I very rarely preach on the Book of Revelation, with its scary, strange images, its shades of "Left Behind," all the connotations of end-time persecution. Ok, I'll be honest: I never preach on the Book of Revelation. Martin Luther carefully situated it at the end of the Bible, and it so rarely comes up in the lectionary, except, once in awhile, during the Easter season, and on All Saints Sunday.
All Saints Sunday.
We move All Saints Day to the nearest Sunday, kind of like those Monday holidays, because we don't really go to church except on Sunday any more (with the one exception of Christmas Eve.) So tomorrow we are celebrating All Saints Sunday, in the company of all the saints, the ones who show up to worship, the ones we will remember in our prayers, the ones we will not remember, but who are singing and praying at the throne of the Lamb, whether we remember them or not.
One of the readings tomorrow is from the book of Revelation, the strange book of Revelation. Interspersed between those apocalyptic visions of war and persecution are visions of the saints, worshiping at the throne of the Lamb. They are singing, "Blessing and glory and honor be to our Lord, and to the Lamb." They are gathered at the river that runs through the City of God, with the leaves of the trees, which are for the healing of the nations. The vision John imagines is a vision of the saints shining: worshiping God with their lives.
There will be lots of candles tomorrow, more than usual at a Lutheran service, but appropriate for a service which remembers the saints shining. It is the light of Christ which shines through our saints, the saints we remember, the saints we are. It is the light of Christ which shines as they worship God with their lives.
"Blessing, honor and glory be to God and the Lamb" we will sing tomorrow, with our voices.
Blessing, honor and glory be to God, we will sing the rest of the days of the week, with our lives.
Tomorrow, when we light the candles, I will remember Harold and Evelyn, baby Thor and Gladys, Richard and Gail. I'll remember my grandma Emma, who prayed for us every day, who worried too much, and my grandma Judy, who took me to the Salvation Army meetings once, and my grandpa Lee, who had a hard time trusting God's grace, and my grandpa Folke, who didn't talk about it much. I'll remember the people whose voices sounded like angels and those who sang out of key, the ones who worshipped in lives of service and justice, and the ones who worshipped God by acts of compassion, the the ones who worshipped God by their heart-felt prayers.
Blessing and honor and glory be to God, to the Light which vanquishes the darkness, to the light that shines through ordinary lives, through ordinary saints.
I pray there are a lot of candles lit tomorrow. Not so much in honor of the saints, but in honor of their God.
They are shining.