Texts: Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
When we come to today in the Church Year, All Saint’s Day, it can be a sad day for some, especially for those who have lost loved ones recently. But the theme for All Saints’ Day isn’t one of sadness, but rather, one of celebration.
Thanks be to God, we have been made saints. I didn’t say that you will be made a saint at some point down the road if you do this or that. No, I said that you have been made a saint already. That is made clear to us from what we hear in our Epistle for today: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” You see, it doesn’t say that you will be made a saint. He makes it clear that you are a saint because you are a child of God. What a wonderful thing to hear for all of us because we need to hear that. We need to hear that God is our Father. We need to hear that God loves us enough to make us His child. We need to hear to what extent God goes to restore things to the way they were meant to be. Again, now, not later. John goes on to say, “Beloved, we are God’s children now….”
Today is indeed one of celebration, and yet it is one of sadness for some. We who believe in Jesus areGod’s saints, but we are not immune to sorrows. Quite the contrary. Yet, on this All Saints’ Day, we rejoice, because, yes, life in this world is often a “vale of tears,” but the day is coming when God will wipe away our tears forever.
This world truly is a vale of tears. Even though pop psychology tells us such a view is unhealthy, and advertisers and marketers tell us it’s unnecessary, it remains true. There are so many sources of tears: physical pain, grief over death, injustice, mistreatment, persecution, loneliness or rejection, even our own sin and guilt. Even in our happiest of moments, there is often some sort of sorrow. That is because we live in a sinful and fallen world, filled with sinful and fallen people, including you and I. And yet, there is an end to our tears.
Turning to the Revelation to St. John, we see a glimpse of the Church Triumphant, those who have died in the faith and now rest fully in the arms of God. As John recounts what he sees, those gathered shout out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The end to our tears comes in what God has done for us through Jesus. This is made clear at the end of our text: “For 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.” This vale of tears in which we find ourselves is merely temporary, for we have a God who is not content with the status quo. We have a God who desires to restore a relationship broken by sin. We have a God who sends His Son to be the sacrificial Lamb, that His shed blood would wash over and cleanse creation, forgiving them of their sins, once and for all.
In true fatherly compassion, God sends Jesus into our vale of tears to end all weeping. You see, we don’t have some God who sits aloof, watching from the outer fringes, content with letting us go about our lives, doing our own thing. No, we have a God who has seen our tears and heard our weeping. But God has done more than just notice our tears and weeping. In Christ, He has entered our valley of sorrows. During His earthly ministry, even Jesus weeps alongside creation: weeping with Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus, weeping over Jerusalem and its coming divine judgement, crying out in sorrow over the bitter path of betrayal, abandonment, and death that lied before Him.
But Jesus comes to do more than just weep over creation. He comes to redeem creation. He comes to take away their tears, once and for all. He does this by dying on the cross for you. He does this by His blood running over you, clothing you in His righteousness so that you may stand before God reflecting Jesus’ holiness.
The tears you cry are but temporary. This is God’s promise to you. What John sees in his revelation is what has happened because of Jesus. A huge multitude from every nation, all in white, with palm branches and song worshiping Christ the Lamb. No hunger! No thirst! And no tears! The blood of the Lamb will have made all the difference. It’s only the blood of the Lamb that makes this vale of tears pass away.
As Jesus delivers the Beatitudes in our Gospel, He tells us what we should look forward to: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It is Christ who does the Beatitudes perfectly because it is Christ who perfectly embodies the holy will and Law of God. The Law, even though it was given through Moses, points to Christ as its fulfillment. Jesus is the righteous Son of Adam and the One who will come to judge the quick and the dead on that great and terrible Day of the Lord. However, Christ is greater than even the Law. Jesus is not simply the commands of God in human flesh; he is the whole Word of God incarnate, “founder and perfecter of our faith.” His justice serves his mercy; his holiness serves his loving kindness and compassion for a wayward, turned-into-itself humanity.
For all the saints, both in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, we shout one thing: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The victory is there because God has saved the saints. He has saved them through the Lamb, for in Christ are they saved from their sins. He has saved them from their enemies, for nothing can separate them from God, not even death.
We receive this calling as saints by God Himself. It’s not because we are so brave or so strong. It’s not because we’ve done great things in our lives; it’s because of Jesus that you belong to God. You have received the white garment washed in the blood of the lamb: “Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness / My beauty are, my glorious dress.”
Cherish your Baptism. God has said that He loves you and that you are His own, and His Word stands. We would be wise to heed the words of Luther: “We must think this way about Baptism and make it profitable for ourselves. So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, ‘Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body’”
Rejoice, dear saints, for your name has been written in the Lamb’s book of Life. You have been washed in His blood and made white as snow. You have sins forgiven. You have God’s name placed upon you. Blessed are you, for you have the Good News of Jesus preached to you. All of Christ and his perfect life and sacrificial death in our place is ours the hour we are washed and made his own. All the baptized—on earth and in heaven—are the Lord’s precious, bought-with-his-blood saints. 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.