Scripture Readings: Revelation 7:9–17 | Psalm 34 | 1 John 3:1–3 | Matthew 5:1–12
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
(1 John 3:1).
How many of us remember having to sit at the “kid’s table” at family get togethers and holidays? For those who do, what did it feel like? Were you excited to have a bit of time away from the prying eyes and ears of parents… where you didn’t have to worry so much about being polite… or sticking to reasonable portion sizes of dessert?
Or maybe you felt a bit envious… a bit left out of the adult conversations and fellowship? Counting down the years before you would get to be included in this more mature branch of the family?
Now of course, there are lots of reasons why families might opt for adult and kid’s tables at get-togethers… and I can imagine it probably made things a lot easier for all involved. But as much as it might make sense in practice, having separate tables for adults and children… necessarily… separates the family… cutting off the interactions between the generations, and maybe even creating the impression that some members of the gathering are more welcome… more important more special than the others.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about family gatherings in this light before… and I’m certainly not trying to make anyone feel bad about how their families sort through the details of their get-togethers. Goodness knows, every family has its own rhythms, traditions, and ways of doing things.
But when it comes to the family gatherings of the Living God… the good news is there is no such separation. God doesn’t have a kid’s table… all are invited to dine with Him.
Today our Church Family is celebrating the Feast of All Saints, a day when we remember our connection to the entire family of God… past, present, and future. It’s a day we remember the beautiful truth of the Communion of Saints… the bond we share in Jesus Christ that even death itself is powerless to sever.
All Saints Day brings to mind many of our amazing brothers and sisters in Christ, whose lives and stories make known God’s holy love in all sorts of unexpected and remarkable ways. It’s a day we can cherish their legacies, and learn from their examples.
And yet, sometimes the way we think about ‘saints’ can cause some deep misunderstandings about our place within God’s family… misunderstandings that can have real implications for how we choose to live here and now.
For many, ‘saints’ seem like a completely separate class of Christian. An elite and elevated few, destined for spiritual greatness… models of piety and purity… almost a different species from the rest of us regular folk.
But the truth is, ‘sainthood’ is really our shared identity! It’s not just for a chosen few to become saints, it’s the common calling and destiny of all who are in Jesus Christ.
Being a saint, in other words, is simply what it means to be children of the Living God in this world. To be those growing up in His holy love throughout their lives, and into eternity.
So when we commemorate All Saints Day, we remember along with the well-know heroes of our faith, the rest of us ‘regular believers’ too… everyday Christians committed to living God’s way, whether anyone notices us or not… following Jesus Christ, and letting His Spirit shape and guide us into God’s new life, even today.
But sometimes… sometimes it’s hard to celebrate All God’s Saints. Sometimes it seems easier to just become disillusioned with the Church and our fellow Christians, especially when we’re not seeming to see and saint-like lives and behaviour out in our world… when those who claim loudly to be living God’s way carry on causing all sorts of self-centred wickedness.
The hypocrisy and failures of those claiming to be God’s faithful followers has always been a real source of concern, to be sure. And at times, we can be tempted to think that sainthood is more of a dream than reality. But our Scripture readings today give us good reason to hold onto hope in this regard… a hope not based on us at all, but on the saving grace of God that’s still at work in our world.
In our first reading today from the Book of Revelation Chapter 7, we’re given a glimpse of the reality from God’s perspective, through the grand vision granted to St. John the Divine.
In the vision, St. John sees a multitude of people from every nation… every branch of the human family, standing before the heavenly throne, clothed in white, and singing praises to God and to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, the crucified and Risen Lord of all.
Far from a defeated minority, left in misery and despair, St. John sees the vast communion of saints as a choir caught up in heavenly worship.
Far from a few pockets of likeminded people, with St. John we see humans from every corner of the world, joining their voices together in the song of praise and joy.
And far from being segregated and separated from one another, the saints are united in the one anthem… glorifying the Father of all, and His Son, the one Saviour of the world.
This vision is the destiny of the Communion of Saints: divisions set aside, replaced by divine harmonies; each one bringing their own joy-filled voice to compliment and elevate each other. And this is the direction Jesus is leading His people even now… preparing us to share His holy love with all God’s children for eternity.
This heavenly vision stands out as an open rebuke to our fractured society… exposing the lies and the sin at the heart of the racism, sexism, and everything else that cuts us off from one another, and from the holy love of God.
