Saints With Tilted Halos

Text: Revelation 7:9-17

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

In our Epistle Reading from Revelation, we hear about a very large crowd of people dressed in white standing before the throne and the Lamb of God.  It is a huge crowd, too big to count. 

But who exactly is this huge crowd that the Apostle John is referencing in the Book of Revelation?  Who is standing before the throne of God in glory? 

The answer, it is a great crowd of victorious people.  They are cheering with loud voices with the palms of victory in their hands.    

But this still does not answer the question of who specifically this great crowd is.  Who exactly are these victorious people?

Well, they must be very impressive, strong, and successful to be before the throne of God.  They must also be very smart, good, and holy to be before the throne of God in triumphant victory.  You know, the kind of people that make sure to dot every “I” and cross every “T.”  The kind of people who are the cream of the crop – A-List kind of people, the ones who are always on the starting lineup.  I am sure that those before the throne are people who have impressive resumes, good grades, and lots of honors. 

Now, considering this, maybe you and I might be with them someday in that large crowd of victory.  Yes, maybe, if only we could be good enough and smart enough.  If enough people like us, then we could possibly be a part of that crowd of victory.  If only! 

The truth of the matter is this.  Deep down, you and I know that we do not measure up.  We have just confessed in today’s service that we are poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed.  Furthermore, we know that we North Dakotans are not as cool as Californians.  We are not as sophisticated as New Englanders.  We are not as rugged as Montanans, even though we try.  And we certainly are not as artistic as people in the Pacific Northwest.  To be blunt, when we look at each other here at St. Paul’s we are not the brightest and best of society.  We are not influential in culture.  We do not come from high-society families.  According to the world’s standards we are nobodies, and our church is just a small dot on the map.      

But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.  We still have not answered the question of who these people are that the Apostle John sees in this vision of heaven.  Well, contrary to what we might think, the people in the crowd are people just like you and me.  They are people who have had their share of struggles, failures, and pain in this life.  They are those who struggle day by day to just hang on and keep going with life.  They are people whose faith has never come easy. 

Who are they? 

Well, among them are those that you have known and loved – friends, family and neighbors.  In fact, brace yourself for what I am about to say!  When the Apostle John sees that vision of millions of people covered in white, in victory before the throne of God, he sees – your face!  Let me repeat that.  When the Apostle John sees that vision of millions of people covered in white, in victory before the throne of God, he sees – your face! He sees you in victory in that crowd, dressed in white. 

But how could you and I be a part of this great victorious crowd of John’s vision? 

Dear Baptized Saints, what you and I must understand is that this vision of the Saints before the throne of God includes all the believers in the Old Testament, all the Christians, and martyrs of the New Testament, and all of you who are still alive on earth, waiting to stand before the throne of God.  That large crowd of people standing in victory, cheering, is that great bunch of forgiven sinners in the past, present, and future whom Christ will gather to Himself at the great eschaton. 

Now, keep in mind that John’s vision is not an ethereal fictitious dream but a glimpse into your future.  And so, the reality of John’s vision means three things for you this day.  

First, you are a part of one church.  And that one church is not St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.  In other words, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is Christ’s church located here in this place and at this time.  Therefore, as Christ’s church located here at 200 East Burdick, you and I are not lone rangers but instead we are a part of the Lord’s Church that consists of people from every nation, every tribe, every language, and every generation, who find hope not in themselves but in the blood of the Lamb – Jesus Christ. 

Secondly, Christ’s church does not consist of perfect people but forgiven people.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  Christ’s church consists of sinners who are baptized into the name of the Lord – forgiven and covered in the righteous goodness of Jesus. 

You see, this great crowd of Christ’s church is made up of men, women, children, elderly, rebels, jerks, greedy executives, churchgoers, thieves, teachers, plumbers, adulterers, IRS agents, nurses, ragamuffins, tightfisted farmers, millennials, boomers, Gen Xers, North Americans, Africans, Asians, and you, who confess:

“God have mercy on me, the sinner! Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

You, dear friends, are a part of this great multitude because you are one whom Christ died for.  You are a part of Christ’s church not because you are perfect but because you are given the perfect righteousness of Christ. 

And thirdly, when you are given the perfect righteousness of Jesus, well, you are a Saints.  You heard that correctly.  You are a Saint – because of Jesus.    

Dear friends, we must disregard all that nonsense of becoming a Saint through heroic virtue, miracles, and an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness to God.  Your thoughts, words, and deeds don’t and cannot make you a Saint – Jesus makes you a Saint.  Yes, Jesus makes you a Saint by plunging you into His death and resurrection in Baptism.  Being a Saint is never a human achievement but always a divine gift.  When you are called out of the darkness and into the light through your Baptisms, you were clothed in Jesus’ holiness and thus declared a Saint for Christ’s sake. 

That is why I can call you Baptized Saints every single Sunday – because you are.  I call you Baptized Saints, not because of your piety, your singing, your works, your accomplishments, but because you are people whom Christ died for and baptized.  I am beholding before me a small section of that great victorious crowd that John sees in his vision.  I am in the presence of the Lord’s blood-bought-baptized-precious-saints located here at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at this time. 

And so, dear Baptized Saints, we live this Christian life with our tilted halos, scars, and our scuffed up spiritual resumes, knowing that we are not only washed clean in Christ’s blood to be His Saints but that we are also not alone.  Surely Christ will never leave you Baptized Saints nor forsake you, but you also must hear that you are a part of His church – a megachurch.  You stand with the Saints of the past, the present, and the future from all parts of the world, which gives you the courage and strength to go on and muddle through this life, knowing that in the end that our God will take all of us out of this vale of tears unto Himself. 

And with that great multitude, there will be no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat; complete salvation from sin, death, and damnation, and every last of your tears will be wiped away.
In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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