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Archive for November 1st, 2017

Lessons:

The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine 7: 2—17   Psalm 149 1 John 3: 1—3 St.Matthew 5: 1—12

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About All Saints’ Day: This feast is the most comprehensive of the days of commemoration, encompassing the entire scope of that great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded (Hebrews 12:1). It holds before the eyes of faith that great multitude which no man can number: all the saints of God in Christ—from every nation, race, culture, and language—who have come “out of the great tribulation … who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). As such, it sets before us the full height and depth and breadth and length of our dear Lord’s gracious salvation (Ephesians 3:17-19). It shares with Easter a celebration of the resurrection, since all those who have died with Christ Jesus have also been raised with Him (Romans 6:3-8). It shares with Pentecost a celebration of the ingathering of the entire Church catholic—in heaven and on earth, in all times and places—in the one Body of Christ, in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Just as we have all been called to the one hope that belongs to our call, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). And the Feast of All Saints shares with the final Sundays of the Church Year an eschatological focus on the life everlasting and a confession that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In all of these emphases, the purpose of this feast is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, that we might not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Reflection:

“Here’s the church, here’s the door, open the door and see all the people”.

Some of you may remember the child’s rhyme about the Church above.  In The Large Catechism, Dr. Luther explains that when we think of “church”, we usually think of the church building, as “we are going to church”, but he points out that the only reason a sanctuary is called a “church”, is “… for the single reason that the group of people assembles here.”  The people who assemble are the Church, the communion or the community of saints, “the holy Christian Church” (Third Article of the Apostles Creed).

The rhyme above could be redone:  “Here’s God’s House, here’s the steeple, open the door and see all God’s people.” All Saints Day reminds us that when we open the doors, we might want to say, “where are all the people?”!  A friend and  colleague said to me one day that he is surprised there is anyone at church to begin with! So how did any one of us ever get here, that is, into the Church? Were the doors opened by the key of our good works?  No, by the key of forgiveness of sinners in Jesus. Luther summed it up: the work of the Holy Spirit, as he explained in the third article of the Apostles’ Creed:  

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

The communion of saints is not the church’s making, but the Holy Spirit working in and through the Word of Christ faithfully taught and preached and prayed and sung and served in the lives of the Lord’s forgiven people.  Yesterday, 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Castle Door Church.  So today it was Day 1 of the Reformation and running?  Yes, in a sense, but really no.  Luther entered into the Church years before 1517 in and through the waters of  Holy Baptism in the Name of the blessed and Holy Trinity.  Holy Baptism is our re-formation as the Lord’s people and that had happened for Martin Luther on November 11, 1497, the day after he was born.  November 11 is the Feast Day of St. Martin of Tours and so his Father and Mother named him Martin.  The point is that the Lord in His Church was reforming sinners to be Christ’s own some time before October 31, 1517.  The Lord had been building and reforming His Church since AD 33 when Christ Jesus rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit was poured upon His chosen people 50 days later.  The Reformers of 1517 and following wanted the clear light of God’s grace alone to shine without the taint of works, that salvation is by God alone.  We have been charged with preaching and teaching the Gospel since AD 33. 

“Here’s the church, here’s the door, open the door and see all the people”.

When the doors of the Church are opened,  we won’t see ALL the saints gathered because the myriads upon myriads are around the throne of the Lamb (see Revelation 5:11), awaiting with us the day of Resurrection and judgment.   When we gather for Holy Communion, the pastor will pray, “…with angels and archangels, AND ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN…”, even with 2 or 3 gathered together, there are countless more!  The saints before us were built up by His Word of Law and Grace.  We are called to keep the faith with the dead, who live in Christ waiting together the day of the general resurrection.  

Yet, the saints labor here and there are the saints,

“…who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Hebrews 12

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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