The theologian Ben Myers makes this point about the Church in his book on the Apostle’s Creed: “There is no social barrier that could exclude a person from inclusion in this body. The boundaries of the church are as wide as the human race… The gospel is not addressed to one particular social class or ethnic group. It is addressed to every imaginable human being. There is nobody in the world for whom the message of Jesus could be irrelevant.”
When it comes to God’s family, the Good News of Jesus Christ has open the door for absolutely everyone to come to the table.
But if this vision granted to St. John is a rebuke to our deeply divided world, that rebuke shines a bright spotlight on our sad divisions within the worldwide Church today.
We Christians who claim to be God’s children, living in faithfulness, growing in love, and sharing in a holy and heavenly hope, seem to have a really hard time getting along, and remaining in communion with one another. You don’t need me to go through the long and tragic history of the Church’s shattered fellowship this morning.
But even so, and maybe especially so, we need to be reminded again and again that despite all our brokenness, we are all members of just One Body, united to One Lord and through Him, to one another… a reality not just for eternity, but one we’re called to embody… to live out right now. After all, we believe, not in the segregation, but in the Communion of the Saints.
This is not an added extra… something we get to put off until we feel like getting around to it. We’re talking about one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith… part of the package of the Good News of Jesus, the Gospel, that calls us to address these divisions both in our daily lives, and in our communities. The Communion of Saints is a living reality… binding us Christians to one another… and even keeping us connected to those who have died in the Lord.
Again, Ben Myers says it well. Please excuse the long quote: “The greatest barrier that divides human beings from one another is not culture or language or class. The greatest barrier is death. It splits the human family into the two classes of the living and the dead. All other social divisions are petty compared to this great division. All human beings are powerless before this fundamental boundary. But in the resurrection Jesus has stepped across the barrier and restored communion between the living and the dead. He has formed one family that stretches out not only across space but also across time. The body of Christ is the most inclusive community imaginable because it includes not only those who are now living but also all believers who have ever lived.”
When we gather around God’s table, we do so with one another in this room, but also with every single human being who has ever or will ever belong by Christ’s side.
In Him, we are truly one… whether or not we get along now… we will have to one day. In Christ, we are reconciled to God and each other, and all divisions will finally be overcome by Him.
This is the most hopeful part of St. John’s vision in this morning’s reading from Revelation: the recognition that what makes the union… the Communion of Saint possible at all is that all the saints have been made saints by what Jesus Christ has done for us all at the cross.
“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
What we share in common, what binds us together as Christians in the Communion of Saints is nothing other than the saving blood of Jesus Christ, which alone can wash away our sin, and set us free to share in God’s holy love.
Jesus Christ God’s Son is Himself the hope of all saints… He is the source of our peace, our joy, our comfort and our fellowship. Revelation 7:15-17,
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
It is Jesus Himself who sets us apart… no one’s supposed superhuman spirituality, purity or piety plays a part. Being in communion with Jesus Christ Himself is what can make saints of us sinners… with His Holy Spirit at work in us making us more and more like Him… even now!
After all, we’re not called to become saints someday… it’s God’s intentions for all of His children to share in His holy love all our days… for all God’s children to keep growing in the likeness of our Saviour Jesus.
Remember what was said in our reading from the first letter of St. John this morning:
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2).
In Christ, we are God’s children now. And we will be made even more like Jesus, which St. John sees as a source of great motivation for us all to live a life set apart for God. 1 John 3:3, “And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” Purity, holiness, sainthood means seeking God’s grace to become like Jesus. It’s not about gaining status or glory, or winning a seat at the high table, but about receiving God’s gracious invitation to join Him at His table, and with all the saints of every age to share in the life of His beloved Son.
God doesn’t have a kid’s table… all are invited together to dine with Him.
There is no separation of saints by their own achievements. We’re all invited through what Jesus our Saviour has done for us all at the cross.
There are no second class citizens, but as children all are welcomed, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to grow more and more Godly… more and more like our Heavenly Father, in the likeness of Jesus Christ.
And though we might often be distracted by our own brokenness and our sad divisions, we can truly believe in the Communion of Saints because we believe in the Good News of Jesus at work in the lives of His people… His children. And what’s more, we’re called to put this belief into practice in the time we have together.
So let us come to Christ’s Table in faith, and join with our sisters and brothers across every age, and celebrate and give thanks for God’s gracious love in Jesus Christ… the hope of all saints. Amen.
 Ben Myers, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, ed. Todd Hains, Jeff Reimer, and Sarah Awa, Christian Essentials (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 104.
 Ben Myers, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, ed. Todd Hains, Jeff Reimer, and Sarah Awa, Christian Essentials (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 105.
Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School