Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
01. November 2010
All Saints’ Day
Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
Dear Christians, we like to mourn. We grieve out of longing for our dear loved ones who have died. We weep in sorrow for their loving embrace. We are disappointed or even mad that they won’t get to enjoy more of life. Those who die in their sixties, seventies, or by reason of strength eighties or later often fail to know and love their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Some miss retirement. Others suffer in their bodies, tormented by cancer and disease in their final days.
We are tempted to put words in our Lord’s mouth. If the Lord were merciful, we say he would not allow them to suffer. If the Lord were merciful, he would give them pleasant decades of retirement. If the Lord were merciful, he wouldn’t call them home, only to leave us behind with bills and needs, children and grief. If the Lord were merciful, He would let them live forever. We like to mourn. We like to grieve and doubt God.
Our flesh speaks only worry, anxiety, and doubt. Our flesh says that a life of seventy is not lived. Our flesh says that a fifty-year-old who dies from cancer is unjustly taken from us. Our flesh says a child who dies in an auto accident, as an infant, or in the womb is an example of God’s weakness. Our flesh says that God is not almighty, that He does not see, nor does He hear our prayer.
It is wise to celebrate All Saints’ Day as a church festival. Today you have heard and taken to heart not the anxieties of your flesh. You have taken to heart our Lord’s comforting Word. Our Lord tells the truth. He does not lie. The great company of witnesses have heard the truth and gather about the Lamb’s throne.
God does not delight in the death of one of His dear loved ones. God does not turn a blind eye to suffering. He does not ignore tragedy and go about as if it did not happen. He weeps tears of anguish and sweats droplets of blood. He grieves and mourns. But God does not doubt.
What God says is the truth. It is not just the truth for the ancients, for the apostles, for the first martyrs, or for the Reformers. God’s Word is true yesterday, today, and even past the end of time. God speaks and the creation responds. God speaks and the deed is done. God speaks and the dead are raised.
When we mourn, we weep in sorrow that we have hurt our Lord. We have not done as He commands. We have not loved Him as we ought. We grieve because we are sinners and daily sin much. When we see the corpse lying in the grave, we know the wages for sin. We know the truth. We know what our Lord thinks about each innocent lie, each subtle stab in the back, each lustful glance. We know that He is just and He justly punishes sin. No matter how innocent we think we are, the wages for our fleshly stupidity is a death under God’s wrath.
We know that we have sinned. We have not done, said, or thought as we should. Each petty debt hurts our Lord. His flesh took on the sin of the whole world. He suffers when we suffer. The curse we hurled at the driver as he caught us off, injured our Lord. The change we shorted the neighbor is like a thorn in His brow. When we offend another, He is offended. And most of all, when we die, He dies with us, hanging from the cross beam. Oh, what grief! Oh, what woe!
Sometimes we get too nostalgic about this life. We hold onto our possessions, our lives, and our loved ones like there could be nothing better. We grasp them to our dying breath. Even a dearly departed spouse can be mourned and grieved until it finally kills us off too.
Dear Christian, do not be anxious. Do not grieve as those who have no hope. Rejoice for you are His saints, both you and all the faithful. We do not grieve without hope. We do not mourn without the promise. We are not like the others who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not listen. We see and we know. We hear and we believe.
God does not delight in the death of His saints. He grieves and He mourns but not in vain. Our suffering now led our Lord to His cross. We do not grieve without hope. We do not mourn without the promise. The pain and misery of cancer was scourged into our Lord’s flesh. The death of our dear loved ones was taken into the death of the Son of God.
Christ’s blood has bleached white our robes. The blood of the Lamb of God washed the lives of our loved ones who await the resurrection of the dead. The blood flowing from His side will wash those clean until He returns again in judgment.
St. John saw this promise. He saw the Christian hope. Many have and will come from many nations, tribes, peoples, and languages to stand before the throne of the Lamb. We are the ones coming out of the great tribulation We have palm branches in our hands and are clothed in white robes.
And so are all the dearly departed, who died trusting our Lord’s gift that gives hope. All the saints will never die again. Death has no dominion for salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and the Lamb. We cry out, “Amen!”
St. John vision has one more element that offers special comfort to us who mourn. Our Lord guides His saints to springs of living water. They are sheltered in His presence where they will neither hunger nor thirst. Dear Christians, before us on the altar is the feast that satisfies our hunger and quenches our thirst. This is the Holy Communion of the Saints in His body. The Lamb of God feeds us his heavenly food, the blood of life and bread of manna. We stand before His throne and sing with the saints, the blessed dead, and angels: “Holy, Holy, Holy!” We wave our palm branches with those saints singing “Hosanna in the Highest!” We approach the altar with the same white robes, washed in the blood of the Lamb. All the saints of God received the washing of rebirth. All the blessed have the perfect righteousness of God cast upon them. While we are yet in on our pilgrimage to the heavenly, our Lord has given us this great gift to strength us in the great tribulation. This taste of heaven reunites us each Holy Communion with the dearly departed.
We are to mourn with hope: we express your sorrow for sin and how it has grieved your Lord. We mourn your utter inability to fix yourself and turn instead to God. Then, we rejoice knowing He has redeemed you! He has washed you until you are spotless in His blood. And not just you but all the dearly departed and all those elect who have yet to come. Rejoice and mourn with hope. Rejoice and feast on the Lamb who is your Shepherd and your feast. Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.