INI + AMEN.
Today we celebrate All Saints’. November 1st, which is when All Saints’ Day is, never used to be a big deal. It was one church festival among many, until on the Eve of All Saints’, October 31st, a monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Now, there were many abuses and misunderstandings that crept into Christianity about saints. Because this was really a problem in Luther’s day, Luther wanted All Saints’ done away with. Well, it’s a good thing no one listened to Luther on this point. It’s good for us to give thanks for those who died with faith in Jesus and who now rest from their labors. But there are still misunderstandings about saints even today. Once we set our eyes on Jesus, He clears up any sort of misunderstanding we may have.
((2. What are saints?))
So, first question: What are saints? When we hear that word, we so often think that saints are good people. While we tend to think of most people, ourselves included, as pretty good people, “saints” are better people. They’re really good. In fact, we might even use “saint” as an insult for someone we think is being a “goodie two-shoes.”
Now, another way we might think about “saints” is that they’re Super Christians. You know: like Paul and Peter, who did awesome stuff for Jesus. They saw Him, heard Him, and then they went far and wide doing miracles, preaching awesome sermons, and all sorts of other saintly type things.
But the Scriptures have another idea altogether. This is what Paul says in his opening sentence to the Ephesians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul calls the Ephesian Christians “saints.” That’s who they are, in Jesus, by their faith in Him. This is something that John echoes in our Epistle reading. He just uses a different term for it. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” He also says, “Everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”
Who are saints? Those who are God’s Children by their hope and trust in Jesus. Because of this hope they are pure and holy, which is what saint really means: holy one. Saints are holy through their trust in what Jesus has done for them: died and risen for them to rescue fro, their sins. Or to speak like John: Saints are children of the Father.
((1. Who/what makes them saints?))
So, now that we’ve got a biblical definition of “saint,” let’s tackle another question: how’d they become saints? It’s a very similar question to the first, but we need to really look at this because we so often think: “Well, it’s their works.” That’s what we think. It’s why we think “good people” are saints. Because we think it’s good works that make people saints. But that’s not it at all.
Jesus makes saints. He makes people holy. He sheds His blood for them, dies for them. Listen to what John saw and heard in Revelation: “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’“ Jesus’ blood made them spotless, pure, holy—saints! He delivered His cleansing blood to them in this life in Baptism and in the Supper, and when they passed into eternal life, they received what they already had. That’s what John says in epistle: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” The Father makes us His children, and that’s what we are now.
Saints receive this by faith. As John says, “everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” So also you. This isn’t for other people. This is also for you, dear saints of God. You are saints of God because of Jesus.
IN JESUS YOU’RE A HOLY AND PURE CHILD OF THE FATHER.
If you’re a child, then you’re a saint. That’s how it goes! That’s what you are right now! “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” In this life, we still struggle with sin, doubt, unbelief, and death. But Jesus right now continues to keep you as His Father’s children, to keep you pure and holy, to keep you a saint. He purifies you with His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. It’s the medicine that gives eternal life.
[[[When we gather for the Lord’s Supper, we aren’t alone. As the author of Hebrews says, “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” Yes, when we gather to receive Jesus’ body and blood, we’re not alone. Jesus is of course here—the Father and the Spirit too. We’ll hear it again in a few minutes: “with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,” those whom we love that have departed in the faith here too—one holy Church praising our God Jesus who brings us His body and blood that our robes may once again be made white and pure in His blood.]]]
On All Saints’ Day we rejoice and give thanks for what Jesus has done. That He has taken saints to Himself in eternal life. That He continues to make and keep you His saint here on earth. It’s not based on what anyone does, but on what Jesus gives. IN JESUS YOU’RE A HOLY AND PURE CHILD OF THE FATHER. In Him, it’s that way now and forever.
INI + AMEN.