All Saints' Day
All Saints' Day
Sunday, November 1, 2020 First Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
All Saints’ Day Epistle: 1 John 3:1-3
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
In a few days, we will have the presidential election for our nation. In this election we the people will voice our choice of whom we wish to govern over us. The Apostle Paul states this in his letter to the church in Rome:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to evil. [Do you desire to] have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” [Romans 13:1-5]
Heinrich Bornkamm, a 20th century German church historian and theologian, wrote a book titled, Luther’s World of Thought. This was his view of history in Luther’s time:
“The German nation [was] contained in the empire; [consisting of] the different tribes, in the principalities and other lesser governments. Luther did not play these two against each other, but strove for a sound balance and an equable adjustment of the two. His desire for unity is unmistakable.” In one of his informal ‘Table Talks’ he [Luther] said this: “Germany is a beautiful, spirited stallion that has fodder and all it needs. But it lacks a rider.” [Table Talk 5, 5735]
We all desire to live in peace, prosperity and security. In this nation we are constantly searching for good and God-fearing governance.
Many of you may be tired of the speeches & campaigning, the muckraking from both sides and you may wish that it would all be said and done so you may continue with your everyday concerns. With the technology today, we may sometimes be overcome with the amount of information and struggle to find the truth within. One of the constant topics of debate in our nation has to do with immigration.
Our history bears witness to the generations of migration to this country. This great country began with a multitude of peoples from different nations, languages and cultures. They came seeking a new life. Some came for freedom to worship God according to their confessions. All came for a new start in a new land as their new home. They left the tribulation of the old world to come to a new world of promise and hope.
Most of us come from a people who immigrated to this land. Some have been here for generations while others only a short time, but we do not view ourselves as foreigners.
Shortly before my father left this world, he told me about his father’s migration to this country. Adapting to their new home, they took on the culture of these United States yet kept their heritage through the family name. Did they give up their heritage completely? No, but they viewed themselves as a new people and called themselves Americans.
We sit here today in this place with a common connection of all being members of this nation. Like the Israelites of old, we can claim to have been born into one nation under God. This is our physical connection and our worldly inheritance. Yet, like the Israelites of old, we claim to be born into another, spiritual, inheritance.
Through our baptism, we all belong to another group or tribe of people called Christians. We profess and confess to be followers of Jesus Christ. We speak the same language of faith. We have been formed into a union that is the church and with this union in the body and blood of the Lamb of God, we look toward the new and Promised Land bequeathed to us by our Lord and Savior.
In that happy home we will never thirst, nor hunger, feel pain or the scorching heat of the sun. We will stand before the ‘throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.’ [Revelation 7:15] We will no longer be foreigners. We will all speak with the same voice, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
Amen.” [Revelation 7:12]
Yes, for this we strive and for this we live until that Last Day. We call ourselves the elect citizens of heaven and children of God, but we still look backward to our former lives in the land of oppression in death, tyranny of the Devil and poverty of sin. We want the new life yet we cling to this old world. We pray for release yet continue to long for songs of adultery, food of coveting and the myths of idols.
As members of the body of Christ, we have been given a list of what an heir of the kingdom of heaven looks like. Jesus Christ tells us in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’;
- They are poor in spirit.
- They mourn for themselves and others.
- They are humble in their actions.
- They hunger and thirst for righteousness.
- They are merciful.
- They are pure in heart.
- They make peace instead of strife.
- They are persecuted because of righteousness.
The last item in the list is visible in our lives now. Those of this world insult children of God as followers of Christ. Jesus himself said that anyone who follows him will be persecuted and all kinds of evil will be spoken against them.
Christians are looked down upon because we do not do what those around us do. We do not speak as others do. We speak the truth; we help those in need and we follow the Lamb of God in baptism and Holy Communion.
We speak out against murder and adultery. We are called archaic and old fashioned and sometimes even stupid because we hold fast to the Law given to us by our Creator. Sometimes we slip in our path and the world quickly attacks and labels us hypocrite.
