All Saints’ Day
November 3, 2019
“The End Of Tears”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
“Are they ok?” That is what we want to know when people have gone through the hard moments in life. Are they ok? Someone gets a sudden illness and their life is now changed. Are they ok? Someone has an accident and life in now different. Are they ok? Relationships among family change – a divorce has happened or a separation has occurred. Are they ok?
Today we are not asking that question primarily about those who are living, but we are asking that concerning those who are dead. This is All Saints’ Sunday and we concern ourselves with the dead. Hymns like, “For All The Saints”, or “Behold, A Host Arrayed in White” are hymns about the dead.
So I wonder, are they ok? When my loved ones die, or yours, are they ok?
YES!! In fact they are much better than just ok. Ok is a “C”, it is mediocre, it is what the Broncos, Rockies and Colorado Buffaloes aspire to – trying to reach .500. But our saints, those who are in heaven are much better than ok.
Listen to what they now have, “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17) As Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
They are more than ok. They are more than just getting by. They are more than winning some and losing some. Those who lived and died in Jesus will have every tear wiped from their eyes. Some of the most memorable times in my life have been times when my eyes have filled with tears. I can still remember some of those days clearly even though years, even decades, have passed since the incident. Tears and the pain often assorted with them stay with you for a life-time.
Once I had to talk to one of my members about a sin that they were doing. I went to him. We spoke. He listened and he was crushed. I ripped his heart out. He was embarrassed. He was deeply sorry. And when I returned home I sobbed because of the pain that I had caused my friend.
I had tears when the mother of two small boys was killed in an instant on a highway that had iced over. I was the one to go to the boys to tell them that life had changed for them and for their mom. They had tears, their grandparents had tears, and I joined with them in their tears.
I have had tears when I was in the wrong in marriage. When I hurt my wife, when I failed to keep a promise, when my actions were not in step with what love looks like, tears were part of the confession. I know about tears. And I bet you know about them.
But, you see, they don’t have tears anymore. Those in heaven are ok. In this same book of Revelation this word is given. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.’” (Revelation 21:3-5) In Isaiah’s prophecy he tells us that everything is going to be ok, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:7-9)
They have no more tears of grief or pain or sorrow or regret or embarrassment. Why? Jesus took it away. In this great passage it says about Jesus and His work, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) There in an end to tears in heaven. Your loved ones and mine are just fine.
But here we have tears, and we should have tears. Life, here, is not how it should be. Life, here, is broken. Life, here, has sin and loss. We should be grieved when we do not do the will of God in our life. We should be broken when our ways with others are ugly and dirty, or when our words are filled with bitterness and hatred. We should have tears, now, for living a life that doesn’t have any love for God and even less for our neighbor. When the folks in the book of Acts heard the first sermon that Peter gave it tells us, “They were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37) Tears, now, are the right thing. We grieve over what we have done, or who we have become. We grieve because of how much sin has ruined our world and God’s good design for it. We grieve that so many people have no idea that God truly loves them and has a good plan for their life. Tears, now, are the exact right thing. Like Ecclesiastes says, “There is time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)
But even now God changes our tears to joy. Only He can do that in a real and permanent way. Two weeks ago I asked our wills planning workshop folks if they had been to a good funeral lately. Some have had the best experience at a funeral. They heard about a God who had given that loved one life on earth, with many graces, and now they have life in heaven with even more. They heard about Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) Do you know what a good funeral is? It is one in which God is invited to speak His word of life and strength, of love and hope. It is as Jesus said, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20b)
In the “Ask Amy” advice column from October 20 a writer was asking a question about the necessity of having a funeral or a service for someone who died. Part of the column said, “I’m not saying the event has to be a traditional gloomy religious experience…” Is that what Christianity is? “Gloomy religious experience”? I don’t think so. Joy. Victory. Praise. Revelation 7 doesn’t sound so gloomy, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Is it too late to change the title of my sermon? I’ve titled it, “The End of Tears.” It is true that there are no tears of sorrow or regret or pain or sorrow in heaven. Remember what I told you, “They’re ok”. But I hope I have tears in heaven. And I hope you do too. What emotion we will have when we see the One who has always had our best in mind in life. What joy we will have when we get to see our great God who has made us and our great God, Jesus, who has loved us with every ounce of His being. Face to face we will see Jesus who wanted to pay for our sin and bring peace to our mind. Face to face we will see Jesus whose rose from death so we would take on an immortal body. What adoration we will have when we join the saints in bowing to the greatness of God. I want to have a bucket full of tears to respond with my whole being in humility before my God.
“And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” There will be an end of tears in heaven. Every tear that shows grief and pain and loss and regret will be done. But tears for joy for the graces of God will only be beginning!!
Your loved ones, those who lived and died in Christ are just fine. And you, with faith in Christ, are fine, as well, today and forever. Amen!!