All Saints’ Day

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon are the readings for the Feast for All Saints.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!””That is what St. John saw as he wrote the book of Revelation. Who is it that he saw? He saw the saints, that is, the believers in Christ.

This is a different view from those who say that this is all there is in life, that when you die, you are dead and that’s that. But what a sad view of life that is! Not only is it sad, it is wrong. There is indeed eternal life – eternal life in heaven or eternal life in hell. John sees beyond this earthly life and his focus is not on the now on earth, but rather, the now that is in heaven.

John sees that which is impossible by man, but possible by God. He sees a great cloud of witnesses, those who bear witness to the Lamb who was slain. On earth, they saw the Savior with the eyes of faith, whom having not seen they loved. Now they see Him. The veil of sense and the limitations of earth no longer obstruct their sight. They are forever with their God, in His immediate presence, where they wished and longed to be.

These saints look different, different than what we see them as, for they are seen for who they are, clothed in white robes, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. These are the ones whom Christ has marked as belonging to Him. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and so they appear before God pure and spotless, arrayed in the garment of Christ’s righteousness.

One of the elders asks John, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come from?”They come from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.”Sin brought about a separation from God, not for some, but for all. That separation is done away with in Christ. Its effects disappear because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. There is no longer any difference between peoples, for they are all one in Christ.

By John’s response, we see exactly who Christ is for – all peoples from all time and all places. No distinction is made on the part of John, for all have been created by God and He seeks to unite all peoples unto His Son. He desires to grant to all the gift of everlasting life, won solely by Christ and His shed blood for them.

It is interesting that the elder askes John from where they came. John responds by saying they have come out of the great tribulation. Throughout all the trials and tribulations, they have faced on earth, they have left all of that behind and are now free from it, for Christ has atoned for them and has sanctified them, washing over their sins with His shed blood.

As saints of God, “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.”In other words, nothing shall be able to detract from the holiness that Christ has earned for them. There, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Sainthood sounds absolutely wonderful, perfect even, for those who have died in the faith. But what about you? Too bad you are still alive and unable to receive that sainthood, right? That is where you would be wrong, where a particular Christian denomination would be wrong. You see, sainthood isn’t something that you receive after you have died and have been deemed to have a led a virtuous life. Sainthood is yours, right now.

Turning to our Epistle reading from 1 John, we hear these words of comfort: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”God your heavenly Father has granted this to you already. He has granted it to you through His Son. By His actions of keeping the Father’s Law in your place, by His death and resurrection so that He may wash over you with His crimson blood, you have been made a saint. You have sins forgiven. You have eternal life in His name. The only difference between you and the saints that are spoken of in Revelation is that you are still among the living, the Church Militant. You still face trial and tribulation, but in spite of that, you are a saint, a blood-bought and purchased child of God.

We are not able to see the face of Jesus as the saints see it. However, we see Jesus in a different way as the Church Militant. We see Jesus as He is revealed to us through the Word of God and in the Sacraments. We see “the love the Father has given to us”as it is revealed to us on earth. He calls us to follow Him. His Words gives us the vision of all those saints who have gone on before us. The Lamb, our Savior Jesus, has made us children of the Father. Like the saints before us, we know we live and love only by grace. Every day, we come before the Lord, confessing our many sins, doubts, and failures. We take comfort in the words that we heard earlier: “…in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”  This has happened only because of the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for you and your sins. We are washed clean “in the blood of Jesus his Son [which] cleanses us from all sin.”That blood of Jesus is what you receive when you come to this altar. That blood of Jesus is what forgave you all your sins in your Baptism. Now, God looks at us in Jesus – forgiven, washed, covered, made alive with His life, wearing the white robe of His goodness covering all our sins.

On this All Saints’ Day, St. John invites his readers to marvel with him the greatness of God the Father’s love. We marvel at the love shown to us before we were born. We marvel at the fact that God has chosen us to be His children. We marvel at the fact that though we deserve death, we have received life. John takes the status believers enjoy, that of children of God, and uses that status to instill an eager expectation for the future glory that will be ours.  Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom, has given His life for us and called us His own. Our sinful name is washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism. Being baptized into Christ, we have received the Father’s family name, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Now our names and the names of all God’s saints are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Because our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, we will continue to come into the holy city of Jerusalem because the gates will never be shut. When we are brought into Christ through baptism, nothing can keep us separated from Him because He has bridged the gap of separation with His own body and blood. Rejoice, for you are a beloved saint of God. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

(Texts: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3)

All Saints’ Day (Revelation 7:9-17)

f-29a-all-saintsGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the First Reading, which was read earlier.