If we were truly strong in spirit, we could overcome the world. If we had faith like a mustard seed, we would blossom and grow into a mighty forest of children of God with strong and deep roots in righteousness.
However, we are not strong – we are poor in spirit. We hunger and thirst for righteousness, and we fall down. We are not pure in heart but tainted throughout by sin. Our heart is black with this sin and we mourn for our souls as we mourn for the lost.
You see, we have not left behind the poverty of the old Adam, yet this poorness in spirit is one of the attributes of a member of God’s kingdom. Jesus Christ knew this. For this reason, we are blessed by the Son of God, because it is not our riches or righteousness that gains us heaven. It is not our mercy or peace that brings others to the foot of the cross. It is by the blood of the Lamb that we are made pure and righteous before God.
Jesus knew we were helpless and without hope. He knew we could not declare ourselves as children of God just as foreigner cannot declare himself a citizen of this country. Jesus Christ crossed the border between heaven and earth to make himself a member of the human race. As a human being, he fulfilled the Law perfectly. Every requirement to be called a child of God was fulfilled completely by him.
He took our sin upon himself and carried it to death on a cross. Buried in a tomb and left for dead, he rose again, leaving behind the blackness of sin and the finality of death. By his sacrificial work, we put on the white robes of salvation. And, like Jesus, we now have dual citizenship; one is in this life and the other in heaven for all eternity.
I had a friend who was a dual national, as the U.S. Department of State calls such people. His father was a journalist born in the U.S. but worked in Europe, specifically, Germany, where my friend was born. Not only did my friend speak English, French and German fluently but he also held passports in both Germany and the United States. Here is what the U.S. Department of State says of dual nationals:
“Dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries, and either country has the right to enforce its laws. It is important to note the problems attendant to dual nationality. Claims of other countries upon U.S. dual-nationals often place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other. In addition, their dual nationality may hamper efforts of the U.S. Government to provide consular protection to them when they are abroad, especially when they are in the country of their second nationality.”
And then, in bold letters immediately following this statement it says: “U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States.”
What does our faith say? Being human we are truly members of this earth, but we were born into another nation, or kingdom not of this earth. We are more than just a citizen of the world, bound by its laws. We are also a people of a kingdom of heaven. Our passport to the earthly realm is our human flesh and blood, and our passport to the realm of heaven is our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Just as a person with dual nationality on this earth is required to obey the laws of both countries, we are required to obey the laws of both heaven and earth. Because of this, we too shall often be placed in situations where our obligations to God are in conflict with the laws of our temporary, earthly home. We also must have a heavenly passport to enter the kingdom of God.
On the Day of Judgment, will you be welcomed home or will you be turned away at the gates to live outside of the kingdom of heaven? Will Jesus stand before Our Father and say, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in my blood.” [Revelation 7:14b]
The answer is… you will be welcomed home. By your baptism, you have been made an heir to the kingdom of heaven. You have been made dead to sin and alive again in Christ Jesus. Your sin has been wiped clean from your souls and you have been made righteous in the blood of the Lamb who stands before the throne of God.
The answer is ‘Yes’. By the body and blood of our Savior, given to you in the sacrament of the altar, in, with and under the bread and wine, your sin is cast out from His presence forever. Be comforted and do not mourn the loss of your earthly home through the death of your mortal body. Blessed is your spirit because your ultimate home is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed is your hunger and thirst for righteousness for Christ has filled you with his own. The Holy Spirit has purified your hearts so that you will see God and are now heirs to the kingdom of heaven forever.
On this day, ‘All Saints’ Day’, we remember fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, spouses, children, friends & loved ones and all those who have left this earthly land to live in our true home in our Lord’s kingdom where we are no longer separate nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.
The election is done. However, we need not wait to be told the outcome because we did not elect our King – He elected us. Jesus Christ is the one who governs over us justly and we are truly one nation under God. This is the kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God, and so we are. [1 John 3:1]