All Saints Day (11/1/2009)

All Saints -- All of Us

Lessons:     Isaiah 25:6-9 or Wisdom 3:1-9     Psalm 24:1-10, 22 (9)     Revelation 21:1-6a     St. John 11:32-44   Prayer of the Day     Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

St. John 11:32-44 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

 There is a story about a child who asked Mom what a saint was. Mom was trying to explain sainthood, and finally came upon this explanation: "You know those people whose pictures are in the stained glass windows at church? Mary and Peter and John and Paul and the others? They are the saints." The child thought for a moment, and finally responded: "Oh I get it. Saints are people who let the light shine through." A pretty good answer!

This Sunday is All Saints' Day. Ever since a.d. 610, when Pope Boniface IV instituted this festival in Rome, each November 1st has been recognized as All Saints' Day (and if that is a mid-week date, the following Sunday is All Saints' Sunday). There are two distinct dimensions to every All Saints' Day. First of all, it is a day when we remember those saints, famous and familiar, whose lives have graced the church, and whose faithfulness continues to inspire us today. We think of Biblical characters like Abraham, the father of the Hebrew faith; or David, Israel's greatest king; or Peter, the first among our Lord's disciples; or Paul, who started a number of congregations and left some powerful letters behind. We think of those who have left their mark on the church in more recent years: early church leaders like Jerome, Augustine, or Athanasius; musicians like Bach, Schütz, and Handel; reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Hauge; teachers and witnesses like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., and T. Simon Farisani. We think of those who are less well known: the saints whom we'll mentioned during this weekend's worship -- saints whose witness and encouragement has shaped our faith -- saints who continue to play a role in strengthening the church's witness. All Saints' Day is a day to remember all of those whose lives have enriched the church, and have inspired our own faithfulness.

There is a second dimension to All Saints' Day. It is also a day to acknowledge that saints are those who know what is the hope to which God has called us, who know the riches of the inheritance we receive in Christ, and who know the immeasurable greatness of Christ's power for those who believe. We are all saints, not becasue of what we have done, but what we have recevied through Jesus Christ.

Put in a different way, a Christian is (in the words of Luther and the reformers) simil justis et peccator (Latin for: "at the same time, saint and sinner"). Luther taught that all believers are sinners since we are human, yet all believers are saints, since we have been cleansed by the righteousness of Christ. On All Saints' Day we remember who we are: sinners in need of forgiveness, and saints washed clean by Christ.

Ultimately, that is what a saint is: whether you're talking about one of the famous saints, known by the whole church, or whether you're talking about a lesser known saint who belongs to our own community (including you and me). A saint is someone who has been touched by God in a way that has made a difference. My God touch us this weekend, as we worship together on All Saints' Day.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. Which Biblical Saints have life stories that still touch the hearts of believers today?
  2. Is their model primarily one of following faithfully after Christ, or being deeply touched by grace?
  3. How did the Reformer's understanding of saint (someone who is forgiven by faith in Christ) help strengthen the early years of the Lutheran movement?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. How has God helped me to be certain that I am one of the saints -- a believer who has been made right with God through Jesus Christ?
  2. When has one of God's Saints touched my life, and inspired my faithfulness?
  3. What does it mean for me to be called to live as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ?