love of God who dwells here with us. We are the saints for these children who will be the saints of the next generation.
There is always more truth to emerge from scripture, no matter how many times we read it. And every time we have a reading from scripture, there is always more that follows it. This lesson from Revelation stops in the middle of a verse. I am going to read the end of that lesson again for you and include the rest of that verse:
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
We are all invited to the spring of the water of life, we share in one baptism and we live with God among us. Let us now proceed to the baptismal font.