Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Goodbye ghosts, goblins, and skeletons.
Farewell insanely expensive big bags of candy.
Don't move too quickly to Thanksgiving.
Today is worthy of celebration too! Did you know?
Today is not just a Halloween hangover day. True, our bellies may ache over one-too-many Snickers bars. Our children are probably droopy-eyed and still recovering from crashlanding off of night-long sugar highs. Nevertheless, this day is an oft-forgotten celebration—overshadowed by last Sunday’s red-clad celebration of Reformation or the candy-driven desires of the day before it. November 1st is a very significant festival (or holiday) on the church calendar. Today is All Saints’ Day, also sometimes referred to as the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. This day has been celebrated, in some capacity, by the universal church going all the way back to the early eighth century. The festival originally, in the Roman Church, honored those who were considered especially holy—heroic figures from the Scriptures and martyrs who had given their lives nonviolently in witness to the faith. However, it is an especially Lutheran accent for the feast to honor not only those who lived exemplary lives, but all who have been baptized into Christ’s death. For Lutherans, All Saints’ Day resonates with the conviction that in Christ every saint is a sinner and every sinner a saint. In other words, saints are ALL true believers on earth and in heaven, both living and dead.
In our Lutheran Confessions and tradition, the departed ones do not hold a higher “position” in the Church. We do not pray to the departed Saints. We do not seek their approval or blessing. We do not request their counsel or ask for them to intercede to the Father on our behalf. Only Christ stands between us and the Heavenly Father as our one and only mediator (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5). Some saints are indeed revered for the role they served in Christ’s Church throughout history. But just like you and me, ordinary and faithful pew-sitters, they are each just another sinner washed in the blood of Christ. To be sure, we give thanks to God for their faithfulness and example, the impact they made for the Kingdom. But each is just another flawed and fallen individual who have been clothed by the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. For all of time, a person is given the title of “Saint” in a completely passive way. Not by their credentials. Not by merit. Not by work or accomplishment. The title of “Saint” is bestowed upon them, and us, by grace alone. Through faith given by the Holy Spirit, they believe Christ is their Lord and Savior. Flowing nicely from our timeless Reformation theme, we know that all people are saved solely by His complete atonement for their sins.
In our commemoration of All Saints today (and in worship this coming Sunday), we remember those who have died in Christ with the sure and certain hope of salvation and redemption by His grace. We are thankful for the blessings the departed saints we knew brought to our lives. Our grandparents. Our parents. Former pastors and Sunday schools. Men and women who have modeled the faith and poured into our own spiritual upbringing. We also remember the Christian faithful from all generations, not limited by time, denomination or earthly accolades. Today, between bites of leftover Halloween candy, is a day to reflect and give thanks for those saints in your cloud of witnesses. These are the faithful people whom God worked through to instill the faith you and I have in Jesus today.
So, celebrate today as a saint. For that is what you are. A beloved and sainted child of God; a justified and forgiven son and daughter of the King! Give thanks for all the sinners declared saints before you. Rejoice that this same performative Word that bespoke them saints is still speaking, still sanctifying sinners in Christ who rose for our justification and whose righteousness is our robe, the source of our sainthood. No, this title, dear friends and saints, is not earned or deserved. It is a gift. A gift given and freely available to all. And because this saintly title isn’t from you, it is as sure and certain as its Giver—the One to whom all the saints of every age point and in whom they live and move and have their being. Take off the Halloween regalia; adorn your saintly attire. Cover yourself with that white robe and garnish your head with that beautiful crown. Be not ashamed. Walk around as boldly and proudly as those cute-costumed kids that rang your doorbell last night. This “saintly” attire is no mere costume. It is the real deal. Try it on for size and wear it well, for it won’t ever wear out. It’s as eternal as the One who gave it to you. And instead of ‘trick-or-treat’ our tongue heeds the direction of the psalmist: “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.” (Psalm 30:4)
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)
Pastor Steve Vera