All Saints’ Day (Observed)—November 2, 2014
1 John 3:1–3
“God’s Saintly Children”
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
Are you a child of God? Would you consider yourself to be God’s child? It’s a pretty straightforward question, isn’t it? We’d all confess that we’re a child of God. We’d probably say so without any hesitation. Who doesn’t like singing, even though we didn’t sing it today, “Children of the heavenly Father Safely to His bosom gather; Nestling bird nor star in heaven Such a refuge e’er was given.” I think you’d all agree that it’s probably safe to say that all that’s true. But…what if I were to ask you, “Are you a saint?” Are you a saint of God?” Is that such a straightforward question for you? Can you or would you automatically, without hesitation, answer, “Yes.” I think we’d have trouble answering that way. We’d think that we’ve got a long way to go to get there. “I fall short of that,” we think. As if it’s a place or station we work for! But I’ve got news for you, repeat after me: “I’m a saint. I’m holy, spotless, and blameless before God. I’m God’s saint because of Jesus.”
All of that’s true because
IF GOD SAYS YOU’RE HIS CHILD, HIS SAINT, THEN THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE.
(I. If God says it, it’s true—now!)
We all know that what God says goes. In six days God made everything by speaking. In mystical union Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made all things. Six times God said it: “Let there be…” The only-begotten Word, the ever present Spirit, and the Father spoke and it was. If God wants light and says, “Let there be light!”, then there’s light. And if God wants the light called day, then that’s what its called. What God says goes. It’s how it was at the beginning of all things, and it’s how it is now. When He says something, He expects it to be done. He speaks His commandments, His Law. If it’s not done, there’s consequences. “I, YHWH, your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the father to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” God threatens to punish all who break His commandments, and for this reason we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. And God punishes the breaking of His Law, and thankfully He punishes someone in our place—His Son, Jesus. And God’s got another Word from Calvary. His death pays it all: “It is finished!” And what God says goes.
But there’s even another aspect of what God says goes. It’s what St. John has for us today: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” God calls us His children. He’s declared it so. This happens in Baptism. It’s how it was for Jesus: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” said the Father’s voice, when the Spirit also was manifest upon Him, as He stood in the Jordan. So also you and me, God’s water and words made us His children at the font. To each of us He has said, “This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased,” because we’re “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Born by Water and the Spirit, water and the Word, the Father calls us His children. This is the kind of love given to us. It must be given, and it is! The Father gives His love to us at the font.
If we’re called His children, then that’s what we are: “we should be called children of God; and so we are.” We are his beloved children—even now! That’s what John says: “Beloved, we are God’s children now,” and that’s because we’re baptized. In Baptism we were given faith, and faith purifies us: “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” And if you’re pure, then you’re a saint. Saints are pure. And this means we’re just like those saints in Revelation: “Those who are coming out of the great tribulation. Those who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Our robes were made white by being washed in Jesus’ blood and righteousness at the font. There placed into Christ Jesus, and so “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, the new has come.” Who are we to disagree with God? What He says goes, and He says you’re His child and saint.
(II. On the Last Day you’ll see it’s been true all along.)
But it’s hard now. We don’t quite see it, do we? That’s our struggle. We get beat down because we don’t quite see it. The world’s against us in this because it was against Him. It didn’t receive God’s Son and so killed Him instead, but that was the greatest irony in history. They wanted to save themselves. So they killed the one who can save them, and by killing Him—that’s salvation. But He didn’t stay dead—He rose! This is the death and resurrection we’re baptized into, becoming God’s children. But the world’s still against us. The devil’s against us, and even our own flesh is against us: “By nature we’re children of wrath,” says Paul. We see the mistakes and failures, we see the problems we have in our own lives, and we think, “I can’t possibly be a saint.” In ourselves we don’t see it, in the world we don’t see it, and the devil won’t let us see it, but take heart, “what we will be has not yet appeared.”
It can’t be seen now, but it’s true nonetheless. It’s true because God said so, “We should be called children of God.” But it’s not true because of us. In ourselves we’re nothing but sinner, sinful, and evil. That’s you and me apart from Christ. But in Christ, we are saints, holy, and good. Our struggle in this life is that it’s all true at the same time! On this side of glory we can’t stop praying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Caste me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” But in Christ we are sons, we are heirs, we are saints. In Him we are pure, completely. Because we’re baptized we are dead to sin and alive to God—His children and saints. “Beloved, we are God’s children now.”
On the Last Day, our faith will be sight. “When Christ our Life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” because “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” It’ll be revealed that you’ve been God’s child and saint all along. You’re baptized. You’ll shine like Christ. We’ll see Him face to face. This is our faith, our hope. That we’re God’s children, and as His eternal Son died and rose for us, so also we who’ve died and risen at the font, will die and then rise on the Last Day. Death won’t have dominion over us as it didn’t have dominion over Jesus. Our faith and our hope in Him purifies us. We’re pure as He Himself is pure. Pure and God’s child by faith—pure and God’s child by the font. We’re not just God’s children,—and it should come as no surprise—but we’re His saints too! God’s said so, and what God says goes. So repeat after me: “I’m a saint. I’m holy, spotless, and blameless before God. I’m God’s saint because of Jesus.”
INI + AMEN.