Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Saints Past And Present" - Sermon of the Day for SUNDAY, November 5, 2017 - All Saints Sunday

"Saints Past And Present"
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1 (NIV)
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today we celebrate the festival of “All Saints,” a time to remember all of God’s faithful servants of time past, who, through their lives of faith, have humbly served God and their fellow human beings. It is a day in which we give thanks to God, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, working in the lives of his saints, both great and small, the faith of the church has been passed down from generation to generation.

And, of course, it has been a time to remember and give thanks to God for those who have died in faith and have, over the past year, entered the Church Triumphant.

Thus, on this day, we remember our past, we remember those who have touched our lives in a way that has enabled us to grow as persons, and more importantly, as children of God. We remember and give thanks to God for the guidance of his Holy Spirit, who has enabled us to glean from our family and those close to us, what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

In his book, Whistling in the Dark, Frederick Buechner writes, “When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind, even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my words and speak to me in your heart.” End quote.

But since we are not remembering a recent loss, I have chosen to take a different approach to my sermon for today, and focus, not just on God’s saints from the past, but also on our role as God’s saints in the present, as we await God’s promise of our future, given to us through our baptism. Thus, I have chosen as my text for this morning recorded in the third chapter of First John.

Listen again to what John writes: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)

Do you notice that there is a very clear present and future tense to what John is proclaiming? To be sure, who we are, and the faith that we embody, is a result of those who have given of their lives to raise us, care for us and nurture us in the past. But as a result of our baptism, as a result of the witness of those in the past, and as a result of God’s Holy Spirit at work within us – we are, in the present, children of God.

And as a child of God, we are God’s saints, living in today’s world. We are the ones, who, like it or not, will influence the lives of our children, and a host of others with whom our lives come into contact. We are the ones, who, although our lives are not perfect, who are, as Martin Luther so aptly described, persons who are at the same time “sinners and saints,” we are the ones who are charged with the responsibility of passing on the faith of the Christian church to those who come after us.

Now, I doubt that any of us have ever considered ourselves to be a saint. I doubt that any of us ever decided, as a child, that what we wanted to be a saint when we grew up. I know that I certainly didn’t.

Even today, after many years as an adult, there are many ways that my life does not reflect that I am a saint. I am, and will always be a sinner, until the time of my death. And yet, at the same time, I must also realize that as a result of my baptism, I am a child of God, and through the power of God’s Spirit at work within me, I am called to witness to the grace of God in Jesus the Christ, and to conform my life to his.

Isn’t that the true mark of a saint? Of all the persons who have ever influenced me to grow in faith in the past, and continue to influence me to grow in faith in the present, there is not one of them whom I would deem to be perfect, without fault, or as pure in faith as our crucified and risen Lord. And yet, the lives of these less than perfect saints have, and continue, to touch my life.

On this day that we commemorate all of God’s saints, we can not neglect the fact that we are also numbered among them. We are now, as John proclaims, a child of God, and as such, a redeemed saint. And as a saint, we need to realize that what we say, and what we do, serves as a witness to others of our faith in God’s redeeming grace in Jesus the Christ.

No, we may not be perfect, or a saint, in our own understanding of that term, nevertheless, we are redeemed children of God, members of Christ’s church here on earth. And through the power of God’s Spirit, we have come to realize the promise of our baptism, which presses us on to witness to our faith. We have come to realize that we have a future that transcends our life here on earth, which will ultimately claim us as a saint, a future in which we will, as John declares, be like our crucified in risen Lord, as we see him face to face in God’s heavenly kingdom.

So, let us give thanks this day for the lives of all of God’s saints from years past, who have helped us grow in faith. Let us rejoice that they have reached the destination of their journey of faith, and now rejoice in the presence of our crucified and risen Lord. But let us also strive to continue in the faith of our baptism, to continue to witness to the faith that we ourselves have received, for we are now, the church’s future saints.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, for all the saints, redeemed by the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, we give you thanks. For all those who have cared for us, nurtured us, shared their faith with us, and gave us an example of discipleship to follow, we give you thanks. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us to follow their example by passing the mantle of faith on to others, trusting in the timeless dimension of your redeeming grace and the hope of life eternal in your heavenly kingdom. This we ask, in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

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Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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