All Saints Day 2023
- 7 November 2023
- Stuart Robinson
The ferry back from Circular Quay to Rose Bay last Tuesday was unusually full.
Not that I minded.
I was intrigued by the crowd who’d packed aboard the ‘Emerald Class’, Pemulwuy.
That day, at that time, there were parents with very small children; business people on laptops and mobiles; old people – like me 😊, enjoying the view; cool, hip entrepreneurs talking loudly to each other about their ‘next big thing’; tourists in swimwear, tourists with walking frames, tourists taking selfies, tourists snapping endless shots of the ‘bridge’ and our stunning harbour foreshore…and whilst each person’s situation and focus was different – we all had this one thing in common:the captain of that 35 metre catamaran – even though we couldn’t see her or him – was skilfully carrying us all, without exception, to the destination to which she had set a course.
Quite unlike – I have to say – the hapless student sailors (from a local independent school) in the little dugouts who appeared to be entirely at the mercy of the tricky wind, and choppy, uneven swell – as we motored between Woollahra Point and Shark Island.
Whilst your life may at times feel like the kids in the sailing dinghy – being blown hither and yon by the boisterous storms and strong tides of life…the bible says our lot is more akin to the ferry.
And that is because even though we are occupied with any number of activities and distractions on the journey – we are still very much in the ‘Captains’ hands – and we are inexorably being drawn to our destination.
The course has been set.
The bible says so.
Indeed, there are two termini, as it were.
For those who have slaked their spiritual thirst with the ‘water of life’ (Revelation 21:6) – a term Jesus used in John 4:14 to refer to the refreshing and renewing that he offers to all who entrust their lives to him, there awaits the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ (Revelation 21:6).
For those who have spurned this gift of ‘life’ in all its fullness, there awaits judgement and an all-consuming death, says John in Revelation 20:15 – the verse immediately before our text today.
Friends, hear me well, you are not being blown along by happenstance or random possibility – like tiny boats in a merciless gale.
No, no – the ‘Captain’ is at the helm.
Let me explain:
John’s vision – in Revelation 21 verses 3- 6, speaks of a voice emanating from the very throne of heaven declaring, ‘it is complete, it is done…I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the End”.
Yes – all time and all history has its origins in, and owes its existence – in its entirety, to this ‘’Alpha and Omega”, this One who describes themselves as the, “Beginning and the End”.
And did you note the other claim this, “Alpha and Omega”, makes?
Verse 5 – these ‘words are trustworthy and true’.
Here is why: The person making these claims is God-in-Christ, himself; our risen Lord Jesus.
In the very next chapter – this voice from the throne declares again (Revelation 22:13, 16, 20) – “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the beginning and the end…and I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message…and I will come to you, soon”.
Do you see?
Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, in concert with God the Father (Revelation 21:3), and God the Spirit (Revelation 22:17), is superintending, and overseeing, and inexorably drawing to its final destination – all time and all life as we know it.
History has its end point in Jesus.
We all have our end point in Jesus.
And because that end point is just a heartbeat away, it is imperative that we heed what are almost the very final words of the bible.
Repeating Jesus’ plea and promise, John declares in Revelation 22:17, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes, take the free gift of the water of life.”
Have you done that, beloved?
Is your name, to borrow from Revelation 20:15, ‘written in the book of life” …the ‘register’ of the saints, the names of those who’ve responded to Jesus’ invitation?
Let me take a moment to help us see – as John does – exactly what is in store for the church of God on this All-Saints’ Day, under three heads:
So first, transformation.
It is revealed to John that a time is coming when the created order will be transformed and restored – a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ – verse 1.
The old order – in which we are currently immersed, will pass away we are told in verses 1 and 4.
But not only is the created order transformed and restored – so too are the ‘saints’, the people of God, transformed; you will be ‘clothed’ or raised imperishable, says I Corinthians 15:52-53, in a ‘flash’, in the ‘blink of an eye’.
The images that John employs for us, the church of God, are of a heaven-prepared Holy City, a ‘new Jerusalem’, and of a pristine bride, eagerly awaiting her betrothed.
The point is that the heart of God beats fast for his precious people – the church…and transformation and restoration is his ‘end game’ for us, and for the created order.
Enmity and chaos have no place in this new order.
We know this because – the ancient metaphor for chaos – the sea – in all its unpredictability and instability, no longer exists (verse 1).
Yes, chaos, and disorder, and unmet longings (the consequence of sin – Genesis 3:14ff) will not even be distant memories – says verse 4, “there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!”
Third, and finally,fellowship.
Through Christ, all the barriers between us and our creator God have been removed (Ephesians 2:14).
And a time is coming when we’ll enjoy fellowship with God – face to face; God dwells with his people (verse 3).
The image is one of proximity, and intimacy where God himself “wipes every tear from their eyes” – verse 4.
God dwells with his people – who in turn dwell at peace and in rapturous celebration with one another.
St John writes in Revelation 7:9ff, ‘after this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no person could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne of God and the Lamb [the Lord Jesus] and they declared in a loud voice, ‘salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’…never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst…for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’.
May we pray?
In this season of disorder and chaos we indeed ‘come’ to you, Lord Jesus.
Thank you that you are at the helm.
Have mercy on this broken and divided world.
As you – for the joy set before you endured the scorn of the cross (Hebrews 12), give us grace – for the joy set before us, to endure the vagaries of this life – and in so doing may we point people to you – in whom is found, the spring of the water of life.