What is heaven like?

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All Saints Sunday, November 5, 2017, Year A

Revelation 7.9-17; Psalm 34.1-10, 22; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace and peace to you from the One who remembers us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What is heaven like? Where are our loved ones? Will anyone remember me?

We think about and ask these kinds of questions on days like today, in which we read from the book of Revelation and celebrate “All Saints Sunday.”

If you have ever wondered what heaven is like, read the verses from Revelation chapter 7 again. There is a great multitude of people, too many for anyone to count, from all nations, and tribes, and languages. I just have to pause here to recognize the beauty of such diversity among the population of heaven. It is a melting pot of people with different skin colors and hair texture and cultures. Beautiful.

And what are they doing? They are proclaiming: “Salvation belongs to our God …” They are worshipping God and singing.

According to revelation, our loved ones who have died are before the throne of God. They hunger and thirst no more. God shelters and shepherds them, guides them and wipes every tear from their eyes.

I know when our loved ones die there can be little that truly comforts our intense grief and longing for them. The pain and the loss we feel is a reminder to us of just how much we love and miss them.

We can take comfort in the hope of being with them again, in the great multitude, with our tears being wiped away by Jesus himself.

I have a number of relatives who have died, along with some friends, and also a spouse. For me, it’s not a matter of whether or not I will see them again, but rather, the when of when God will also bring me through death into eternal life.

We have faith that God holds our loves ones who have died, and God also holds you and me who are still on this earth. In the great mystery that is life and death, and thin veil between heaven and earth, all things are held together in Christ.

To the question, “Will anyone remember me?” I answer with confidence: Yes. Nothing and no one is lost to God. God remembers you, not only right now in this life, but God remembers you in, through, and after your own death.

There is a song I often think of this time of year, especially around All Saint’s Sunday. It’s called “Nothing is Lost.” It says:

Nothing is lost to the heart of God,

nothing is lost for ever;

God’s heart is love, and that love will remain,

holding the world for ever …

no beginning too late, no ending too soon,

but is gathered and known in God’s goodness.

–        Colin Gibson 1994

Today we remember those who have died. We name them. We light candles. It’s important and good to do these things.

I mentioned last week that Jon and Liz’s aunt and uncle came to visit us. Over lunch they told stories of some of their family members long since dead. Another story was of a woman by the name of Elizabeth Anonby, who happens to be their great-great-great-great grandmother. She lived in the mid to late 1800s. A letter was shared with us that she wrote on her deathbed to her 3 daughters.

She wrote:

“To my dear children, so often remembered:

I realize that the time is approaching when I must leave you fatherless and motherless; although not fatherless if you will be obedient to God. He will never forsake you. He will be a true Father that is willing and able to help you both to body and soul. Forget not to pray for help whatever need befall you as He alone is true friend that never fails in time of need. Ask Him for light and understanding and desire for His Word. There you have the way that leads to life.

Yes, I will commit you into God’s hands. He will be your refuge in life and in death. The same Blood of Christ is shed for you as for me.

-Elizabeth Olson Anonby”

These saints in our lives are ordinary people with extraordinary faith. These are not people who had all the answers, but rather, people who trusted God above all else and encouraged others to do the same.

May you be encouraged and strengthened in your faith this All Saint’s Sunday, and may you receive the comfort and peace God offers when we remember those who have died, knowing they are lovingly held in the hands of God.