All Saint's Day is November 1, last Thursday. The reason Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on October 31 is because he was expecting a big attendance the next day. We still celebrate All Saints because it is time to pause and remember the people who brought us faith. We remember those like Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene. They were blessed to know God and speak with Him directly. Their stories also show us their weaknesses and sins. We can identify with them. But through them we see the mercy of God.
Think about how you came to faith in God. It probably didn't happen by direct revelation, God speaking to you. God used someone to reach you, someone who told you about Christ, brought you to church, encouraged you and prayed for you.
I want you to think of one of these people now. For me it was my parents. I'll always remember being a kid sitting on my father's knee as he told me about the stories of the Bible, about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark. These are etched in my memory forever because my busy father took the time to teach me.
Think about a person who brought you to faith. Where are they now? Are they here today with you? Have you moved far away from them? Are they in another place, in the kingdom of heaven? Without them, would you be listening to God right now? They are your saint.
Lutherans recognize the saints. We do not pray them because the Bible says "There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ." Scripture give no encouragement to pray to them or contact them for anything. In fact, King Saul was rebuked for contacting Samuel who was dead.
We do not believe the saints have extra grace to give us. All grace has on source, the love of God in Jesus Christ, who gave his life on the cross to forgive our sinful lives.
But we do remember the saints as the people God used to reach us. We thank God for them. We identify with their lives and how God helped them through life. We follow their good example, imitating their good works.
There are some more saints we should give thanks for. Think about the past members of St. John Church-the Germans who founded it in the 1850's. Poor as they were as immigrants, they gave money to build the first church building, call the first pastor, the first teacher. Think about the people who built this building in the 1950's. There weren't many churches with air conditioning back then. It cost a lot of money, but they were thinking ahead. Some of you are still with us. God bless you for what you have given us.
But most of them have gone on to another place. Saint John, our namesake, speaks of it. "Behold, I saw a great multitude no one could number, from every tribe and nation, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were holding palm braches and wearing white robes. And they were crying in a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God'. All the angels fell down and joined in."
That's the picture we want to be in some day. What a change it will be from our present world, with its images of war, bloodshed, theft, and poverty, where people seek the beautiful life-not white robes and palm branches while praising God. Instead they seek money, luxury, and power. We all want it. We think that if we just had more money, we could buy things that would make us better off, make us happy and content. What a miserable lie that is!
Jesus says that blessedness comes not from money, but from a humble spirit, from God's comfort, from the inheritance God will give us in the next life. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, not for worldly pleasure but for a righteous life. How many of us would put that on our Christmas wish list? A righteous life. We are truly unworthy to be called saints. Why, we are unworthy to be here today worshiping God and praying in his name.
But we have hope. For those who look to Jesus, He gives the all these blessings and more. He shed his blood for people just like us. Like the people of St. John congregation who went before us, we have reason to give thanks.
St. John said we are the children of God. We love our children, don't we. We give to them. I notice that just about every teen-ager has a cell phone today. They are talking and texting all of the time. Add up all those phone plans, and that costs a lot of money. Where does it all come from? Most of the time, it comes from parents. We love our children. We give them everything they have.
How much do we love Christ? Do we honor Him by returning an offering to Him? Do we just keep taking without showing much appreciation, don't offer our lives in service to Him, and forget to say "Thank you"?
You have an opportunity to thank the Lord for all He does for you. It happens whenever that offering plate comes around. Next Sunday St. John Church asks its members to make a pledge for the next year, a generous estimate of what we can expect to give during 2008. It's a small thing to write on a piece of paper, but a big act of trust in God, a commitment of thanks.
Think about the saints, the people who brought you to faith, who built your congregation and this place of worship. They may be in heaven, but if they could talk to you, what would they say? I can hear them, can't you? They are saying, "Trust in Jesus, worship God, forget our failures and follow the good path we left for you."
It's your life, your money. Do with it what you want. But remember what God has done for you in Jesus, and take the opportunity to bless the Lord and bless others who need to know the gospel that you trust in.
November 4th, 2007