Ordained Into an Honorable Retirement — Ms. Harriet E. Leslie (Sermon Title: The Righteous Deeds of the Saints — Revelation 19:6-10)


Harriet Leslie 01

Dear Harriet E. Leslie,

February 24th, 2013

You have completed your active service as a servant of the Church. Your sisters and brothers rejoice with you in the blessed evidence of God’s anointing upon your years of faithful ministry. We thank God for your love and dedication to Jesus Christ, and we praise God for the grace that has allowed your ministry to touch so many lives.

Now we come to mark with you the fulfillment of your calling, as the Church confers upon you the status, Honorably Retired. While we know this begins a time of rest and the enjoyment for other callings, we value the experience you have gained and the skills you have acquired throughout your years of ministry.

Therefore, we welcome your continued participation in the life of the church, using your gifts in meaningful ways. You remain a colleague in ministry, and we will continue to seek your wisdom and your fellowship.

May God continue to bring joy and peace to your life, just as you have blessed so many others throughout the years of your life.

May you know the full joy of the Father’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”

Harriet Leslie 01

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 37

Revelation 19:6-10
English Standard Version

6    Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

7     Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

8     it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

9     And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

10  Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” [1]
 


 

The most joyous period of my life so far has been the anticipation of my marriage to Jennifer Vick. We started dating in mid September of 2000, were engaged in December and married in May of 2001. For those five months of engagement I was more excited, more energized and more joyful than any other extended period of time in my life.

The anticipated joy of union with Christ is a similar gift to the Church. We should have an ever increasing joyful expectation of future blessing as we consider our eternal union with the Glorified Lord Jesus Christ. The anticipation is almost as good as the real thing, but it gets better!

There is a time coming, and we pray that it is soon, when we will all be gathered together in Heaven. Evil will be gone and the saints will never again painfully gaze at their failures.

For a shout from the Throne will arrest our attention away from the Earth to the Temple Courts of Heaven itself. God the Father will call our souls to cast aside our Earthly regrets and begin our eternal Praise to God!

When Jenn stepped into the sanctuary at Peachtree Corners Presbyterian, my face lit up and I started to bounce with excitement as she began to walk the isle toward me. Grooms get like that when they see their beloved. I waited five months for that special event.

Jesus has been waiting more than five months to be united with His Church. Since the perfect fellowship was lost in the Garden of Eden, Jesus has been waiting to initiate His people back into the full joys of Heaven.

Jesus is beaming right now. He is figuratively bouncing up and down with joyful expectation. He can hardly wait for the saints to be reunited with Him in Paradise.

And the multitude of God’s people are like the sands of the sea or the stars in the sky for number. Numerals don’t help us understand the size of this assembly.

Earlier this month scientists found the largest known structure in the universe. “Astronomers have discovered the largest known structure in the universe . . . so large it would take 4 billion years to cross it while traveling at speed of light.”

Now, do we know how big this thing is because we now know that it would take 4 billion years at the speed of light to go from one end to the other? Those numbers don’t help our understanding because they are too large for us to comprehend.

How about this, the size of this thing that scientists have found is 1,600 times larger than the distance from Earth’s Milky Way to the nearest galaxy, the Andromeda. Numbers like that leave us feeling like we are groping in the dark for a flashlight.

We call those astronomical numbers.

O.K., so how does John now explain the sound that this innumerable Heavenly host makes when they worship? 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder.

I guess that is as descript as anything we could imagine. The fully collected people of God sound like Niagara Falls times the crash of a tidal wave times the clap of thunder. My brain feels out of breath trying to grasp the significance of John’s explanation.

And their voice cries out in unison, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Let’s take these verses in sections.

Hallelujah is two words. Hallel is an imperative verb for all who can hear the command to give Praise. I can say the word quiet, or I can say with authority, Quiet!

Jah is a shortened form of Jehovah which means the Self-Existent and Eternal One. Jehovah emphasizes the Almightiness and Eternality of God’s person.

Many of the Psalms begin with this command to Praise Jehovah. It’s how we begin our public worship and it’s how Heaven will begin their eternal worship. It is a call to worship.

We Praise the Almighty and eternal God for He is now manifestly in control of all things. Jesus is a sovereign Lord and is in control of all things now, but all creatures will give honor and praise in recognition that God is in control.

We also praise God for His greatest gift: Himself. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

The greatest gift from God to the people of the Earth is His only Begotten Son. His greatest gift in the Garden of Eden was a daily walk of fellowship with God. The greatest benefit of the redeemed today is daily fellowship with God.

The joys of Heaven rise to a crescendo as we are united with Jesus in perfect eternal unity. Until death do us part, yet there will be no more death. It is a perfect marriage, allegorically speaking. Our maximum public expressions of joy and happiness will be realized.

And the Bride will have made herself ready. She won’t have misplaced her veil. Her shoes will be the right size and color. Her hair, makeup and nails will not be done in a rush. We will be radiant and glorious.

And there’s a surprise in our passage about what makes us so radiant and glorious. Sort of an opposite teaching from what we usually hear in the Bible.

