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November 1, 2020 – “Children of God”
Revelation 7: 9-17, 1 John 3: 1-3, Matthew 5: 1-12
Today, on All Saints Sunday, we celebrate the Communion of Saints, that great Cloud of Witnesses that has gone before us in service to God and to Gospel.
Those who gave their lives to the Gospel, and those who gave up their lives for it.
Remembering who we are (as Christians), where we have come from, and who has walked the path before us reminds us of who we are as followers of Christ.
The simple truth of the matter, the Good News for today, is that we are Children of God.
Above all else, above all of our other loyalties, or ties, or identities, we are first and foremost Children of the Living God made known in Jesus Christ.
This reality, our standing as Children of God is one of those things that is simple to know and to remember, but often not so easy to live by.
Just as last week, when we reflected on the Greatest Commandment of Jesus Christ to Love God and Love Neighbour before all else, we are this day reminded of fundamentally who we are, as Children of God.
In our reading from 1 John this morning, the Apostle John spells out the Joy and the Hope of this reality for us:
1 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. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when heis revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
John Joyfully proclaims the present reality as well as the hope of the future reality:
What Love God (the Father) has for us, that we should be called Children of God; and that is what we are
Beloved, we are God’s children now
And of the future, John says:
What we will be has not yet been revealed, (but yet)
What we do know is this. When He (that is Christ) is revealed, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.
And all who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as he is pure
The Joy and Hope that John names is the same Joy and Hope that all of the Saints have lived in since the time of His resurrection:
We are God’s Children; what a joyful, loving reality this is that we are God’s Children Now, just as we are.
But not only that! We also live in the hope that what is to come, though it has not yet been revealed will be made known to us when Christ is revealed to us.
And even greater still: That we will be like Christ when He is revealed.
This Hope of seeing Christ ‘as He is’ is not only our shared reality, our identity in Christ, it is our purifying Hope.
This two-part reality; the joyful reality of who we are and the purifying reality of what we are to become is what every Saint in the Great Communion of Saints has shared since the time of Christ.
The same joy and hope, simply expressed in the reality that God took on human flesh and dwelt among us, that God ate with sinners and tax collectors, that God taught the meek and strengthened the grieving, this same God has lived, died, and risen from the dead, that we might be with Him (and with His Father and Our Father) forever.
This same joy and hope has made Christian discipleship from something which 12 ordinary fellows once practised out in the back roads of Judea to a world- and life- changing movement that has been making saints for 2000 years; from John and Simon-Peter to Augustine to Martin Luther King Jr. to all of the mothers and fathers of faith we have known in our own lives.
To hear John tell it, and to believe in his words, is to believe that we are so blessed to be living in the Communion of 2000 years of Saints, all of whom are living in the joy and the hope of Christ Himself, God made flesh.
We are, as John proclaims, blessed people.
People who are blessed to know who God became for us, who this saviour is, and the life He calls us to live in His name.
And yet, for all the joy we and our Christian brothers and sisters feel, for all of the hope that we look forward in seeing Christ as He is, there is a problem.
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are less-than-eager to describe ourselves in John’s words:
To describe ourselves as blessed, or even to talk openly about the joy and the hope that we live by as children of God.
With the American presidential election looming, with a global pandemic that is in its second wave, and with the actions and opinions we have seen from people who describe themselves as “blessed” or as “Christians” in the media, we (in this part of the church, in this part of the world) have been even quieter than usual about the hope we have in Christ.
It’s not that we are ashamed of Christ, or of our reality as God’s children, or of the Communion of Saints, many of us just do not want to be caught up in whatever it is “those Christians” are doing, even if that means not honestly standing up for Christ and the Gospel.
I will admit that I myself have been guilty of exactly this.
In 2016, I was living in Vancouver and studying for the ministry.
As the world grew stranger, as “Christians” became associated with a particular American politician, I found myself growing anxious about what I would say when one of my UBC neighbours asked me what I was going to school for:
I’m training to become a Minister.
Oh, so you’re a Christian?
Yes, but not one of those Christians.
Why the discomfort?
Why the qualification?
