Sermon for November 7, 2021 All Saint’s Day

Yes, I Believe

Revelation 21:1-6a

 

Yes I believe,Yes, I believe,

That Jesus Christ died for me,

 

Yes, I believe, Yes I believe,

That Jesus Christ died for even me.

 

He died upon the cross to save me for eternity,

Yes, I believe, Yes I believe that Jesus Died for even me.

 

He’ll come again, in glory then,

He’ll come triumph, just wait and see,

 

Yes I believe,Yes, I believe,

That Jesus Christ died for me,

 

My grandfather was 88 years old when he passed away. The last few years of his life were difficult for him. He had lost my grandmother and never really did adjust to life without her. He lost strength in his arms and legs. I am not sure why, but it grew more difficult for him to walk and he had trouble even lifting a gallon of milk or holding his hand steady when he shaved.

 

I used to go and see him and I would say, “Pappy, how are you doing today?” Sometimes he would answer, “I’ll probably be dead soon.” It’s not that he was a negative person, but he just wasn’t doing well. My grandfather lived by himself and sometimes he had a couple of ladies from a local Mormon Church come to visit him. They wanted him to join their church. The family wasn’t too thrilled about this, but to my grandfather they were company, and he was lonely.

 

Then one night my grandfather had a dream. He dreamed that he was walking along a wide road, with a great throng of people. Everyone was marching along arm in arm with great energy, and vim and vigor, and as they were marching, they were singing, “Yes I believe, Yes I believe that Jesus Christ died for me.” In my grandfather’s dream they came upon a couple of women, and he invited them to come and join them in this song. The girls responded by saying no we can’t because we don’t belong to that church. My grandfather rejoined the marching throng singing, “Yes I Believe, Yes I believe,” and then he woke up.

 

So real and so stirred was he by this dream that he got up and wrote down the words to the song he had been singing, and then he got a tape recorder and sang the music. Eventually my uncle who had a talent for music was given the words and music. He formed the song into a hymn and had it copyrighted. The Hymn was then printed up and pasted into the back of the hymnals at the United Methodist Church in Glen Dale, WV.

 

The last few weeks of my grandfather’s life were spent in a hospital, and when people came to see him, he would tell them about his dream and play the song on a tape recorder. He wanted people to know, not that he had a dream, but that Jesus had died for them, and that life was what lay ahead.

 

Interestingly my grandfather’s song seems to parallel that hymn, “Marching to Zion.” We marching to Zion, Beautiful, Beautiful Zion, Were marching to Zion the Beautiful city of God. Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God, but children of the heavenly king, but children of the heavenly king may speak their joys abroad. I have always wondered if someone else did not have a dream like my grandfathers, but they just weren’t able to remember the words.

 

Why is it that sometimes we don’t think about heaven so much? Maybe it is because we cannot see it. We cannot understand it. We cannot travel there and back or otherwise scientifically prove its existence. And yet I tell you what I think is true. If you ask God to reveal the truth about heaven to you, I believe that God will. I think that God desires to share true glimpses of this home we have yet to arrive at. We cannot know; indeed, we probably cannot understand, what heaven is like until our time is finished in this world, but if you ask, I think God indeed does reveal the nature of what lies beyond this world.

Consider if you will John who wrote the revelation. From the start we find the author, John, exiled to the Island of Patmos because of his witness for Christ. His vision came during a time of persecution, for him and for the churches he cared for. At the beginning of the book he wrote, “I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance…” These elements are seen as going together. One does not exist without the other. The Greek word for persecution here is “thlipsis.” It means to press down or compress. In this case the more John got pressed down the higher up he was gifted to see. Maybe for John that time in his life was particularly a time when he needed to know that there was something more and something greater that belonged to him and the church. What John saw was an almighty and loving God that we are called to worship. He saw a heavenly reality that transcends the terrors and hardships of this earthly nature. Amidst the havoc we experience on earth is the contrast of praise and worship of God in heaven and the working out of God’s plan. This vision came to John as he was in worship on the Lord’s Day. As he came seeking God, God answered him.

John saw the promise of a new heaven and a new Earth, and of the dwelling place of God coming from heaven to be present in the world of men and women. The image is a fantastic image when we think about it: the recreation of the Earth, the vanishing of the sea, the appearance of the heavenly city. If you want to be even more overwhelmed by this description you can read a bit farther down where this city is described.

Now where the Revelation is concern no one is going to be able to understand it all. But I believe that the greater truths are found in the larger images and not in the finer details. Revelation is better understood when we hear the greater meaning of the images and words and do not worry so much about calculating the numbers. In this, John reveals God’s plan –what has been, what is, and what is to come. We need not be left wondering what heaven is like. We have been told.

Our text says that the sea is no more. Why is the sea vanquished? Let us not worry about what becomes of the earth without its oceans. Rather, in biblical terms the sea is an image of a dangerous chaotic order. In Genesis God created all things by bringing order to the waters; dividing and controlling. That the sea is said to be no more is to describe the further creative reign of God. Out of all the confusion and turmoil we suffer in this life, in the end God will not only bring order to life, but God will completely do away with all disorder. Heaven is a place where God’s perfect will be accomplished. Nothing contrary to God will exist.

What else do we learn about God’s reign in our lives from this passage? We learn that there will no longer be a distance between ourselves and God. We will have direct access to God. When trouble comes how many times is it that the human spirit might call out questioning where God is? In April of 1966 Time magazine was published with the bold letters “Is God Dead.” This was a widely quoted statement from the thoughts of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He questioned that if we as a people have become so self-centered in our thinking that we are no longer gaining any insights from an ancient and traditional understanding of God then for all purposes is God not dead to us.

Still, what more is this then an expression of the distance from God, that we as humans sometimes feel? Heaven is a place where God puts an end to that distance. Also, with this God will put an end to the tears and sorrows of life. “4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

And too all of this and more the son of man proclaims, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

In the end not only does John strive to reveal the permanent nature of heaven that exist in contrast to the transient nature of the powers of this world, and heaven as becoming a permanent fixture amidst the reality of a new creation, but we are called to realize that this reality is the true reality for us today. The question that the revelation asks of us is this: which reality will you truly live for –God’s permanent existence or the world that is passing away?

Sometimes maybe we live thinking that this life is all there is, and yet if we are willing to receive God’s word, we will realize that Heaven is not so far away. It is not so great a mystery. It is not beyond our experience even now. It can be reached by a ladder (like what Jacob saw), it can be seen in dreams, it can be told about through visions. It can be read about in the scriptures. It may touch our lives everyday that we live if we are mindful. It is but one breath away.

In our loss and our hardships and the confusion of this world contemplate upon heaven. Therein we are surrounded by a greater hope. Someday we shall be gathered together, and sadness and separation shall be no more. We shall know God face to face, and share in an eternal glory, and those who have gone on before us are not lost to us, but just waiting –waiting to fully renew the relationship we have with them in Christ.

 

One of the last times I saw my grandfather he said to me, “I will always remember you.” I do not think that I have been forgotten.

 

Yes, we believe, yes we believe, because Jesus Christ died for all. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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