“Saints: Children of God” 1 John 3:1-3
All Saints Weekend Nov. 5 & 6, 2016
“How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
We confess it each time we say the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.” What do you understand all of this to mean? Who is included in your understanding of “the Communion of Saints” / in the celebration of All Saints’ Day?
- A person with a halo above his / her head?
- Jesus’ apostles: “St. Peter, St. James, St. Paul, St. Thomas?”
- 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.”
- The Roman Catholic church has a strict 5-point check-list before they canonize a “saint.” It is all determined by what the person has done, whether they have lived a “heroically virtuous life” and if it can be proven that 2 miracles of healing occurred as a result of their intercession: all focused on the good deeds of the person. Quite obviously, if it depends on what we have done, none of us are saints. We truthfully confess that “we are by nature sinful and unclean… we have sinned by thought, word and deed.” 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.” How can this be?
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 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 Corinthians 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.”
God’s Word, in today’s 2nd reading tells us that saints are sinners “who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelations 7:14) As God’s Word assures us: “the blood of Jesus, (God’s) Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
And the All Saints Day Gospel lesson is always Matthew 5; the Beatitudes. Contrary to what many may think, these are not “Be-Attitudes” that we need to strive for and check off so that we can acquire blessings from God. These are descriptions and conditions of our Savior, which only become ours through faith in Jesus. This is why we are so blessed to receive them through our worship services: reminded of our Baptism in the Invocation; receiving absolution for our sins; hearing God’s Word; eating and drinking His body and blood for life and forgiveness, and having God’s name placed upon us in the Benediction. These same blessings of faith given through the reading and studying of God’s Word.
And God is so gracious, He not only works in us personally, but He also surrounds us with many others to encourage us through life. Using a sports analogy, we know that team members, cheerleaders and cheering fans are a great help. This is one of the great blessings in being a part of the Church – the Family of God. God works His blessings to us through others – their encouragement, their friendship, their help.
Through the cleansing forgiveness of Jesus Christ, through the on-going, life-changing gift of faith, we rejoice again on this All Saints’ Weekend that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, our names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life;” because of what Jesus Christ has done and continues to do through His Word and Sacraments, and we rejoice that we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2:19)
What a blessing to live each day with faith in Jesus Christ. What a blessing to gather together each weekend to receive God’s precious gifts and to encourage one another as we live as Saints: God’s Children.
Pastor Dan Myers