November 4, 2012: All Saints Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, how glorious it is to be one of Your elect! How comforting to know that You hold us in the palm of Your hand and You will never let us go! And what a solace it is to know that our loved ones who have died on earth are now living with You in glory! Thank You for making us Your saints, Your holy ones. Thank You for loving us more than You loved Your own life! Amen


TEXT: Deuteronomy 33: 1-3: “This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death. He said: ‘The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes. Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand.’”

Dearly Beloved Saints Awaiting Glory:

The celebration of All Saints dates back to the 3rd century. Christians wanted to remember their beloved forebears in Christ and thus the day became popular in the ancient church. Early on it was celebrated on May 13th in Rome. But in 835 one of Popes changed it to November 1st. One of the main reasons for this shift was that the food supply in Rome wasn’t adequate for all the pilgrims who came to the city! Better to have it in the Fall after harvest time. Who says these early Christians weren’t a practical lot?

The text before us is a fitting reminder of the glorious nature of All Saint’s Day. After leading the Israelites through the wilderness, right before they are about to go into the promised land, Moses gives them this Godly blessing. Moses would not be accompanying them. He knew God was ready to take him into glory. So this is also his valediction to God’s people right before his death. It applies to us and certainly is a comforting reminder of God’s love directed toward any and all of our dearly departed who have died in Christ—including Hans Ostrand and my mother Lorraine Fox who left earth this past year.

Moses begins by remembering one of the past high points of God’s glory showered upon His beloved people, a high point that they all knew by heart—the giving of the commandments on Mt. Sinai. “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir (the land of the east); he shone forth from Mount Paran (the land to the west).” Yes, the glory of God’s presence upon that mountain literally “lit up” the whole surrounding countryside! Also, God did not come alone. No, “He came with myriads of holy ones (angels) from the south from his mountain slopes.” And now comes a reminder of why God shed His glory upon them. “Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand.”

God’s love for human beings is found only in and through Jesus Christ. He is God’s Love made flesh, incarnate. Right here we have shades of John 3:16 uttered by the lips of Moses 1500 years before John penned those famous words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall have eternal life.” Yes, Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost. He came to lead His elect out of this wilderness of earthly existence to His promised land of heaven. He came to feed His flock with the manna of the Lord’s Supper, to quench our spiritual thirst with the waters of our baptism, and to build up our spiritual strength with the Bread of life—the message of forgiveness for all sins in Christ, alone. Through these avenues, or means of grace, God makes us holy. Through these means He creates saints. Through these means He seeks to keep us in His almighty hand, free from the devil’s schemes, worldly evil, and our own penchant for spiritual self-destruction.

We humans are a sentimental/emotional lot. When we lose a brother in Christ like Hans, or a wonderful Christian friend and ally like my mother we naturally grieve. We cry. We ask: Why? And we live each day with a sense of great loss. We know St. Paul’s words: “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We know those words are true. We take comfort in them. And yet, our hearts still feel emotional pain, don’t they? Any time we lose a loved one in Christ, human pain results. But, what would your life be like if you didn’t know, with certainty, that you’d see them again? What would life be like if you didn’t know that they are feeling absolutely no pain right now in glory? It would be awful. Well, this text dispels any fear or doubt we may have about any saints standing with God. “All the holy ones are in your hand.” And what better place is there to be than held closely and dearly by God Almighty?!

To be sure, Hans and my mother were poles apart in terms of their temperment, lifestyle, and background. Hans was a single, older man, never married. He lived alone and was eccentric in his habits. He was an introvert and very quiet unless you knew him very well. My mother, Lorraine, was married for over 50 years, had 4 children, was very outgoing and active in church activities, and wasn’t afraid to make her opinion known. And yet, just like you and me, Jesus loved them both. Just like you and me, Jesus took them both to heaven. For the one thing they had in common, the one thing that bound them together was their faith in Jesus Christ. And it is that faith which sustained them in life and now has led them into glory!
You and I still walk terra firma. We still breath the air and endure the ups and downs of life. We still face frustrations, disappoints, heartache, sadness and eventually we’ll confront death, as well. And yet, we’re bound to these new saints today and we always will be! As St. Paul exhorts: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” Yes, Christ is the common denominator. Christ is the defining element in our lives. For Christ alone makes sinners into saints and changes dead humans into living inhabitants of heaven!

Today we recall ALL SAINTS! Think of the saints among your own family. Think of your sainted friends who you grieved for this past year, but who now are rejoicing in the bliss of eternal glory. They are praising God this very moment for their blessed fortune. So, let’s continue to praise Him, too! For Moses was entirely correct when he said: “Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand.” Amen