Citizenship in God's Kingdom (All Saints' Day A)
After this I, John, looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
"For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
“Citizenship in God’s Kingdom”
All Saints’ Day
Clothes tell us a lot about a person. Some clothes are so often paired with an activity that we call them uniforms. They symbolize a person’s activity, behavior, and even identity.
Examples - White lab coat; Camouflage clothes with a name stitched over the breast;
In Revelation, John tells us twice that the multitude of saints around the throne of God are wearing white robes .
White robes (togas) symbolized citizenship in the Roman Empire;
White clothes were expensive and hard to maintain. Impractical for work and often too hot for anything but walking in parades, making speeches, or sitting in theaters. Clothes were used to mark social rank in Roman empire. Only citizens could wear togas. Non-citizens (most residents of Roman empire) wore basic tunics.
In many ways this was like ante-bellum US South. There were citizens (landowning white men), poor whites who were denied many rights, free blacks who were denied many more rights, and slaves who were simply viewed as property.
in John’s Revelation, the Kingdom of heaven looks similar. The saints who have persevered and served Christ well are robed in togas that have been washed white in the Blood of the Lamb.
Vestments like albs in worship are derived from early Roman clothing reserved for wealthy citizens.
The difference is that ALL the people of God wear the uniform of citizens.
At baptism we clothe all God’s people (regardless of age) in white. Adults who are baptized wear albs.
In the Kingdom of God, there are no more social divisions or markers of class. God eliminates our sinful hierarchies. All the saints are cleansed of our sins by Jesus, the Lamb of God, and made righteous before God. All are given the full rights of citizenship. The only division that matters anymore is Creator and Creatures.
We join with the heavenly chorus, singing: "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
We who have been made citizens in God's Kingdom follow the teachings of Jesus, and Matthew 5:1-12, often called the "Beatitudes", are central to the Gospel. These are the characteristics of the saints, of all Christians.
As citizens of God’s kingdom, the Beatitudes are like our social contract. Here Jesus summarizes the Law and invites us to live as he lives.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor and the persecuted; The mourners are comforted; The meek will inherit the earth; Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled; The merciful will receive mercy; The pure in heart will see God; The peacemakers will be children of God
This is a very different way of life than we see in the world around us. The Kingdom of Heaven does not subscribe to mantras like 'might makes right' or 'greed is good' or any of those superficial measures of success and worth.
To accept the white robes of citizenship in God’s Kingdom is to turn our eyes instead toward peacemaking, mercy, and honor for the poor and persecuted."
The world needs people to live the Beatitudes because all we see in the culture is selfish, violent, and destructive.
So next, we will say our “pledge of allegiance” in the Kingdom of God: The Baptismal Covenant, and we will remember that we are sealed and marked as Christ’s own forever. Let us pray that God’s mercy and grace cover over all our sins and make us worthy to be numbered among the saints in light, now and on the last day. Amen.
Claiborne, Shane, and Chris Haw. Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2008.
Image Credit: https://psalters.bandcamp.com/merch/chi-rho-flag-patch