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Happy All Saints’ Sunday!

November 6, 2016

durer-adoration-of-the-lamb

Click here to listen to this sermon.

All Saints’ Day (Observed)                 Trinity Lutheran Church

6 November 2016                                Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Revelation 7:9-17s

 

All Saints’ Sunday. Saints are holy ones. Baptized believers. They are those that have died in the faith but no longer suffer from sin, decay and death. They now enjoy the eternal happiness of heaven. They stand before the throne and before the Lamb. They have come out of the great tribulation. Palm branches in hand. Washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Over the last few years our congregation has buried some dear members – brothers and sisters in Christ. It hurts. Death stings. Some of you still feel the pain of such loss.

 

But I’m here to tell you that for the saints, believers in Jesus, those that were His hangers on, the former things of this life have passed away. They now rest in the presence of the Lord Jesus waiting for the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. Heaven’s pure bliss. The magnificent pleasure of the marriage feast of the Lamb that has no end. “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 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 ever tear from their eyes.”

 

The heavenly Bridegroom Jesus has unbroken union with His bride the church in heaven. All Saints’ Sunday fine-tunes your focus. To everlasting life and eternal fellowship with the Holy Trinity in heaven. So we all sang with a heavenly homesickness today:

 

Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine

Yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine.

 

In the meantime, we live in the harsh wilderness of this world. The struggle continues of living in and from our baptism into Christ by daily doing deadly battle against our sinful natures, the world and the devil. We are not in heaven yet. After the divine service today we go back to the hard realities of our daily lives. Bills due. Tests to take. Lots to do at work. Endless things to get done at home. Life’s frustrations and heartaches. Hearing about a dear one who suddenly has cancer and there’s nothing the doctors can do. Watching a loved one slip away from dementia. We’re homesick for heaven. But now we live on this troubled earth.

 

That’s exactly why we need All Saints’ Sunday. We are too easily blind to the bigger picture. All Saints’ Sunday puts this life with all of its troubles and disappointments into perspective. The perspective of eternity. As the Book of Hebrews puts it: we are looking forward to a better city, a city whose builder is God. Yes indeed! The Holy Trinity has created, redeemed and sanctified you to be fellow citizens with all the saints in heaven. The Father has given you such citizenship through the shed-on-the-cross-Good-Friday-blood of Jesus.

 

One is tempted to focus all one’s attention on the saints. Saint so and so. Look what he or she did. The saints wouldn’t want it that way. They’d proclaim someone else. Not themselves. But JESUS! Not what they did or did not do. But what Jesus did for them, for you and for all in His death on the cross. His divine dying is what sets you free from sin, crushes Satan’s head, and gives you eternity. That’s precisely why the saints praise Jesus in this way: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 

We Lutherans remember saints, believers in Jesus that have died, “so that our faith [in Jesus] may be strengthened when we see what grace they received and how they were sustained in faith. Moreover, their good works [that flow from faith in Jesus] are to be an example for us, each of us in his own calling,” (Augsburg Confession). It is only by God’s grace given to us through Jesus that anyone is a saint, a holy one. Christ’s divine blood shed on the cross is what purifies or cleanses sinners from their sin. Christ’s all atoning Good Friday death makes you a saint. The only holiness that a Christian has comes only from Jesus. On the cross He took all your sin. In exchange He lets you wear His holiness. So, no one is a self-made saint. It’s pure gift. From Jesus. Holiness, just like salvation, is not our achievement. It is given outside of ourselves from the Lord. His doing. His donating.

 

For the saints in heaven that salvation is brought to consummation. They are done with the daily dying to sin in contrition and repentance. Their rest is won. No more struggling with sin. Done with the fight against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. They live in pure victory as they sing: “Amen! Blessing, and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”   What the saints have now by sight, we have by faith in God’s promise.

 

Where Jesus and His divine gifts are, there are His saints too. In heaven and on earth. The saints in heaven sing in the presence of the Lamb who was slain and so do the saints on earth. That’s precisely why we sing right before Holy Communion where we receive Christ’s body and blood: “Lamb of God You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.     Lamb of God You take away the sin of the world; grant us peace.”  

 

We don’t drive wedges between heaven and earth. After all, the Lord Jesus has ascended “far above all heavens in order to fill all things,” (Ephesians 4:10). The Lord Jesus has crossed over from eternity into time by His incarnation. You too are saints. Holy ones. Why? Well, because Jesus has given you the new birth “from above” (John 3:3), the rebirth of holy Baptism by which you are made heirs of heaven itself. Heaven came down to you in your baptism! For with the giving of His divine Triune Name God gave you heaven itself because His Name gives you entrée to His divine presence. AND THAT’S HEAVEN! To be in God’s presence is heaven. He gave you that with the Triune Name in holy baptism!

 

Speaking of the Triune Name, have you noticed that the absolution – the spoken word of forgiveness – is done in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Name. Access. Gracious access. Fellowship. You’re in the presence of the Holy Trinity with His Name. With the Triune Name, God forgives you. God gives you heaven.

 

The same is true at the beginning of the divine service. It’s the Invocation. You only have access to God through His Name. So, we invoke, we call upon God’s Name, because in Exodus 20:24 He promises to be with us and bless us wherever He causes His name to be honored. Or as Jesus promises in Matthew 10:20, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” So the divine service begins with the divine Name. Access again. Heavenly access. Given as gift.

And there’s more. Oh, there’s always more. The Lord’s Supper is your heaven on earth before you go to heaven. Why? Because Jesus is physically present with His body and blood. He brings with Him all the angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven. If only your eyes could see.

 

You don’t have to wait until you die to go to heaven. Did you know that? All of heaven comes to you when Jesus is present with you and for you with the giving of His Name, His Word, and His body and blood. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”

In the Name of Jesus!

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