A Great Multitude of Saints

Sunday, November 5, 2023
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner 

Revelation 7:9-17

 Let’s pray together…Blessing and power, and glory and honor belong to you, O God, and you alone. As we remember your faithfulness to all your saints today, help us to see how you lead us out of the trials and tribulations of our lives, and into the company of all your saints here and in the life to come. Amen.

Today, we pause to remember and give thanks to God for the people in our lives who have pointed us toward the grace and power of God’s love, and whose presence we feel every day, even in their physical absence. Beyond that, we hold on to the promise we are among the multitude of saints that God meets us in the midst of trial and tribulation and leads into hope. We do this by remembering we are never alone in our grief or trials and called to hold hope for one another.

I recently read about a unique Breakfast Club in St. Louis, MO that did just that. A few years ago, high school freshman, Sam Crowe and his friends started getting together at a diner before school every Wednesday morning. One day, Sam told his friends that his Grandma Peggy made a better breakfast than anything the diner had on its menu. And after checking with his grandma, the group of 8-10 young men moved their breakfast to Grandma Peggy’s house. Every week, she got up early to whip up a big batch of her delicious pancake batter, scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit. And every week these 15 to 16-year-old boys would show up with smiles on their faces and hugs and gratitude for Peggy’s hospitality.

Wednesdays quickly became Peggy’s and the boys’ favorite day of the week. Then, in the summer of 2022, Peggy’s grandson Sam, the instigator of the Wednesday Breakfast Club, was killed in a car accident. When his friends heard the news that day, they could only think of one place to gather. They showed up at Grandma Peggy’s house. It would have been so easy for them to stop showing up. Too painful to go back to the place they gathered with their friend. But they kept coming, pressing against the instinct to distance themselves from the pain of grief.

They came to Peggy’s house every day for the first week after Sam died. And they showed up in smaller groups at any given time, just to check in and to be together. She became grandma to all of them.  Peggy kept Wednesday Breakfast Club going, week after week, after Sam’s death. And the kids kept coming and the group kept growing – from 8-10, to 15 and then 20, and on any given Wednesday today, there are 30 high school students showing up at Grandma Peggy’s house with big smiles, warm hugs, and hungry bellies. They talk about Sam almost every week, and marvel at what he started – still sensing his presence among them – even in his physical absence. Grandma Peggy says, “I’ll feed them as long as they will come. They’re going to be protected. They’re going to be loved, and they’re definitely going to be fed.”

At first glance, we may say that Grandma Peggy is a saint for opening her house to all these young people, for feeding them, and loving them, and showing them how to find hope and life after such a difficult loss. But look a little closer and you can see a multitude of saints gathering in that little house in St. Louis each week. Those young people are sharing just as much hope with Grandma Peggy and helping her find life after death, as she is sharing with them. They break bread, offer gratitude, share in the trials and joys of life, and know in that place the power of love and community. Out of a great trial of grief and loss, they have come into the safety and power of grace. The community gathered in that little house offers the promise of life that couldn’t be found without it.

You’ve probably experienced this in the trials you’ve faced in life too. It might have been the loss of a beloved family member or friend. It might have been during a time when you lost something else, like your health or the health of a spouse, or a job, or a marriage, or the trust of a family member or friend. These tribulations shake the very foundation of our lives. They are disorienting and disturbing. And without others around us to hold hope with us and for us, it’s easy to lose perspective on life. It’s in these times when we need a multitude of saints who point us to God’s grace and power to give us a vision of hope.

The seventh chapter of Revelation gives us such a vision.  Many of us don’t readily go to Revelation. We often think of all the bizarre and disturbing images of the suffering of God’s people. But Revelation is also where more of our worship language comes from than any other book of the Bible. Worship has particular power when the world seems upside down. These verses today paint sweeping pictures of restoration, in the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. Revelation takes seriously the trials in life. We can’t avoid trials and the inevitable suffering that happens just because we have faith. Rather, faith is what sustains us and keeps us connected to the promise that God makes to all the saints. It’s brutally honest that not just any community can bring us through the great ordeal, but that Christ’s power and presence does. The image of God gathering a great multitude of saints around the throne, reminds us that God ultimately holds victory over every trial and tribulation.

We can’t control everything that happens in life, but we can choose how we make our way through our trials. Remember, you are saints with all the rest of those gathered here today. God has knit us together as a holy people, called to bear each other’s burdens and walk together in faith.

No matter how challenging life is, God always holds out hope. Through the cross, Jesus shows us there is no place God is not willing to go to gather the saints in power and grace. God promises to provide a way where there will be no more hunger or thirst of any kind, where what threatens us today will be rendered powerless in the last day, where living waters will flow freely, and every tear of grief and pain that streams from our eyes will be wiped away. Amen.

Past Sermons