All Saints' Day
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Text: Matthew 5:13-16
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear friends in Christ,
Today we observe the festival known as All Saints’ Day. And we start with the basic question: what is a saint? Basically, a saint is someone who believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. In other words, Christians are saints. We make this claim based on the work of Jesus Christ, who has covered our sin with His life. We cannot claim to be saints based on our own works. Sainthood is not achieved by what we do but by what our Savior Jesus Christ does for us. Being a saint is a gift from God, a gift given to all who hear and believe that the Son of God has died for them, achieving for them the victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. This means that sitting before me this day is "a host arrayed in white." I see this by faith in the working of God’s word among us.
But this day has another meaning. All Saints’ Day serves to remind us who remain on earth of those saints who have already died and who are with the Lord. Since last year’s All Saints’ Day our congregations have said good bye to: George Nielsen, Dagny Aadsen, Ray Aadsen, and Selmer Andersland. We have committed them to the care of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb who sits on the throne, the one who wipes all tears from our eyes. Besides these members of our church, we all know others who have died, in our families, in our communities. It is good to remember loved ones who have died in the Lord. We do so, not in great sorrow and hopelessness, but in the sure hope of the resurrection. We remember them and believe that this half circle of the communion railing is made a full circle, as we commune not only with the saints here on earth, but with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven. All Saints’ Day is not a day of separation, but a day of reunion, a day when we thank God for the wonderful gift of salvation that allows us all to be gathered with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died that we might live, who suffered for our sins, who defeated death so we, the saints who remain on earth, might know resurrection. "...In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true."
The words of St. Matthew describe the saints on earth who await being transferred to the glory of heaven. In the meantime, what do we do, what is our life about, what does it mean to be a saint here in this world? Our Lord uses two things to describe life now: salt and light.
Salt and light have this in common: you know when they are there, and you know when they are missing. We have salt shakers on tables because we can tell when food needs a little more salt to make it taste better. Salt, though is also a preservative; it is used to make food last longer. We don’t use it so much anymore because we can use freezers. But salt used to be one of the main ways to make food last. Take a piece of beef, salt it, and you can keep it for months and it will still be edible. Try doing that to a piece of beef without salt. After a few weeks that beef will not only be inedible, it will make you sick.
We also know when light is on and when it’s not. When you go into a dark room at night, you do not turn on the light and then cover it with a blanket or a basket. You turn on the light for a reason – it allows you to see more clearly, it allows you to be able to read, and so on.
Jesus tells us that we are salt and light. Salt that loses its saltiness is thrown out and trampled. It is not worth keeping. If someone claims to be a disciple of Jesus, this means you will be salt. This means that you will have an effect in the spot you are put in. If not, then what good are you? God doesn’t need more unbelievers in this world. What He desires is believers: those who trust in His Son for the free grace of forgiveness. This world doesn’t need more unsalty salt. It needs the salt, the preservation and safety, of the Gospel. Why do you think God allows you to remain in this world after you have become an adopted child of the Most High God? The reason is for you to be salt, to be someone who is ready proclaim the praise of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
God can still use you if you are not a believer. He can still use your corn to feed the hungry; He can use your skills at work to provide good things for others. But He can do that with anyone. What He wants is disciples, believers. That means you have a place in His plan for this world here and now.
The same is true about light. God doesn’t make us the light of the world so that we can curse and swear with the heathen, or so that we can despise God’s Word along with the blasphemers. No. He makes us the light of the world so that the shining beacon of God’s grace can illuminate souls in darkness. This is what our Lord did. "The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light."
Light is not a selfish thing. By its very nature it is shared. If someone I don’t like comes into my house and I have the light on, that light will shine on him just as it will on me. And that’s a good thing. When people come to this congregation and sit here with us to listen to God’s Word, that shining light of the Gospel shines on strangers as well as friends, it shines on all people, for that is the nature of the Gospel. It is for making disciples of all nations.
Are we that light in our communities? We are a small congregation, but think of the places where this light can go. It goes to Winnebago manufacturing, to Larsons, to Fleetguard. It goes to various farm cooperatives all around. It goes to schools in Forest City, Lake Mills, Alden-Conger, Buffalo Center. It goes to colleges around us. There is light in the fields and pastures around here because that is where we find you, the saints. The saints of Center and Scarville Lutheran churches bring light to hundreds of places. There is light in grocery stores because of you. There is light at Wal-Mart, at Dollar General, at Bill’s in Forest City. There is light there because of you, because Jesus says you, the believers, the Christians, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are light.
But what if you cover this light? What if your neglect and carelessness about your own light makes others unable to see that light? Is that truly what God desires for us and those around us? Of course not. And unless we have the energy of the sun that shines by day, our light needs to be recharged. That happens only as we hear and receive the Gospel, the preached word, the daily return to our Baptism, the blessed Body and Blood of our Savior whose death we proclaim each and every time we commune here. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes."As I said earlier, by faith I see before me today "a host arrayed in white." My desire as pastor is for each of you to transfer from the here and now of this worldly sainthood, with its struggles, with its temptations, with its tears, to that sainthood which is now at peace for eternity, where there is no struggle, where the light is that of the Son of God, a shining brilliance that allows for no darkness, no despair, no sorrow. Our Savior Jesus Christ has taken care of it all. We may rest in peace because we are forgiven; by faith we are the saints of God, His chosen ones, His sons and daughters. God keep us in the true faith, as we gather around His precious Gospel in Word and sacrament. In the name of Jesus. Amen.