It is indeed a special day when a woman puts on that white dress. It means that she is soon to become someone’s wife. It has been that way since Queen Victoria decided to buck the system and wear a white gown to her wedding, and ever since, white for a bride has become the norm. Doctors wear white coats to say that they are healers of the sick. There is something to be said about the color white. Today, the color white makes a profound appearance. It harkens us back to a time of long ago, as well as to a time ahead.

Do you remember the day that you wore white? It was probably long ago and all you remember is screaming. All those years ago, you wore white on the day of your Baptism, the day that made you a forgiven child of God. I’m sure you don’t remember much from that day. I doubt you remember asking for God’s forgiveness. The reason why you don’t remember that is because you don’t ask God for forgiveness, He gives that you freely. Some 2000 years ago, God saw fit to keep a promise made even longer than that. God sent forth His Son Jesus Christ into this world to redeem it. This sinful and fallen world did not deserve anything but wrath and damnation. That’s the same thing that you and I deserve, and yet God thought differently, and it’s a good thing He did.

That’s the great joy of being a saint, for that is what you are. Despite how some define the word saint, you are indeed a saint. A saint, in its proper sense, is any believer on earth or in heaven. Since you are a believer in Christ and since you reside on earth, that makes you a saint. But you are not the only saint. In fact, there are a countless number of saints in heaven as well. St. John sees that for himself in our text from Revelation. He says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

These saints of God do what saints should do: worship God. In fact, that is all that they do and it is all that we will do when God calls us to Him. And why shouldn’t the saints give thanks and honor and praise to God? This is God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. This is the God who created all things, including us. This is the God who made salvation possible for us. This is the God who sacrificed His one and only Son in order to redeem His creation.

Being a saint doesn’t make you look any different than anyone else. It doesn’t make you act any different, though it should, for you are a redeemed and blood-bought child of God. To be a saint is indeed a wonderful gift, a gift that is given at great price. It necessitated sacrifice on our part. For all the sacrifices God’s people have made, none would be able to make a sinner forgiven.

In order to be made a saint, God the Father sends forth His Son to make full atonement on our behalf; that is to say, there is nothing needed on your part to be made a saint. Since Christ is true God and true man, His sacrifice is all-sufficient. Listen to what St. Paul says to the Romans: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” You see, by Adam sin came into the world. But by Christ, and Christ alone is sin conquered. You do nothing while Christ does everything. Because Christ does everything, you become a saint.

As John continues, one of the elders asked him, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” He responds that the elder knows and the elder gives an excellent response as to who these countless people are: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” What a great response! Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom, has given His life for us and called us His own. Our sinful name is washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism. Being baptized into Christ, we have received the Father’s family name, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Now our names and the names of all God’s saints are written in the Lamb’s book of life. When we are brought into Christ through Baptism, nothing can keep us separated from Him because He has bridged the gap of separation with His own body and blood. The fact that the saints are wearing white robes shows that this righteousness is not their doing but is imputed to them for Christ’s sake.

What a joy it is to be called a saint! What makes it such a joy is that you do nothing to become a saint. This is salvation at its finest. How are you saved? It is not of your own doing, it is of Christ’s doing. And so today, while it is all about us, the saints of Christ on earth and the saints of Christ in heaven, it is still and always about Jesus.

We can give thanks for the work that God did in them and through them while they were here, for Gary, Dorothy and Donna. We can also give thanks for the work of the saints who still live with us here in time. We, the baptized saints of God, continue to confess our sins. We continue to hear and taste the Gospel for the forgiveness of sins as it comes to us in Word and Sacrament. We continue to watch for the day when Jesus Christ our Lord calls us out of this veil of sorrows to Himself in heaven, or, should we still be here on the Last day, we will join in the resurrection of that Day. We too who confess the name of Jesus Christ will one day be reunited with those saints who have gone on before, but more importantly, we will be reunited with the One who allowed us to enter heaven by His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

All Saints’ Day – “Saints Alive” (Revelation 7:9-17)

F-29a All SaintsGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the reading from Revelation 7.

Looking around this morning, I see we have empty seats in the sanctuary, or so it would appear at first glance. While it appears that the church looks empty, I would beg to differ. The sanctuary is full this morning and every time we gather for worship. It is full of God’s saints, though we don’t see it. We worship this day and every service “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.”

Today, we remember those who have died in the faith. Saints are all those who are knit together as one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Jesus Christ. The saints are blessed in Christ, who is the Blessed One. They serve as an example of faith and “virtuous and godly living” to those who still struggle in this world.

