Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
All Saints’ Day 2009
For an audio mp3 of this file, click here: AllSaints-2009
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for All Saints Day is from St. Matthew the fifth chapter. We focus on the word, blessed.
What I think is so hard about a day like All Saints Day (or Sunday as we celebrate it) is that it is such a day of faith and not of works. Faith trusts what is not seen. Faith is hidden. Faith looks with the ears, and hears what God’s Word proclaims to be true. Now we can understand this when we’re talking about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising again from the dead for our justification. That is received by faith. I can’t reason my way into that. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t follow from how the world works or what I think I know about God. But it is true nonetheless. And because it is true, God’s Word teaches and gives it to poor sinners like you and I to trust and cling to no matter what our hearts may tell us or our eyes may try to show us.
So here we come to a day like All Saints Day. It is easy in some respects to think about concepts like forgiveness and justification and even eternal life, as long as they are sort of academic terms or ideas. As long as these things are just words it is easy to marginalize them or consider them unimportant to your life here on earth. We all do this, don’t we? I’ve got the Gospel. I’ve got Jesus in my heart, and so I don’t really have to reflect or seek to receive it anymore.
But what happens when you’re looking at your father or mother’s grave? What happens when you bury your own child, or when someone else you love dies suddenly? Now, dear friends, now the Christian faith kind of faces a great trial. You see, Satan wants you to believe a lie. He wants you to believe that all of this God and forgiveness talk is just so many words. Death, though, death is real. Death is concrete. Death is where you see things as they really are. Satan wants you to believe that there is nothing more certain that your own death. That is the end. That is reality. This is why funerals are so painful, even for the Christian. We fight and struggle with our own unbelief in the face of such trials. You look at death, and it reminds you of your own weaknesses and sorrows and trials. Is all of this faith-talk really true? What if God really doesn’t love them? What if God really doesn’t love me?
This is where the Gospel shines mostly brightly, dear friends in Christ. This is where God’s Word holds up a reality that goes beyond the grave, and a life that never ends, because of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh who took on our flesh for us. Jesus in our text this day recounts the blessedness of being in Him. Our text, commonly called the beatitudes, shows us a picture and a life that makes no sense, if we are left to what our eyes show us and our hearts tell us. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed, blessed, blessed. How can this be? Who is Jesus talking about?
Jesus is talking in three ways here when he describes the blessedness of a life in God. First of all, He is talking about Himself. Who else hungers and thirsts for our righteousness? Who else is truly the peacemaker? Who else sorrows and grieves for our sin? Who else is persecuted for us? Who else but Jesus Christ, the righteous one? When Jesus speaks these words, He first is talking about Himself.
But then He is also talking about you. In your Baptism everything that Christ won for you on the cross and in the tomb became yours. You are blessed, because you are in Christ. That is all that finally matters. When you are in Christ, you have received all things. You are holy and righteous, beloved by God. You are blessed. Of course, this reality is hidden. It is not so easy to see. But just because something is hidden, does not mean it is not there. This is true, and we will talk about how we know this to be true in a moment.
Now if this text is talking about Jesus, then you, it is also talking about all of God’s children adopted into His family by Word and water and the Spirit. This text is talking about all of the saints who have gone, who rest from their labors in Christ, and how now sit with Him in the heavenly places. This text is describing the Church in heaven that reigns in glory, just as it describes the Church on earth, hidden under the cross and suffering. When you read these words, remember all of your loved ones who have gone before us and are with Christ. Remember them, and rejoice! Because they are in Christ, they are bound to you in a way that transcends time and space, suffering and hurt. You are connected to them in the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin.
But how do you know this is true? It is true because Jesus Word and promise are true. Take, eat, this is my body, take, drink, this is my blood. St. Paul put it this way: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (I Cor. 10:16) Then a little later St. Paul writes, Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually (I Cor. 12:27).
You, dear friends, are the body of Christ. You have been bought with his blood, sealed in the waters of your Baptism, you have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. You are the body of Christ. But not only you, all of those who have lived and died in the faith are the body of Christ. So when you receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ from this Altar, you do so praising God with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. This is the God’s Word and promise, given and shed for you.
What this means, in a profound and wonderful way, is that when you commune here, you commune with the whole body of Christ. The whole body of Christ is here, at this altar, every time we receive the Lord’s Supper. What a profound mystery! What a wonderful Sacrament! God delivers Himself to you, and in delivering Himself, he delivers the whole company of heaven into our midst.
Faith trusts what it does not see. Faith clings to promises that God gives, even if we cannot fully understand them. But mark this well, dear Christians. Christ has won salvation and eternal life for you. You are free in Him. You are one of God’s saints, along with the whole company of heaven. You are a part of His body, a part of His family. And in Christ, there is always hope for the future.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.