“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I 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. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for 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.” Revelation 7:15-17
There are days when the words of Revelation seem far off from our experience. Fine spring days like today when the sun is shining, life is bursting out all around, and the warm spring breeze invites you to enjoy the moment. During days like today we don’t always feel our need of a vision for something greater, there is so much to enjoy right here and now.
But for this community and for so many families in our midst, the reality of pain and loss has been all too real. The past several months have brought blow after blow, and it would be easy to become frightened or discouraged. That’s when we need to sit and listen again to the promise.
When I served as the pastor of three churches in Blair, WI, it seemed that for nearly every funeral we would hear the words of Revelation sung in the hymn. “Behold a Host Arrayed in White” (though actually it was the Norwegian version: “Den Store Hvide Flok”). Sometimes to a young pastor like me it seemed kind of quaint and sentimental, but today I hear these words with a new appreciation for the promise they contain. “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Each time the tears flow, and the world is shaken, I need that good news that was first announced on Easter. Death is not the last word. Suffering does not overwhelm us. We belong to the God who will gather his own, and wipe away every tear.