Sunday, November 6, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Daniel 7:1, 13-18
Time as we know it has now changed. Last night we manipulated our clocks and set them back one hour in order to have more hours of daylight. At least that’s the way we rationalize daylight savings time, although in reality it doesn’t really add more hours to our day. We just trick ourselves into thinking that we can somehow alter time to fit our needs. We like to think that we can somehow alter time, make it stand still, turn back the hands of time if even for a little while.
Time travel has always been something that has intrigued people throughout the centuries. Scientists try and see if they can somehow break the space time continuum in order to step back into the past or enter into the realm of the future. We’d like to imagine the possibility to be able to change those events in our past that we could have made different choices with the information we have now, or to go into the future and change the course of history as we would like it to be. But we cannot alter time and the events of the past cannot be rewritten. We live in the space between the past and the future. We live in the present, a space that for many people is hard to live in.
As we gather here this morning to celebrate All Saints Day, we linger in that in-between space-the space between the past and the future. For many that is quite an uncomfortable space to dwell. We want answers to our questions. We long for certainty. We look for signs. The space between leaves us hanging between yesterday and tomorrow, between regret and peace, between doubt and hope. Today- right now- the present moment can be a challenging place to be.
Experiencing the death of a loved one, whether yesterday or a year or more ago, the space between sorrow and joy is unsettling. The way things used to be is no longer. The past brings up images and dreams of things we long for again. Our hearts may be raw and open with the longing to return to what was. It can be a painful time. Like the prophet Daniel, we may have visions of the future – frightening visions – that we can’t understand as we wonder what the future will bring now that our lives have changed so drastically. We know we can’t go back and yet there is a fear of moving forward. There is a fear that perhaps we are losing something if we do. We May even feel a sense of betrayal in finding joy again. And so we try to avoid looking into the future too far because we are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid perhaps to even hope.
We live in the space between what was and what is to come. And this present space can be unsettling because it’s often filled with struggle, pain, hardship, suffering, and death. Yes, death is still a reality in our present state. And no matter how hard we try and avoid it or pretend it will not happen, death will come to us all and that reality leaves us uncomfortable in this space between God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven. We long for some kind of continuity between time – a unity that connects the past, the present, and the future – something that transcends time itself.
Our reading from Daniel eliminated verses 13 & 14, but they are important one to mention. Daniel writes, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power, all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” He speaks about the Ancient One – the One who was before the beginning of time and the One who will remain through time. In God we have our hope and our unity that transcends the boundaries of time. Daniel ends verse 18 with the promise that “the hoy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever – forever and ever.” Who are the holy ones? They are the saints – all the saints – made saints because they are chosen by God.
So often we think of saints as those special individuals who live such righteous and godly lives that they are worthy to be called saints. But the holy ones – the saints – are all those whom God chooses to bestow grace, and mercy, love, and forgiveness on. And God chooses to bless all who believe with these fits. This is the great inheritance we have all received through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. In the letter to the Ephesians we hear that “in Christ we have also received an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to this council and will, so that we were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” What an inheritance! And this has been passed down through all generations through all the saints – past, present, and future.
This inheritance of God’s grace transcends time and space. This inheritance unifies the saints of all the ages. This inheritance holds us all together as the body of Christ – saints from the past, saints of the future, and we saints sitting her today. This inheritance is what fills the space between and gives us hope in the midst of our struggles and pain. This inheritance is what takes ordinary people and infuses them with God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to be saints of God living for the praise of God’s glory.
This is why Jesus says, “Blessed are you.” We are indeed blessed because God has chosen us – ordinary, imperfect, sinful, doubtful, and fearful people – to be saints of God. Through Jesus Christ we are made righteous before God and receive this inheritance. God has a plan, a vision, a mystery, of oneness with Christ for all people. This vision includes all the saints – past, present, and future. In Christ it’s not only we here today who are unified, but all the saints of all the ages unified into something bigger than ourselves. Like coals in a fire – the church throughout he ages will continue to burn with the fire of God’s holy love. Alone, a single coal will quickly cool and die, but together all the saints of God’s holy church continue to burn brightly even in the darkest of times. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
We saints here on earth are supported by the saints who have gone to be with God before us. The work they did continues on through us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are strengthened to carry on the work of Christ’s kingdom here on earth. We are united in our efforts with all the saints of every age through our unity in Christ.
We don’t have to try and alter time for Christ’s resurrection power transcends all time and space. Christ’s resurrection power connects the past, the present, and the future. Christ’s resurrection power is the hope for all the saints. May we with all the saints of all the ages live for the praise of God’s glory now and forever. Amen!