The Festival of All Saints (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
November 3, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 5:1-12

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Today you hear the preaching of St. John the apostle who proclaims to us the truth: Consider what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called children of God, and so we are. (1 John 3:1) That’s what we are. We are children of God; born not of the will of man nor by the blood of man, but by the will and blood of God who gives birth to us in the new birth of water and word. For down goes the old Adam full of sin and hatred toward God, and up comes the new man full of the Spirit of God, making sons of God out of sons of the devil. And thus does God rob Satan of his possessions and steal back from hell what belongs to God.

So you are added to that enumerable number from every tribe and nation that stands before the Lamb and the throne; born into the family of God, into the kingdom of heaven; into the kingdom of the blessed. St. Paul preaches that as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, are clothed with Christ. That is the white garment made white in the blood of the Lamb. When you are baptized you are washed in the blood of Jesus. If the coverings that God made for Adam and Eve covered their shame and guilt, so the blood of Jesus covers you not only to cover shame and guilt, but to remove them completely. When you are baptized the blood of Christ covers you and gives you the garments of salvation.

And being thus cleansed by God and clothed by God and killed and made alive by God, you are ushered and welcomed into the kingdom of heaven, which is the kingdom of the blessed. Who are the blessed? They are the ones coming out of the great tribulation that have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Welcome. Welcome to the kingdom of the blessed.

But we are not yet what we shall be. St. John preaches that, too. What we shall be will be revealed when Jesus reveals Himself to the whole world at His coming again to judge the quick and the dead. What we shall be will be as He is: incorruptible and alive forevermore. That’s the goal, if you will, of the Christian faith: to be as Jesus is. He is our Head and our icon, the image we are to strive after so that it is written that we are being made into His image. For just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49) But until that time, we are still coming out of the great tribulation.

Consider that you are on a road, a path, really, that is winding and curving its way through a dense, dark forest full of wild beasts and ogres and other evil and wicked things that go bump in the night. Consider that the sun does not penetrate through the canopy of trees and its light is dim and illuminates everything only with a dull, gray light. But the path, for all its narrowness, is surefooted and easily marked with signposts. There are signs that tell you that you are on the path, and signs that tell you what lies ahead. And on this path, they are the same signs that tell that you are on the road and what lies ahead. And as long as you keep your eyes on the path and on the signs, there’s no chance you will wander off the path.

And where does this path lead? Out of the forest, of course. It leads out of the forest and into the wide open plains where the sun shines brightly and warms your skin and where the birds fly free and the air is unfettered with the dankness of the forest air.

It’s a modern-day parable. But it is useful. The path, of course is Jesus and the Christian faith. The signposts are the Sacraments, those signs given by Christ Himself for us Christians to participate in and thereby gain confidence and find rest in Christ that we are indeed loved by and received by God in Christ. The forest is the great tribulation, full of dangers. But we are on the path that leads to eternal life where we will hunger and thirst no more, and where the fires of hell will not lick our feet; where God will wipe away all the tears of mourning death and sin, and we will be comforted.

But now, while we are in the dark forest, we are persecuted and hated. We are maligned and spoken against. We are lied about by all the monsters and evil creatures that are not on the path. These evil creatures are our sins and the sins of others. They try to drag us off the path, but our feet are shod with the gospel of peace and remain firmly in Christ. They try to convince us to wonder away from the path to taste the sweet fruit of the forest, but our mouths are filled with Christ and the fruit of the cross, which is bitter now in this time of trial and tribulation, but is also sweet as honey as it sooths and coats our open sores of sin. They try to tempt us to leave the path and make a life in the forest, but our life is hidden in Christ who purchased us with His body and blood. We belong to our King. And so we march on. We march on not by our physical feet, but by our voices raised in high hymns of praise. We march on by gathering to Christ to receive His blessing and mercy. We march on by eating the food of God and hearing His word and so holding fast to His path; happily gaining ground on the revealing of the sons of God when the Son of God is revealed.

We happily march on through this great tribulation being persecuted as the prophets before us. For we know that we are the blessed for we are baptized into the Blessed One. As He was, so we are: the poor in spirit, trusting not in our own selves but in the Spirit of Christ. We are those that mourn, lamenting our sins and the sins of others, mourning death; but we are comforted by the resurrection of Jesus. We are the meek, not insisting on our own way, but following the path given to us, which will give to us the whole earth. We are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, knowing that the forest around us cannot satisfy. But we are satisfied in Christ and shall be forevermore. We are the merciful, demanding nothing of the wild beasts that threaten and even kill us, but showing mercy by inviting them and welcoming them also into the kingdom of the blessed, not counting their sins against them but forgiving as we have been forgiven. We are the pure in heart, for our heart is Christ and He is pure. We are the peacemakers, eager always to reconcile sinners to God and to be reconciled ourselves by the blood of Jesus who gives us the ministry of reconciliation.

You are the blessed; the children of God. And here you stand with that great multitude before the Lamb and the throne, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven. Here you cry out with them that salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb! Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever an ever! Amen! (Revelation 7:9-10)

+ In Nomine Iesu +