The Festival of All Saints

Almighty and eternal God, 

by Your Son You promised us forgiveness of our sins
and deliverance from eternal death. 

We pray that by Your Holy Spirit 

You will daily increase our faith in Your grace through Christ 

and establish us in the certain hope that we will not die, 

but peacefully sleep and be raised again on the last day
to eternal life and salvation; 

through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, 

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 7:9–17

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”  14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  15  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  16  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  17  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (ESV)

  

All human associations eventually come to an end. We all have lost touch with people with whom we once worked or played sports or belonged to the same club or even counted our dear friends. And of course, death is the ultimate ender of human associations, even bringing strong and happy marriages to an end. Eventually, all human associations come to an end. But there is one exception. I am talking about the Holy Christian Church. Thank God that you and I belong to the communion of saints—the communion that has no end because the Almighty and everlasting God has knit together His faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of His Son, Jesus Christ (see today’s collect).

On the Festival of All Saints, we rejoice that God has called His Church out of the world and that we are members of this communion that will never end. Just think! You and I are part of that great multitude from all tribes and peoples and languages, [who cry out with a loud voice:] “salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne”. Through Holy Baptism, you and I are counted among the faith-filled saints from every place and time, who with unified voices eternally magnify the Lamb of God. As His beloved children, we too, shall see Him as He is. Joined with the throng of angels and a myriad of saints, we too shall serve Him day and night in His temple. Here on earth, we live in the the great tension of vacillating between saint and sinner, faith and doubt, and we earnestly seek Jesus to calm our fears, comfort our spirits, and forgive our sins. Here on earth, we feebly struggle. But with eyes of faith, we look forward to the Day when we shall in glory shine,  when [we] shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike [us], nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be [our] shepherd, and He will guide [us] to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes.


On this Festival of All Saints, we take the opportunity to remember all who have died in the faith and who now rest from their earthly labours. Our gracious God is the God of all comfort.  May we be comforted, then, by His sure and certain promise of the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life.  May we all be encouraged to pray for and give comfort to any whom we know to have suffered a loss. 

I am the resurrection and the life. 

He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies;

And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.                         

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, 

where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.                    

I know that my Redeemer lives, 

and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.

And after my skin has been destroyed, 

yet in my flesh I will see God.  

I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word 

and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life.

And will not be condemned: 

He has crossed over from death to life.     

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.                   

For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 

If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we belong to the Lord.

So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 

(John 11:25-26; Colossians 3:1-2; Job 19:25-26; John 5:24; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Romans 14:7-8)

Let us pray        Almighty God, in whose glorious presence live all who depart in the Lord and before whom all the souls of the faithful who are delivered of the burden of the flesh are in joy and felicity, we give You hearty thanks for Your loving-kindness to all Your servants who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labours, and we humbly implore Your mercy that we, together with all who have departed in the saving faith, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, in both body and soul, in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Praying for the Persecuted Church

On this Festival of All Saints, it is also appropriate that we pray for the persecuted Church throughout the world.  God has called His Church and sent the Church into the world, knowing that those who follow Christ will suffer in His name.  As Jesus said, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).  We often think the persecution of Christians is something that happened in the first few centuries of the Church’s history.  However, the 20th century was the worst century in history for Christian persecution.  And the persecution of Christians continues even now.  We pray, then, for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.  We pray that God would keep them faithful and give them strength in their suffering, and, if it be His will, that they would be delivered from it.  We also pray for their persecutors, that they would come to know Christ and His redeeming love for them.  

Let us pray.         O Almighty and Most Merciful God, Your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, told us that He sends us forth as sheep among the wolves and that we are not to be surprised if we are persecuted for His name’s sake.  In Your holy Word You remind us to remember in our prayers our brothers and sisters who suffer for the sake of Your Son.  Strengthen them and sustain them so that in the hour of their trial they will remain faithful to You and serve as witnesses to Your Gospel and so bring glory to You.  In mercy, bring to repentance the enemies of Your Church, and grant them amendment of life.  We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit reigns as One  God, world without end. Amen.

Serving the Lord—The Examples of the Saints

Our confession approves giving honour to the saints.  This honour is threefold.  The first is thanksgiving: we should thank God for showing examples of his mercy revealing his will to save men, and giving teachers and other gifts to the church.  Since these are his greatest gifts, we should extol them very highly; we should also praise the saints themselves for using these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men (Matthew 25:21, 23).  The second honour is the strengthening of our faith: when we see Peter forgiven after his denial, we are encouraged to believe that grace does indeed abound more than sin (Romans 5:20).  The third honour is the imitation, first of their faith and then of their other virtues, which each should imitate in accordance with his calling.    (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 21, para. 4-6)

The Lutheran reformers understood that there was great benefit in remembering the saints whom God has given to his church.  The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (Article 21) gives three reasons for such honour.  First, we thank God for giving faithful servants to his church.  Second, through such remembrance our faith is strengthened as we see the mercy that God extended to his saints of old.  Third, these saints are examples by which we may imitate both their faith and their holy living according to our calling in life.

Note the last part of that sentence: according to our calling in life.  In His goodness, God places each of us into various callings which revolve around the spheres of work, family, the civil realm, and the church.  He doesn’t expect us to abandon our responsibilities in these various callings in order to serve Him.  Rather, through these stations in life God enables us to serve our neighbour in need and, thus, to serve God himself.

Holy Scripture is filled with examples of men and women who did just that.  They served God by faithfully fulfilling their calling.  Because God has provided examples of the faith through them, it is fitting that we thank Him for their lives of service and implore God to show such mercy toward us that He showed toward them.                          © 2000 LCMS Commission on Worship

In the midst of life we are in death; from whom can we seek help?

From You alone, O Lord, who by our sins are justly angered.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Saviour,

deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

Lord, You know the secrets of our hearts; 

shut not Your ears to our prayers, but spare us, O Lord.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Saviour,

deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

O worthy and eternal Judge, 

do not let the pains of death turn us away from You at our last hour.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and merciful Saviour,

deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 

I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. 

Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: 

“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, 

the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” 

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 

Open to me the gates of righteousness, 

that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 

This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; 

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.    

(Psalm 118:5, 8-9, 13, 15-17, 19-20)

Almighty God, by the death of Your Son Jesus Christ You destroyed death, by His rest in the tomb You sanctified the graves of Your saints, and by His bodily resurrection You brought life and immortality to light so that all who die in Him abide in peace and hope.  Receive our thanks for the victory over death and the grave which He won for us.  Keep us in everlasting communion with all who wait for Him on earth and with all in heaven who are with Him, for He is the resurrection and the life, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.