Sermon for All Saints Day, preached November 1, 2009.
Our lives are filled with hidden heroes whose service is largely unknown to us or anonymous yet without them our world would fall apart. At the same time, there are notorious folks who grab the stage and the limelight yet are unworthy of the attention. The world seldom gives notice to the hidden heroes but it cannot ignore these notorious sinners. Think of the contrast between the costumes of last night and the subject of today.
Today is All Saints Day. Today we focus upon God’s hidden heroes – those whom the world does not know and most of us don’t know either, but whom God sees and knows. These are not great and grand names that dot the pages of human history or church calendars. No, these are the ordinary and unsung children of God who fly away unnoticed at the end of their lives, forgotten except to God who remembers them forever. Some of us whine and complain about this injustice but we should not regret the world’s lack of notice. It is only what God remembers that counts and that remembrance counts for all eternity.
The world does not know us. That is not a debate proposition. This is God telling us what should be self-evident to us Christians. The world does not know us or recognize us or honor us or give us our due. But then the world did not know Jesus Christ either. The world knows and remembers Jesus in every way except the one Jesus intended. The world likes to wax eloquently about Jesus’ virtues, to question Jesus’ miracles, and to challenge Jesus’ followers but Jesus only interest is in being known as the Lord and Savior, whose suffering and death has bought forgiveness and life for sinners. The Savior they do not acknowledge but sinners they love.
The world loves sinners. The world loves the stories that reveal the darkest of shadows in the human heart. Our news and entertainment are filled with the glorification of evil. Reality shows have become nothing but the glorification of what ought to be hidden. There is no horror we can manufacture that is greater than the reality that exists in the sinful heart. So the world shows us all the horror in our hearts. The world gives center stage to this evil but it does not give much attention to the children of God, whom He has declared good and righteous in Jesus Christ – except to dismiss us.
As Christians we should not expect the world to notice us. We belong not to the world but to God. The saints are those whom God has named as His own in baptism, who trust in Him by the power of the Spirit, who are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, who are set in places of honor at our Lord’s Table, who are kept by grace in this life and prepared by grace for the life which is to come. The world does not know us or care about us – but God does.
God knows us all – the major figures who dominate Christian history and the minor saints whose role is known only to Him... those remembered by the Church and those forgotten saints whose life is known only to God. The world does not remember but God cannot forget. That is what we are here to celebrate – we belong to Him, we are His people, the sheep of His pasture, the sinners of His own redeeming. God cannot forget us and we cannot afford to forget that we are His by grace.
The measure of our lives as Christian people is not in what we do but in what Christ has done. It is what Christ has done that gives our lives meaning and hope. It is what Christ has done and is doing in us that we are kept through this life and all its struggles. It is what God will do that carries us through every pain and burden, every fear and doubt. We belong to the Lord because of Jesus Christ and what we are and what will be is tied to Jesus Christ and inseparable from Him.
Therefore we live not for ourselves but for Him. He died for all that those who live should not live for themselves but for Him. We live not to build our immortality on earth – the goal of our lives is the immortality that He has built for us, the place He has prepared for us, that He has gone on to so that we might go with Him. We live not for the recognition of the world or even their notice, we live in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ.
Our future is not of our own making. Our future is tied to Jesus Christ. Just as His forgiveness has dealt with all our past, so does His grace sustain us now and bring us to the future He has prepared for us and for all who love Him. Our yesterday is what He claimed on the cross and our tomorrow is what He made possible by His resurrection. This is the power in which we live today. So what we will be, it is not of great concern to us. What we shall be is what Christ is – the risen to whom death has no more power.
All Saints Day can often be mistaken as a day that belongs only to those who were larger than life – the giants of the faith whose names dot Christian history and the signs of Christian Churches. But All Saints Day is more about God’s hidden heroes, whom He has claimed in baptism, who live in Him by faith, and who do His bidding largely ignored by the world and even unknown to the rest of us, but they are never anonymous to God. They world never knew them and even Christians may have forgotten them, but God knows them still and they have life in Him.
Today we gather to recall the anonymous saints whom God called His own, washed in baptism, fed at His Table, forgave them their sins, and who fell asleep in His arms. We may have known some of them. We are probably one of them. And today we pray the Lord to keep us in this grace today and forever. Though we admit that sometimes we might exchange it all for a few moments in the spotlight, a little recognition, and maybe even a reward from this world... we are here to acknowledge that the treasure of His grace is a far better gift that anything this world can give us.
What does God give us that can move our minds and hearts from the best things of this world or the worst things it can offer? We get from Him the promise that He is ours and we are His in Christ. He cannot forget us – not ever... we belong to Him, we bear the mark of Jesus Christ in our baptism, He knows us and calls us by name, and He brings us from death to life everlasting. Saints are God’s hidden heroes whose greatest accomplishment is in what Christ has done for them, how they live in Him today and what they shall enjoy in His kingdom forevermore. Lord, make me one of these hidden heroes and even though I may struggle to remember, I pray You never to forget me in Christ my Lord. Amen!