Clothed In White, With The Palm Of Victory In Her Hand

The following 'Visitation and Prayer Service Sermon' is posted with family permission.  May the Lord give to the family of Ashley Ann Anderson, and all who mourn, comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in the Lord's loving care.  To listen to the 'Funeral Service Sermon,' CLICK HERE.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ashley Anderson:
Born a Child of Man on August 12, 1987,
Asleep in Jesus on March 17, 2015
In tonight’s reading from the New Testament book of Revelation, we heard about a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and all people and all languages.  There they are, standing before the throne and before Jesus—the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.  This vast crowd does not stand empty handed or in with ordinary attire, but they stand clothed in white, with the palm of victory in their hands, as they sing a song that ascribes their salvation solely to their God and to the Lamb.

These faithfully departed Saints know they have nothing to boast of on their own.  Why would they, for they have only been given to.  They know that their robes are white only because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb - because the Lamb, Jesus, bled and died to redeem them and set them free to stand before the throne holy and pure.

Furthermore, these blessed departed Saints are always there, day and night, never departing from God’s presence, delighting to offer him an endless worship of praise...

They live in God’s temple - protected from all harm and danger.  In that act of awesome gentleness, He reaches out His nail-scared hand to wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Their sorrows are gone.  No pain.  No suffering.  No anguish.  They have eternal joy.

Just to ensure that we are all on the same page thus far, who are these people that are portrayed in our Reading from Revelation?  Who are these people seen in this vision of heaven?  They are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation, or the great sorrow.  These are people like you and me:  People who have had their share of heart-ache and pain; people who sometimes had to struggle day by day just to hang on and keep going; people for whom faith never came easy.  They are people who struggled to trust in the Lord and to believe that in the midst of their troubles, the Lord was still there and still in control and still loving them… Who are they?  Well, among them are those that you have known and loved; fellow sinners who were baptized into the name of the Lord.  They are fellow sinners declared righteous for Christ’s sake.  They are fellow sinners who put their hope in Jesus’ words.  They are fellow sinners who have gone before us and died. They are people like Ashley.  They are people like Ashley who died in Christ’s care.  That’s who they are.  They’re the Church, that bunch of forgiven sinners whom Christ has already gathered to Himself.

With that said, what do we make of the rest of us in the here and now?  Yes, you and I sitting right here and right now?  You and I are those who are in this vale of tears.  We are the Church that struggles still. 

If this is the case, does this mean that there are two churches?  Is there a church on the earth and a church in heaven?  No, we are not two churches:  we’re one Church, one communion.  Otherwise stated, there are not two churches: one in heaven and one on the earth.  We do not have two Lords, but one Lord.  Christ Jesus does not have two brides, but one.  We are baptized into one name; those who are in the vale of tears and those who are with the Lord, yet all of us belonging to the Lord.
The reality that there is one church can be a big comfort and encouragement for us.  When we gather for worship on Sundays, it’s not just those of us in the room that are gathered together.  Oh, no!  If we only had the eyes to see it, we would discover that we never gather with less than a few million at a time.

Listen to what Hebrews says of this One Church: 

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Heb 12:22-24).”

You have come to all this, the sacred writer reminds the people.  So when we gather for worship here on Sundays or in your churches across the South East of North Dakota, it’s never just you in the sanctuary.  It’s also the angels in heaven, the spirits of just men and women made perfect, that is, the saints in heaven with their blood-washed white robes—saints like Ashley—and most of all Jesus with His blood, that established the new covenant of forgiveness

We’re always a mega-church when we’re at worship.  And the song of those that triumph, the voice of them that feast, gives us the courage and strength to go on, and muddle through, and know that in the end, our God will take us out of the great sorrow and bring us into eternal sunshine, when we will see with our eyes those who have gone before us, those like Ashley, and we will lift our voices in song with their voices forever.

So tonight and tomorrow we’re not just remembering those who died in the faith, like Ashley.  We’re worshipping with them.  At the same throne.  Before the same Lord...  Surrounded by the same angels.  Clothed in the same righteousness of Jesus.

We can’t see them with the eyes of the body yet, but that’s only because our vision is so poor.  It’s a reality none the less.  Together with them, together with Ashley, we cry out:

"Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!" 

Painting by Stephen C. Dawson
Indeed, this evening we remember Ashley, while “trusting in that forgiveness won on Mt. Calvary by the Lamb who was slain. [We remember that] it is He, [Christ Jesus,] who is our judge, He who answered for our sins on Calvary. What Christ did is given us as ours, His death for us, His life for us, and so we are forgiven and righteous with His righteousness, holy, saints. That is all ours from the Lamb, and the Lamb who is our judge cannot deny Himself or what is ours from Him… We are justified by grace through faith for the Lamb’s sake”[1] just as Ashley was and is.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Note: This sermon is indebted to Rev. Bill Weedon's "All Saints Day Sermon."

[1] Excerpted from Norman Nagel’s All Saints’ Day sermon preached at Valparaiso University on November 1, 1981 by the Reverend Dr. Norman Nagel “Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel,” pp. 315-16.

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