Having been to an AFL grand final once in my life, with a packed MCG, I know that the images you see on the TV are totally incomparable to the reality of that experience. Over 100,000 people, cheering, yelling, singing, and supporting the 44 men on the ground vying for the ultimate prize in the AFL. It stirs the emotions, rouses the spirit, and captures the imagination. But in the end only one team wins, and so the emotions of winning and defeat sway the crowds between jubilation and bitter tears.
It’s hard to comprehend such a crowd unless you’ve actually been there. The feelings of Christians when they gather for major events barely comes close. Last weekend, such events occurred in various parts of the world. Communities came together, and commemorated the Reformation. I’m sure, for those present, it was a moving experience. But this week, the churches come back to reality, and resume their normal weekly worship from the half dozen to the several hundred. Church goers get on with weekly worship, sadly comparing their high with the grind of congregational life.
In John’s vision of heaven, he looks out across the heavens and witnesses an innumerable crowd, dressed in white, waving palm branches, and crying out about the salvation God has won for them. If that’s not enough, the angels, the elders, and the archangels join the crowd in their own songs of praise. Who are these people, John is asked. These are the ones who know Jesus. They have been baptised into His death and resurrection, and Jesus has made them clean and pure before the throne of the Father. The suffering, pain, troubles, and struggles of this life are gone. Jesus the great shepherd brings them to the waters of life, and wipes away all their tears. What a remarkable sight this is.
Something is missing from our view of the church. We too often think that it is just us alone, here in this particular place, trying to manage and make it with what little resources we have. The reality is that we are not alone. We are caught up in something that transcends our narrow earthly vision. Hebrews reminds us that we run the race, surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses. We are not the crowd looking on at an AFL Grand Final, we are the 44 players running around the ground. Around us is a great innumerable crowd who know the prize, have won the prize, who cheer us on toward that prize. Whenever we come to the table, we dine with angels, archangels, and all the host of heaven. At the supper, heaven meets earth, and we are cheered on to run the race set before us.
All Saints is a moment for us to pause and remember that we are not people who grieve without hope. The saints who have died over the past year are still with us, they make up the innumerable crowd drinking from the water of life, whose tears Jesus has wiped away, who sing praise to God and cheer us on toward this prize. And each time come to the Lord’s Table, they dine with us at the feast of the Lamb. What are powerful message of hope we have to those who do not know Jesus! We have the opportunity of knowing that nothing in this life can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our tears are wiped away by Jesus, and he encourages us to live lives that can wipe the tears from others so they too may see Jesus through us.