While all believers in Christ in heaven and on earth are His saints, on this day the Church remembers all of God’s saints who have died and now participate in the “unspeakable joys” of heaven. These saints, who trusted in the Lord in their earthly life, as members of the Church Militant, live now in His eternal peace, the Church Triumphant. They exalt and magnify His Name, look to Him, and are radiant, reflecting His glory.

As we look at our text, we see a multitude so great that no one could fix a number on it — from all the nations, tribes, peoples and tongues of the earth — clothed in white and bearing the palm branch of victory in their hands, shouting, proclaiming and saying. But what is that they are focused on? Not on themselves! Where are they staring? Not at each other! They are all facing the throne of God and of the Lamb. And they sing aloud: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The thing that holds them together as one is the object on which they are fixed and the love and awe that shine from them as they rejoice to look upon what they look upon. The focus of the saints is Jesus Christ.

All Saints’ Day reminds us that when we fall asleep in Jesus, we’re not “gone” or “lost.” We’re with the Lord. And when He comes again on the Last Day, He will raise us up and give to us everlasting life. There will come a time when every tear will be wiped away, when there will be no more night, when we will be face-to-face with the Lord Himself. There will be a time when suffering is ended and we have peace forever.

In this life, we have suffering. Jesus suffered. You will suffer. But that’s not the end—not by a long shot. Jesus rose from the dead and that means the suffering doesn’t last forever. Even Jesus’ suffering didn’t last forever. He died. Then He rose again from the dead. His death and resurrection remind us that His suffering has the ultimate achievement of conquering sin and death. And His resurrection means you will rise on the Last Day. His resurrection means that all the things that cause us tears will one day be gone and those tears will be wiped away.

Your baptism declares that you, too, are a saint, that is a holy person, one whose sins are forgiven, one who will rise from the dead. The body and blood of Jesus say so. On All Saints’ Day, we hear the phrase, “those who rest from their labors.” Their struggle with the crosses of their sin and suffering are ended. They enjoy eternal life with Jesus and will be raised up in their bodies when He comes again in glory.

All of this comes about by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the saving Word for all who believe in Him. If you are like many, you may wonder whether or not the Gospel is indeed working. While the effects of the Gospel may not always be visible to us, as it wasn’t to John’s readers during persecution, Jesus’ revelation assures us it is still God’s power to save. We trust in the words of God, recorded by the prophet Isaiah, who says, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” We do not always see the Gospel’s work. We want to see the Gospel working, doing something in a person’s life, but we don’t always see it. It may not happen during our ministry. It may not even happen during our lifetime, but the Word of God will accomplish what it was intended for.

The Word of God did accomplish what it was intended for. The Word of God caused Jesus Christ to come to this earth, to be born, to live a sinless life and to die, so that you and I may have eternal life. While we have eternal life, we still die a physical death here on earth.  We focus on the words that were sung earlier: “For You have won the battle/That they might wear the crown;/And now they shine in glory/Reflected from Your throne.”

The saints, who are clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, are those who have already departed this life to be with the Lord forever and ever. They are our sainted dead today, our loved ones and all others who have gone before us, who have fallen asleep in the faith. But we also think of ourselves and other members of the body of Christ on this earth as the “saints alive.” We remember the saints now, at the end of the Church Year, as an anticipation of the coming kingdom.

Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom, has given His life for us and called us His own. Our sinful name is washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism. Being baptized into Christ, we have received the Father’s family name, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Now our names and the names of all God’s saints are written in the Lamb’s book of life. When we are brought into Christ through Baptism, nothing can keep us separated from Him because He has bridged the gap of separation with His own body and blood. Because of what Christ has done, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The fact that the saints are wearing white robes shows that this righteousness is not their doing but is imputed to them for Christ’s sake.

We live in hope and the promise of the glory of the life to come. All Saints’ Day reminds us that the Church is bigger than those of us who are gathered here today, not just because there are more Christians around the world, but because there are more Christians from before with whom we are united in the Body of Christ. Jesus promises that the joy they have been given, you will receive, too. Blessed are the ones who confessed the name of Jesus Christ. We too who confess the name of Jesus Christ will one day be reunited with those saints who have gone on before, but more importantly, we will be reunited with the One who allowed us to enter heaven by His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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All Saints’ Day–“Saints of God” (Revelation 7:9-17)

F-29c All SaintsGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the First Reading, which was read earlier.

What a blessed day we celebrate today! Today, we observe All Saints’ Day, that day of the Church Year that is set aside to give thanks to those who have gone before us in the faith and to look forward to our reunion with them in the resurrection of the dead.

