“Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:13-14)
We confess it each time we say the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Christian church, the Communion of Saints.” This weekend we join with fellow Christians in celebrating All Saints’ Day. Who is included in your understanding of “the Communion of Saints?” (Take a minute and make a mental list of at least five “saints.”)
As you think about saints…
- Were some of them from the Bible “St. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” … “St. Peter, St. James, St. Paul, St. Thomas?”
- Were any of them St. Nicholas, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi?
- Or “church fathers” – St. Augustine, Martin Luther?
- Did you include a grandparent or other family member; your spouse; your child; what about the person sitting next to you; the people living in your neighborhood? Did you include your name? Would others include your name on their list of “saints?”
Our list is determined by the definition we use for a “saint.”
A number of years ago, a former Jesuit missionary named Junipero Serra was being recommended for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Back in the middle 1700’s he had started dozens of missions all over Mexico and the area that is now California. But he wouldn’t make the roster of saints unless there was evidence of at least two genuine miracles that he performed! This would define a saint because of what they have done! – including at least two miracles?!? Is that your definition of a saint? If so, I would guess that your list would be quite short – and would you dare to include yourself on such a list?Quite obviously, if it depends on what we have done, none of us are saints. We truthfully confess: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive yourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) We know that on our own we are sinners, not saints!And yet the Apostle Paul, writing God’s Word, begins most of his 13 letters with the words: “To the saints in Christ Jesus at: Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, etc.” In fact, someone has
ONLY BY GOD’S GRACE. God’s Word clearly says: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. (And what other secret personal sins would we also add to this list?) And this is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthian 6:9-10) God’s Word defines “saints” as “sinners who are washed (baptism), sanctified (made holy by the working of the Holy Spirit), justified (our sins have been charged against Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness has been credited to our account!) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
With the Apostle Paul we confess, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15) With the hymn writer we rejoice, “Chief of Sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me!”
Jesus includes us in our text for today (Revelation 7), through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord, we see ourselves as a part of the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) and we are assured that this “great multitude” is made up of all “who have come out of the great tribulation” (life in this anti-Christian world), and (who) “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (v.14)
Thanks be to God that it is not up to us – nor anything we do! God assures us through His prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) St. John, the apostle writes, “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all (every) sin.” (1 John 1:7) That is what absolution, the forgiveness of sins, is all about! That is also the daily blessing because of our Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is the message Jesus gives in today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 5), as nine times Jesus declares us “Blessed,” and as Jesus directs us, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is Your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:12)
On this All Saints’ Day weekend, and each day of our lives, we continue to rejoice that God has washed, sanctified and justified us so that as we live in this world, we are able to hear and be assured by God’s own Words, that as we continue to struggle against sin, God works faith in us, declaring us to be “Blessed” – “saints” along with all those who are already in God’s presence – because we also, have been washed and made white in the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
See you this weekend in worship again – as God continue to bless us with public worship together and the receiving of God’s most precious gifts.