Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints' Day

Happy All Saint's Day! That's right, today is November 1st, which in the church year is All Saints' Day. It is a day in which we can think of 2 different things: 1) those who have died in Christ, and 2) those who still live as yet by faith. The first group is made up of all those who are truly saints. The second group is made up of those who are truly saints and yet, at the same time, are truly sinners.

We rejoice to think of those who lived in Christ and died in Christ. It might sadden us to think of a loved one - a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, uncle, aunt or friend - who has died. Death is that one last terrible enemy that we must face. Death is always hunting us down. We fear death. We don't want to die. We hang onto life until the last possible moment. And then we finally succumb to death. It grabs us. It yanks us from this world of life. It comes screaming our direction and pulls apart our world.

And yet, for the Christian, death is a toothless enemy. It appears strong, powerful, and overwhelming. But it is a toothless hound whose bark is worse than his bite. Why? Because of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross, was laid in the tomb and then (ready for this?) ROSE from the dead! He broke the bounds of death. He kicked the teeth out of that enemy. He defeated not only sin and the devil, He crushed the power of death over us! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

It is because of Jesus' resurrection that we celebrate All Saints' Day. Those who have gone before us, those who lived in faith in Christ Jesus, those who died in faith in Christ Jesus, have received victory over death. They have passed from death to life. It is as Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die." (John 11:26-26 ESV) Life from death, victory over death, saint from sinner - All Saints' Day. Those who have died in Christ are saints now. They live in Christ. They sin no more. They are sin no more. All sin has been removed from them. No longer do they have that terrible, wretched sinful nature to struggle with. They are totally and completely saints. Free! Truly free! Christ has set them free!

We who are alive face the struggle. We are at the same time truly saint and truly sinner. We are made saints in Christ by virtue of our Baptism. He made us saints. He made us new. He gave us a new life in Him that we live by faith each day. But we still struggle with that terrible, wretched sinful nature that is truly us. We are sin. We face temptation and we give in. We sin regularly and mightily. It is for that reason that we crawl back to the waters of our Baptism and say, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." And there, in the place that our new life began, we are made new again. Forgiveness is bestowed. New life is given. And we are made saints once again. The cycle goes like that daily.

Lest we give up hope, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11). We look at the saints of God and realize that empowered by the Holy Spirit, strengthened through Word and Sacrament, we fix our eyes on Christ Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

That, my friends, is All Saints' Day. That is why we remember it. We celebrate the life eternal God has given to those who have died in Christ. And we celebrate the life eternal to those of us who live in Christ. Happy All Saints' Day to you, my fellow saint.

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