All Saints’ Day 2004

All Saints
Matthew 5:1-12
112th Anniversary of Redeemer

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Surely we must know that happiness is not in brick and mortar, steel and leather, food and wine, skin and silk. We have been hurt by those things. We have seen the destructive obsession, addiction, and demise of friends and family in those things. But we have not learned. Our daydreams give us away. We are near-slaves to our stomachs and libidos. Imagine the shame we would endure if men could read our thoughts even for a moment. What if your co-workers knew what your doodles meant or heard the daydreams you indulge during meetings? Repent.

The sad reality is we spend our waking hours obsessed with ourselves, and when we sleep, we dream of nothing else. We waste our lives adding up the cost of all the things we want: a new car, a new house, a quick way out of debt, a dream vacation, a life of leisure, a slimmer waist, a more attentive husband, honor and prestige from our friends and countrymen, a college fund for our children, a fat retirement for ourselves! Surely we must know that happiness is not in these things! But we have not learned. Is it any wonder that our prayers are so sickly weak and anemic? They are offered up in haste, mostly without hope or in panic, by thoughtless rote or for superstition´s sake. We daydream and surf the internet, watch tv and drink, more than we pray.

St. John the Divine, son of thunder, seer of visions, and beloved of Our Lord, was no better. He even tried to worship an angel once. He fell asleep in the garden of betrayal. He followed Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration and wanted to stay there rather than have men saved by the Messiah´s exodus through death and the grave. But the Lord would not leave him alone in his depression and pain. Even in his peculiar cross of exile on Patmos, the Lord came to him to comfort and forgive. He showed St. John the future to come: the saints, even he and the ten, and Matthias and Paul, and the Patriarchs and prophets, and the martyrs, the confessors, the virgins, the catechumens, the faithful, the good and the bad, the greatest and the least, a great company without number, thousands upon thousands from every continent and time, from every nation and tongue, with every color of skin and hair and eyes ever bestowed upon men, short and fat, tall and thin, learned and simple, girls and boys, children and adults, all arrayed in white, free at last, with branches of  palm and songs of praise – the life to come. In exile and alone on earth, John was never alone. The Lord was with him always, and so, too, were the saints, the cloud of witnesses who upheld him with perfected prayers and beseeched the Lamb once slain but alive with the constant request, “How long, O Lord? How long?’

These saints already delivered, who died in the faith and were born into heaven, do what we try to do but are as yet unable. They pray in perfection and without sin. They know no fear, no sorrow, no selfish desires. They have been granted relief of the things we now endure:  poverty, meekness, hunger and thirst, and persecution. They are blessed. The kingdom of heaven is theirs. They are comforted. They have obtained mercy. They see God. They are the sons of God. Free of all burdens they now pray without fail or guile and always for us. They are free of the pain, but not the memory. For while they do not suffer in any way or miss us, nonetheless, they feel the kinship to us on earth more strongly than do we to them. They are more aware of our unity than we. For they are selfless and pure in heart. They have come out of the great tribulation and bleached their souls in Jesus´ Blood.

Thus did St. John find comfort on Patmos´ lonely shores. He saw the days to come, his brothers and his sisters triumphant and in glory. He knew their faces. They were his friends and his loved ones, his teachers and his children. He was glad for them, that they were free and at rest. But He was also glad to have them on his side, to see the love of God in men made righteous by grace and alive from the dead, to have the promise of his own impending resurrection and reward.

Our sanctification is not yet complete. The good work begun in us is not yet done. Our faith has not yet come full course and our prayers are sickly weak. But your justification, your forgiveness and righteous with God is complete and full. There is no more. And the day will come when your sanctification will be a perfect match as it is already for the saints before us. Their prayers availeth much. They show us the way. We honor them. We are encouraged by them. We imitate them. And we benefit from their intercessions and their prayers. For however weak and sinful we might be, however inwardly turned, conceited, and arrogant we are, the love God cannot be stopped by this! Death is dead. Life lives. Jesus loves to forgive. His death and resurrection makes all things new, washes the souls of the saints, places the palms into their hands. For this great throng of saints is not the doing of the saints, but of God! Thus they sing: “Salvation belongs to God.’ He change the hearts of men.

Thus, too, does the Holy Spirit abide in you, O weak man! The Father and the Son also love you. They placed their Holy Name upon you. And if the prayers of saints triumphant do much good, and they do, then how much more the prayers that words cannot express, offered from that temple of the Holy Spirit in your heart to very the inner counsel of the Trinity?

Your sanctification is not yet full. Your sins still hurt and wound those you love and yourself. You still suffer in this chaos of death, the last gasps of the dying enemy, but you are blessed. By grace you believe, you hope, you trust, you wait. Better days are coming. John has already gone, so, too, have some of your loved ones. And while no man can number that multitude of saints around the throne of grace, the God who counts the hairs on your head can. He counted you among that multitude when the water and the Word were first applied, when He called you out of darkness to life, and whenever now He feeds you with His Body and His Blood, when He whispers again the Words of Life into your ears, forgives your sins, and says, “Come to Me, ye who are weary. I will give your rest.’

In +Jesus´ Name. Amen.

Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana

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