When we speak of our salvation, we usually hear verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Yet the people of God fully assembled in Heaven are made glorious and beautiful through her own preparations. and his Bride has made herself ready;

Look at verse 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Yep, your appearance of being glorious in Heaven will be enhanced by the good deeds for Christ that you do while here on Earth.

Huh? Let’s not get confused. We are not saved by our good works, we don’t get to Heaven by being good, but we will be more able to glorify God if we live for God now.

Let me expand on that. Each of us have a calling to love and serve God and to love and serve others. We are given special talents and skills. We are given time. Some of us only a few years, others get three score and ten. Many of us here are given more than that. And we will be rewarded for our stewardship.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. The righteous works of Jesus build the solid foundation of our salvation. But then we lay up treasures in Heaven according to what we build on that foundation.

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

So Jesus has graciously given us all opportunity to lay up treasures in Heaven. Look back at verse 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

We are given opportunity to increase the celebrations of the saints in Heaven through the ways we invest our life for Christ right now. We all have equal opportunity. Equal share of the Holy Spirit. Equal share of the Word of God. Equal share of prayer, worship, and service.

But we will not all have equal outcomes. Liberty in America does not mean that we all have the same standard of living. We all take advantage of our opportunity differently. The promise of America is freedom, not a nice home, car, education and health care. We earn these things through hard work.

We earn our fine linens, bright and pure, through our obedience to the commands of God.

All of us will have equal footing on the streets of gold, but some of us will have stories about God’s miraculous answering of prayer which the rest of the saints in Heaven will never tire of hearing. All of us will have equal share in the blood of Christ, but some of us will have stories about God’s strong arms as they died as martyrs for the cause.

All of us will have the righteous robes of Jesus as our primary garments, but others of us will be graced with other fine linens that gently blow in the breeze of God’s glory. Every bride’s wedding dress is a little different, and each of us will have different stories of God’s grace at work in our life as we served Him and served others.

I wonder what sort of stories you will be asked to tell?

  • Sir, tell us about God’s protection during the war and how the Word of God sustained your faith when things got hard.
  • Mame, tell us again how God sustained you during those years of abuse in an orphanage. Tell about God’s grace when you lost a baby, lost a husband, lost your parents in your youth.
  • Tell us sister how God enabled you to serve despite your physical weakness.
  • Brother, tell us again how God enabled you to make lots of money, and then give away tens of thousands of dollars, without regret, for the sake of the visible Church at 2200 Fellowship Rd in Tucker.

And the innumerable host of Heaven will never tire of the stories of faith. They will want to hear how By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. How by faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us.

As a congregation, we have set aside this day to commend our sister, Ms. Harriet E. Leslie for she has made herself ready. It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure. Her life is a living testimony to her devotion to Christ and His Kingdom. She is an example to us all.

Yet, she has not yet received what was promised, since God has something better for her prepared in Heaven. She has treasures waiting for her in Heaven, fine linen which are her righteous deeds.

Her life is an example to us all, and as we honor her we honor her Lord and Savior who made this sort of life a possibility through His shed blood on her behalf.

9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

May God give us all the same courage to look with light esteem upon this world and look with longing eyes to our eternal union with the divine Son of God in Heaven. Amen.


[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


A Prayer for Honorable Retirement

Dear Harriet E. Leslie,

February 24th, 2013

You have completed your active service as a servant of the Church. Your sisters and brothers rejoice with you in the blessed evidence of God’s anointing upon your years of faithful ministry. We thank God for your love and dedication to Jesus Christ, and we praise God for the grace that has allowed your ministry to touch so many lives.

Now we come to mark with you the fulfillment of your calling, as the Church confers upon you the status, Honorably Retired. While we know this begins a time of rest and the enjoyment for other callings, we value the experience you have gained and the skills you have acquired throughout your years of ministry.

Therefore, we welcome your continued participation in the life of the church, using your gifts in meaningful ways. You remain a colleague in ministry, and we will continue to seek your wisdom and your fellowship.

May God continue to bring joy and peace to your life, just as you have blessed so many others throughout the years of your life.

May you know the full joy of the Father’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.”

We hope to learn from your life of faithfulness that we may also know the eternal blessings you will most certainly enjoy.

God has made you beautiful Ms. Harriet . . . we all love and appreciate you. You are very special to us and we will miss the contribution you make for Christ’s Kingdom.

(Invite the Elders forward for a prayer to ordain Harriet into her retirement.)

Let us pray.

Eternal God, through all the years of our lives your love protects and guides us. By your Spirit you call us to varied ministries in the service of Jesus Christ. We praise you for your gifts to your servant Ms. Harriet Leslie, for her faithful work, for her loving care of others and her leadership in Your Church.

Grant to her this retirement for refreshment and rest, reflection and rejoicing, and the fullness of your peace. Through your Holy Spirit bless each of us that we may remember the love of Jesus Christ which unites us in the service of our Lord.          

 In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

(Celebration meal followed)


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