Last month, I preached a sermon series from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. Known as the “weeping prophet”, he had the unenviable task of informing God’s people they were about to go into exile. They would lose their homes, land, and way of life.
One of the passages related to a letter from the Lord to his people, indicating their period of exile would not be an indefinite period of time. It would last 70 years, after which God would bring them back to their homeland. Seven decades is a long time, but it is finite time frame. A key verse from that letter is from Jeremiah 29.11, in which the Lord indicates that he knows the plans he has for them, and that they will have a “hope and a future.”
We have a tendency to interpret many passages like this on a personal rather than community basis. However, these words were meant for all the people in order to encourage them about what is still to come for them. The application is that each one of us is part the whole, and what happens to one of us impacts the rest of us.
In a sense, I think that relates to All Saints Day. Saints of all ages can embrace not only a future but a sure hope because of Christ.
Our church will be involved in a remembrance on October 30. Yes, the children will be thinking about Halloween and gearing up to Trick or Treat. But, it’s also the weekend in which we think about Martin Luther and the birth of the Protestant Reformation. We owe so much to him and others who came before us; Luther recovered the theological triad of justification through grace alone, by faith alone, and in Christ alone.
The All Saints emphasis will be about those who have gone on to Glory. It’s important for us to realize that we are part of the people of God through the ages, sometimes called the “invisible church.” Those of us who remain in the “visible church” have an eternal connection with those persons who lived and died in faith.
The psalmist described the deep affection that God has for his people: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116.15 KJV). This is a beautiful reminder of God’s ongoing compassion and attention for those who met their death believing in God.
While some Christian traditions allow for the canonization of persons into the “sainthood”, Protestants have not interpreted Scripture this way. Baptists refer to “saint” in the plural tense, as it always appears that way in the Bible. Individually, each of us is not a “saint” yet collectively as God’s people we are all “saints.” It’s a wonderful image.
During the ten years of serving as pastor of UHBC, I’ve led or participated in at least 125 funerals. I’ve buried a decent sized church. We have felt these losses on a personal, emotional, and financial level. All Saints Day helps us remember our ongoing connection with them through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One day we will rejoin them in a great Homecoming!
We will also be reflecting upon parents, siblings, children, and other loved ones who have gone on to their eternal reward. These persons and others through the ages are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12) who are cheering us on in the race we have yet before us. Eventually, each one of us who knows Christ will join that congregation in the life beyond.
In a time where political rancor is dominating the media, it’s good to know where our ultimate place and destiny remains. This world is not our home. We are simply passing through. May God help us to enjoy the time we have in this life, live out our faith in words and actions, and give thanks that our place in the Father’s house is being prepared for us.