The 24th Sunday After Trinity (All Saints) November 6, 2005
478, 473, 463, 600 (WS 2000 alt. 794)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
May the love of God the Father fill you with wonder, may the sacrifice of the Son fill you with gratitude, and may the gifts of the Holy Ghost fill you with faith and zeal. Amen.
Dear fellow Christians,
There are two kinds of hiding. Both the lion and the fawn hide, but their reasons for hiding are much different. Today’s text creates the picture of saints in hiding. The simple question remains: Is this the hiding of the lion or the hiding of the fawn? Unfortunately the answer might not be what we would either expect or desire.
On this day, when we commemorate the grace of God in calling home those saints who have gone before us into the Savior’s arms, we will pause to take note of the example they left us. An honest comparison between them and us will most likely prove very disturbing. This is a good thing, for it is time for the hunted to become the hunters. Our text will both paint the picture and serve as our guide. It is found recorded in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the 26th chapter:
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps the truth may enter in. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength…Lord, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us. O Lord our God, masters besides You have had dominion over us; but by You only we make mention of Your name…Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.
So far the inspired words of our God. Mindful that only such words from our God are altogether true, good, and right, and that only such words can create a saint, so we pray, “Sanctify us through Your truth, O Lord. Your word is truth!” Amen.
The Sunday after November 1st is traditionally designated by the church as All Saints Sunday. On this day we do not worship the saints who have gone before us. Rather, we take this opportunity to thank our God for His great mercy in rescuing so many from the Devil’s grasp. We also seek to learn from the example of Christian saints who have gone before, to be inspired and energized by their perseverance and dedication.
There is, of course, something of a danger in commemorating such a day, especially to those who have known the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and their worship of saints. This is why we must begin with a Scriptural definition of saints.
A saint is one who has no sin in the eyes of God. A saint to us, therefore, refers to anyone, dead or alive, who believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. Any such man, woman, or child is sinless in God’s eyes, and, therefore, a saint. God the Father has declared mankind to be “not guilty” of sin. Christ’s perfection is now credited to us through faith. This is the literal and Scriptural understanding of a saint—it is what God means when He uses the word in the Bible.
Out in the world, the more commonly understood definition of saint, is what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a saint is one who has performed more good works than sins in the eyes of God and is taken directly to heaven at death without having to suffer for a time in Purgatory. Most saints, in fact, have so many extra good works (above and beyond what is necessary to pay for his or her own sins) that church members are encouraged to pray to these saints so that they might be credited with the saint’s extra good works. These extra good works, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, can even be credited to a loved-one who has died and is in Purgatory. This explains the Roman Catholic “Masses for the Dead.”
This brings us to the rather unique thought expressed in our text. Our text draws a picture of God’s saints at the end of their lives on earth. In beautiful, comforting, poetic language our text says: “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past.” [v.20] What a great picture of the child of God at the end of his struggle on earth! Note well that this is not the hiding of the frightened fawn, but the rest of a lion of the faith. They “hide, as it were” only until the time is right for them to be called forth and revealed by the Lamb. So also our text says, “For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.” [v.21] Like lions waiting without fear, so the saints in heaven await the great Day of Judgment.
Yet we do not dwell in the past, do we? We dwell in the present. The question therefore remains: Is this also a fitting picture of the saints today—those who are still alive on the earth? We too seem somehow to be in hiding, but it is not the hiding of the bold and courageous saints of old. It is the hiding of the fawn. From all sides we are threatened. We are told to accept and tolerate. Never are we supposed to condemn, never even hint that someone else might be wrong. We have, tragically, bought into this soul-destroying nonsense. Our minds and hearts have been tainted with the notion that we do those around us a favor by not condemning and warning against what God will, in the end, most certainly condemn. We supposedly do the world a disservice by refusing to compromise the truth of Jesus Christ as our only Savior—the only truth that can deliver us from sin and Hell.
The saints seem to have gone into hiding, as though all we are capable of today is surviving the predators. Lost in the shuffle is the spiritual offensive commanded by our Lord in his Great Commission where he told us to “go and make disciples of all nations…baptizing them…and teaching them” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The cost of assuming a defensive posture among the saints today is measured in human souls. How so? Souls are not saved through compromise. Souls are never won by toleration of damning error. No one is aided on their one path to Heaven through lack of clarity. Salvation is specific and the path clearly defined. The only reason there are any saints at all today is because the Word of God was once proclaimed to them, clearly and simply. They were condemned by the Law and lifted to life eternal by the Gospel. They were not saved by man’s idea of what the Bible should say but by what the Bible does in fact say. God’s formula for the salvation of man simply cannot be improved upon. We have at our disposal—at this very moment—the powerful and effective cure for the saving of souls and it is intended to be applied in full strength.
This cure with majestic power is readily available to each one of us. We have at our fingertips the means through which the Holy Spirit will save souls. Think about that for just a moment. We possess the means and opportunity to participate in the eternal rescue of human souls. That this is true we have no doubt, for God himself promised in Isaiah 55:11: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Again, the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)
Why then do we fail so miserably to use such a weapon, which is guaranteed to succeed, in a struggle we all care about so deeply? Is it because we doubt the effectiveness of our own witness? Maybe. Is it because our weak, sinful flesh is afraid of what others might think of us? Probably. Is it because we don’t really love our neighbor as we should? Most definitely. If we held the cure for cancer would we share it? Of course. How much more then this cure for the effects of sin, which lasts into eternity. The difference is that we know that while mankind would be giddy with delight over a cure for cancer and would cheer us as heroes, countless would ridicule and reject the cure for sin and Hell. Bringing a cure for cancer would move our fellow citizens to call us “brilliant!” Bringing the one true cure for sin often moves them to call us “ignorant.”
Dear Christians any such ridicule would last only for a relatively short time. Our text refers to it as an indignation that will soon pass. This Word of God we have to share is the stuff saints are made of. The simple message that our sins have been freely forgiven for Jesus’ sake is as powerful as it is profound. God has declared sinners, “Not guilty,” in Jesus Christ. That Good News needs to be shared. It is high time therefore that we who possess this Good News stop hiding and start seeking. Each one of us has such a rare opportunity laid out before us. We have been given to know, from this day forward, what will one day be. Filled with wonder and thanksgiving by the love of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ you can, from this moment onward, spread the Word of God to dying souls—as you would wish you had done once it is too late.
Look forward then with wisdom and know God’s will for your life today. There still is time. Do that right thing. Each time you share the Law and Gospel with another human being you spring from your hiding place as a lion of the faith—as one of the saints of old. Come out from your hiding place, then, and courageously share the directions to life eternal. Now is the time, while it is still day, before that night, so terrible for the unbeliever, finally comes.
Finally, thanks be to God for the grace given to all those saints who came before us. May that same God give us strength and courage to spread the same Good News they once carried. The blessed reunion of all the saints on the Last Day will then indeed be all the more grand and glorious as countless souls are added to that number. God grant us such enthusiasm, energy, and love for the work that awaits us. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.