Heaven is where Jesus Feeds Us

This homily was preached on Wednesday evening, October 31, 2012,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

~

Epistle Reading:  Revelation 7:2-12
Gospel Reading:  Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
(Revelation 14:13)

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. And the first thing that occurs to me is that most Orthodox churches celebrate this feast in the Spring, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. At first this difference may seem surprising, but it really should not bother us. After all, every family has certain special days which it celebrates at various times of the year, based on the personal history of that family. In most cases the children have birthdays on separate days. And one couple’s wedding anniversary is not going to match the date of another couple’s wedding anniversary. I think today’s feast is sort of like that. All Orthodox Christians celebrate it; we just happen to celebrate it at different times of the year.

Another thing you will notice in a healthy family is that the children do not all receive the same birthday presents. Even though each child is an equal part of the family, and even though you love each child equally, you still give different gifts to each child, in accordance with that child’s unique personality. My daughters all love American Girl dolls. But if I were to give a doll as a gift to one of my sons, they would probably be less impressed. Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of giving my daughters toy dinosaurs for Christmas. It isn’t that they wouldn’t appreciate them, but I am fairly confident that they would appreciate dolls even more.

So it is with the unique members of the Orthodox Church. The music in a Russian Orthodox Church sounds different than the music in an Antiochian Orthodox Church. The food served at Pascha is a little different in a Greek Church, than in a Serbian Church. The incense smells a little different from one church to another. The Greek Orthodox Church often includes the book of 4th Maccabees as an appendix to the Old Testament, while my Orthodox Study Bible doesn’t have that particular book. God has seen fit to grant a variety of gifts to His children throughout the world. And within the Orthodox Church, He has granted one lectionary to the Eastern Rite churches, and a different lectionary to the Western Rite churches.

That means our little church, by the grace of God, is allowed to read the book of Revelation during some of our divine liturgies. What a blessing! There are also some unique gifts which God lovingly grants to our Eastern Rite brothers and sisters. But this particular gift is for us. In this part of the country, if you want to hear the book of Revelation read during the liturgy, you would have to come to Omaha to hear it. That is something we can be grateful for.

Now, when I look at the texts for today, the first word that comes to mind is “joy”! Here we are given an opportunity to remember all those who have ever died, and yet we do not remember them with sadness or mourning. We remember them with joy! We are reminded that they are no longer suffering, they are no longer in pain, and they certainly are not unconscious. Even as we speak, the saints are standing in heaven, rejoicing in the presence of Jesus their Savior. What a comforting thought!

Matthew 5, today’s Gospel reading, reminds us of the faithful obedience of the saints. In the seventh chapter of Revelation, we read today that the saints have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. And if we turn over to Revelation 19, we are also told that the white robes are the good deeds of the saints. Those who truly follow Christ bear fruit in good works, showing themselves to be humble, patient, kind, loving, and faithful to Christ.

Matthew 5 promises that the pure in heart shall see God. Revelation 7 gives us a glimpse into heaven, where we find this promise fulfilled. Those who have purified their hearts, by the blood of Christ, will indeed rejoice in the presence of God Himself.

We have considered our unique gift, to celebrate All Saints Day in the autumn, and to be allowed to read from the book of Revelation during the divine liturgy.

We have considered a blessed promise, that we ourselves will have the opportunity to rejoice in the presence of God forever, if we will faithfully walk with Him now.

But there is one more aspect to this passage in Revelation, one thing which still blows my mind. I am so amazed, that I cannot even fathom it:

According to this passage in Revelation, heaven is a place where Jesus feeds us!

Now, I realize that Jesus came to Earth for us. I am amazed by that.
I understand that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. I am awed by that.
I also believe that Jesus died and rose again for me. I am incredibly impressed by that.

But I used to have this idea that Jesus went through all of this humiliation only as a temporary state of affairs. I was impressed that Jesus humbled Himself to serve us. But I thought that once He got us saved, He would go sit back on His throne so that we could spend the rest of eternity serving Him.

And yet here in Revelation, Scripture gives us a glimpse into heaven, and shows us a picture of the saints . . . not a picture of the saints serving Jesus, but rather a picture of Jesus serving the saints!

It is as if a great King left His castle and went through a great ordeal just to save the lives of the poor peasants who live in the countryside. Then He invites them to a great banquet in His castle. They arrive to the banquet, and there is the King again, dressed as the waiter! It simply blows my mind.

If the King of all the universe is so humble that he condescends to feed us, even in heaven, then how much more should we humble ourselves before our Christian brothers and sisters? Let us put on the mind of Christ.

I am also excited when I read this passage in Revelation, because here, “heaven” is defined as a place where Jesus feeds us. And that is what He is about to do right here, tonight, in the Eucharist. When we partake of the body and blood, Jesus is feeding us. When we partake of Holy Communion, we are not merely looking forward to heaven; we have been lifted up in the Spirit, and we are in heaven.

~

This homily was preached on Wednesday evening, October 31, 2012,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in All Saints Day, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Holy Communion, Matthew 5:1-12, Revelation 14:13, Revelation 19:7-9, Revelation 7:1-12, Western Rite Orthodoxy. Bookmark the permalink.

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