After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from ever 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!” (Rev. 7:9-10)
All Saints Day has been a day I have had trouble preaching on since I became a pastor. One pastor finally helped me figure out why. Today is a day that I want to sing and just keep singing. How else can you express the combination of the sorrow and the joy that comes from naming our loved ones who have died in Christ and now see Jesus face to face? How you can you express the combination of the pain you feel at death’s sting and the comfort you feel at the promise that death is defeated? How you express the combination of the anger you might have at God for taking them away from you and the thanksgiving you have for God that they have come out of the great tribulation and have been washed in the blood of Jesus and the same promise is for you that you will come out and be before the throne of the living God day and night?
Singing is about as close as you can get. “For all the saints who from their labors rest.”
The Christian confesses that our mourning should come not from them no longer being with us but that we are not yet with them in glory. “We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.” Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
The name for this day is so wonderfully appropriate, All Saints. You see, there are particular Christians that God has given to impact the whole Christian Church: Moses, David, Peter, Paul and so many Mary’s, to name a few. But this day is not for the big names that we all thank God for, but for the names that most would not recognize, but you do.
It’s cliché, but there’s truth to it, that for the names you named with your voice or heart, or others named for you, “to the world they were one person, but to at least one person (and perhaps that person was you) they were the world.”
All Saints Day is a celebration that He not only gives gifts to the whole, but that He gives gifts individually to you and yours. God’s gifts of His people so that you might learn to pray, love His Word, and sing His songs.
Our Lutheran Confessions say that the Scripture reveals three reasons why we commemorate the saints. 1.) Thanksgiving to God, 2.) To strengthen our faith in God, and 3.) To emulate and imitate Godly examples.
God be praised for His gifts of His saints that you have in your heart today. We ought never say, “To Daniel be the glory for his courage in the face of the lions den. To Peter be to glory for his rejoicing at being beaten for the sake of the Gospel.” Nor do we say at funerals, “To mom be the glory, great things she has done.” But instead, “To God be glory,” for the gift of mom, Daniel, and Peter. We thank God that He wished to save Daniel, Peter, and mom by giving His Son and giving them faith in His Son.
This strengthens our faith. We see not only in the saints named in the Bible but also the saints who were very close to us that they were and clearly and truly sinners. There was struggle with anger, lying, worry and prayer. The first four of Jesus’ blessings are blessings for His saints who confessed that they lacked something before Him.
If you are poor in spirit, you confess that your spirit has so much poverty and sin in it. It is so weak. If you mourn, you lack the ability to keep people alive or even yourself alive. You confess that death exists because of sin, “The wages of sin is death,” and you mourn over that sin. If you are meek, you lack the stubbornness to say, “My way or the highway” to God and to others. You value submission to God as well as to others. You live under whom you beg to give you this day your daily bread. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you confess that you don’t have the righteousness to stand before so you leave your excuses at the door.
As you confess you that lack, Jesus fills you, gives His blessing. You are on the receiving end of God’s good stuff: the kingdom of heaven, you shall be comforted, you shall inherit the earth, you shall be satisfied.
Finally, we follow the examples of godly people before us. As they confessed their lack before God, received His good things, they strove to live a holy life marked by being merciful, being pure in heart, being a peacemaker, and suffering for righteousness sake. So follow godly examples. You have been forgiven and shown mercy, strive to live a life marked by forgiving others and showing mercy and praying for your enemies. You know God’s heart of love toward you, strive to live a life where you not only don’t talk about others, but attempt to be pure in heart to them, as well. Don’t dwell on evil thoughts or feelings of others, either. Be a peacemaker, as you confess that God is at peace with you, so as far as you have in you, live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18). And count yourselves blessed if you take your stand against the world, especially against the world’s sexual revolution, your is the kingdom of heaven. You shall receive mercy, you shall see God, you shall be called sons of God.
On this day, where our saints are named, we thank God that they are His saints. He blessed them. He blesses us. For all that God has done, it’s difficult not to break out and sing with the angels, Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen (Rev. 7:12)