Why do we act as if this word, or this faith, lived out by 2000 years of Saints suddenly belongs to a single fallen politician, as if one person could so easily undo what all those Saints have done?
Don’t we, as Christ-followers live in the joy and hope described by John?
Don’t we count ourselves blessed to be called Children of God (for that is what we are). Don’t we look forward to the day when Christ will be revealed to us in the fullness of His glory?
Aren’t we simultaneously humbled and filled with pride every time we realize that we stand in the company of the Communion of Saints; that great Cloud of Witnesses, past, present, and future?
Looking at the Saints, the martyrs, those who have died to defend their faith, from St. Andrew to Dietrich BonHoeffer to Betsie TenBoom, shouldn’t we be too overwhelmed with gratefulness, too humbled by the inspiring faith they died to share with us to do anything but proclaim joyfully who and what we are?
I am a child of God!
Washed clean in the blood of the Lamb!
A sinner saved from damnation by the Only Son of God!
I am a Christian!
And yet, when given the opportunity to do so, so often we shy away or qualify what kind of Christian we are.
What are we afraid of?
We know what we are afraid of.
We are afraid of being labelled “one of them”, “one of those Christians”.
We are afraid of the conclusion our neighbour might draw about us, about the kind of politics we support, the kind of opinions we have about masking up and social distancing.
Yet, are we willing to give up on 2000 years of faith, 2000 years of Saints just because of the politics of our current time?
Will we really give these fallen politics that much control?
That is what we are doing.
Every time we fail to say truthfully who and what we are,
Every time we fail to stand up for Christ,
Every time we fail to proclaim the joy and the hope that we have been commanded to share in Jesus’ name.
In two days, the election that has dominated our news and our anxieties will finally arrive.
As Americans decide on their President and their Senators, Canadians simply look on, unable to participate, helpless to do anything.
We would be naïve to think that there will not be a few fireworks:
Unorthodox action at the polls
Bold proclamations before all of the votes are counted
Likely, even, a contest of who has the right to declare a victor
November 3rd will be a memorable day for those in the United States and beyond.
It may give us the same gobsmacked feeling as four years ago, and it may not.
As Canadians, we like all non-Americans, will be able to do nothing more than watch in anxious silence.
Whatever happens in America.
Whatever happens to the communities and the families this election has already divided, let us not give in to the fear that would cause us to disown our own family in Christ, the Communion of Saints.
Let us never again spend four years distancing ourselves from God’s children, from our own standing as children of God, from the joyful reality that is now and the hopeful reality that is to come.
Let us not distance ourselves from the Good News which so many have lived and died to tell.
That we are Children of God.
That we are blessed.
That we are blessed in a way that outshines all of the fallen politics of this world, not just the ones that we are afraid to be associated with.
When our Lord sat with the crowds and taught them what it means to be blessed, he taught them:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
Those who are blessed greatly enough to be peacemakers, those blessed greatly enough to be called children of God are those who have won this peace at the cost of their own flesh, of their own lives.
They are those who have followed Christ, who was himself abandoned by all of his friends at the moment of His greatest trial, disciples who themselves denied that they were Christ followers when they were counted on to speak the truth.
Peace is never won easily.
It comes at the cost of vulnerability of risk:
At the risk of being mislabelled and misunderstood
At the risk of defending your enemy
At the risk of praying for the one who is persecuting you
This is the way it has always been for the saints, as Christ Himself says,
Rejoice and be glad (when you are reviled and treated evilly), for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today we celebrate the Communion of Saints, that great Cloud of Witnesses that has gone before us in service to God and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those who gave their lives to the Gospel and those who gave up their lives for it.
As those who will, God willing, one day be remembered as saints to others, we must also understand our call and the sacrifices we are called to make for the Gospel.
One of the calls placed on us today is to stand firm for the Communion of Saints itself.
To not give up on what it means (and has meant) to be called “Christian” or “blessed.”
This day, let us say with pride, who and what we are.
Children of God
Those who live in joy that has already been revealed and the hope of what is to come.
That by proclaiming Christ before all else, by living in the hope that has been carried by the saints before us, we would become purified so as to stand with Christ among these saints forever.