As we speak of the saints, we have to ask what makes a person a saint. Is it their virtuous living? Is it the good works they did during their lifetime? Is it the money they gave to the church and to other charities? Is it any other number of things the person did during their lifetime that earned them their sainthood? The answer to this is no, there is nothing about the person that earned them sainthood. It wasn’t their living or their giving. In fact, it has nothing to do with them at all. What makes them a saint is the faith they have in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who makes them a saint. It is Jesus who has made you a saint even now.

The book of Revelation is one that is full of imagery that is difficult to understand while at times the imagery is very easy to understand. Today’s text is one of the latter. As we look at our text from St. John’s Revelation for this festival celebrating God’s work in all the saints, it assures us that the saints are signed, sealed, and will be delivered by Christ.

We begin with John looking and seeing “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” What an image to behold! These aren’t just any people but these are the saints of God, “the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Their purpose is to praise God “and serve him day and night in his temple.”

This multitude before the throne includes all whom God elected to salvation: the believers of the Old Testament, the saints and martyrs of the New Testament, and the elect who were still alive on earth when the last trumpet call was sounded. This includes all the elect from the earth, all the believers of Christ.

Clothed in their white robes, they reflect the righteousness that Jesus credited to them when He washed away their sins in His blood. What an image that St. John must have beheld! This is the perfect picture of Christ and His Church, for this shows exactly what has been done for us by Jesus. In a life that has been marred by sin and death, Christ removes that from us and in its place, He gives to us His holiness and righteousness, so that we may stand before God our heavenly Father as blood-bought and redeemed children, forgiven of all of our sins.

The saints, who are clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, are those who have already departed this life to be with the Lord forever and ever. They are our sainted dead today, our loved ones and all others who have gone before us, who have fallen asleep in the faith. But we also think of ourselves and other members of the body of Christ on this earth as the “saints alive.” We remember the saints now, at the end of the Church Year, as an anticipation of the coming kingdom.

How can we imitate and follow the example of the saints in heaven? The answer is quite simple, but it is one that is not easy. It’s one that we often would prefer not to know, because it’s not easy to abide by. That’s because it promises us tribulation until God delivers us safely home to eternal life in the glory of heaven. Yet at the same time, it gives us once again God’s faithful promise that He has done, and is doing absolutely everything necessary to save us from the damning power and guilt of our sin and to take us safely, in faith, all the way home for eternity in the perfect glory of heaven.

The answer is Jesus. As the children of God, we turn in faith in Christ Jesus, our only Savior from sin. We turn to Christ for hope, encouragement, and strength to remain faithful to the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit in our Baptism. What makes this so difficult is that Jesus isn’t always the popular answer. The popular answer that the world gives is “me, myself, and I.” The world’s answer is you. The world’s answer is a feel-good program or one that revolves around some sort of positive thinking to change the desired outcome. All of these answers leave out Jesus. If Jesus is left out, then you don’t have the answer. If Jesus is left out, then you are not one of God’s saints because it is Jesus and His work that makes you a saint.

This ongoing action of the Holy Spirit in us, which He works through the Gospel power of God’s Word and Sacraments, is the sealing action of God in us, in faith, just as it was for all the saints who from their labors rest in the loving arms of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In those arms, they do not hunger, thirst, or cry from the weariness of the great tribulation they endured in this sinful world. But for you and me, we still live as members of the Church Militant. We still endure for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. That’s because this world still considers the Gospel so offensive and terrifying because it implies that they have sin from which they need saving.

On this side of heaven, we still sin. On this side of heaven, Satan still fights and we as the Church Militant are the battlefield. We as God’s people on earth still face all the trials and temptations that the saints have prevailed against on account of Christ.

When we are brought into Christ, we receive the gifts that are given to those who are in Christ, the gifts that belong to the sons and daughters of God. We are given the waters of new life in Holy Baptism which gives new life to those who come to it. The tree of life is Christ Himself who provides the food which nourishes us, His own body and blood. We will once again be able to see God face to face like we were meant to before, to be able to walk and talk with God and to be His own. Those in Christ will live forever with Him.

Today we remember those who have gone on before us, who continue to worship with us, just on the other side of heaven. We know this because it is in our liturgy that we speak: “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven…” They are the ones who confessed the name of Jesus Christ. We too who confess the name of Jesus Christ will one day be reunited with those saints who have gone on before, but more importantly, we will be reunited with the One who allowed us to enter heaven by His sacrificial death, Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.