November 4, 2018: All Saint’s Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we take time to thank You for all the heroes of faith, saints, that we have been privileged to know.  They include spouses, parents, siblings, friends, relatives, and countless others who have fought the good fight of faith and now reside in victory with You. May we always honor them by honoring You—the Author and Perfecter of the faith You have graced us with!  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE KING OF ALL SAINTS!

TEXT:  Hebrews 12: 1-3

Dearly Beloved Future Saints:

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  We’ve all heard that adage and probably uttered it a few times.  But is it true?  When it comes to dogs, I’ve had four, currently have one, and will soon add a new puppy to the mix.  With dogs, that old adage is false.  My dogs have learned new things at all stages of life.  Even at age 8, Tori pays more attention to the word: NO! than she ever did at age 2.  With age she’s learned to beg even more for apples and this year decided pears and cucumbers were pretty tasty, too!

On a personal note, I’ve learned more about life in the past few years than I ever imagined.  I’ve learned about how my physical body is completely dependent on my emotional well-being, and vice versa.  Aches and pains don’t just have a physical causes, very often they are rooted in an emotional/spiritual imbalance.  I’ve learned to appreciate even more how miraculously God made us and how interconnected everything about us really is.   Quite frankly, it’s turned my views about people’s health upside down.  So, yes, this “old dog” has learned a lot of new tricks…..

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Nothing about any of this is really “new.”  In fact, it’s as old as creation.  That’s another thing I’ve learned even more about: how sin is so invasive that it hides and obscures many truths about God’s creation.  The writer of Hebrews also knew this to be true.  He talks about life being a journey, not a destination.  It’s a race toward the heavenly goal and we have to embrace that race each and every step of the way, or we’ll never cross the finish line.  That’s why in chapter 11 of Hebrews he lists a lengthy catalogue of saints who did just that: they persevered by God’s grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Running the race through life isn’t easy.  It’s doubly hard for believers because we don’t just have the headwinds of sin to contend with, we also have evil people and evil spirits actively trying to trip us up with every step and jeering in our ears.  They pile emotional baggage upon us leading to stress and ultimately physical problems.  Second-guessing, forlornness, abandonment, worthlessness when we fail to achieve a goal, an unforgiving spirit which eats away at our happiness—these are just a few of many such stumbling blocks.  And ultimately, it all goes back to pride, or selfishness of spirit.  Pride is lonely.  Pride is really being on an island and refusing all help to get off.  Pride isolates.  Pride eventually destroys.

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But, by God’s grace, that’s where Christ comes in!  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Right there is God’s prescription for sainthood.  Fix your gaze on Jesus.  Fix your hearts and minds on the love He possesses and is giving you each day.  Jesus is about healing the heart, soul, mind, and spirit.  He is about pouring the serum of true healing, Godly forgiveness, into you every day.  He began this process at your baptism, He adds to it every Sunday, every time you commune, every moment you meditate upon His blessed truths and thank Him for them.

Every saint, all of those beloved saints we’ve known, has followed this prescription right into heaven.  They endured the scorn of the world which said: “Christ? That’s a fairy tale!  He didn’t help cure your spouse’s cancer.  He didn’t save you from heart disease.  He didn’t stop that foreclosure on your home.  He didn’t prevent that nasty car accident.  He’s worthless.  So give up on Him!  Wallow in self-pity instead.”

Don’t you think Jesus had moments of second-guessing, too?  The cross loomed large in Gethsemane.  He knew that the very next day He would be beaten, stripped, nailed to it, and die.  He prayed that His Father might possibly remove that cup of suffering from Him.  But then, with angels ministering to Him, He concluded: “Yet not my will, but Yours be done!”  Right there is victory!  Right there is our Savior following the pathway which insures our sainthood!  Yes, by clinging to His victory in humble faith that triumph becomes our triumph.  And the empty tomb and the risen Christ prove it!  “For because He lives, we shall live also.”

Today we celebrate All Saint’s Day.  Not some saints, but ALL saints.  All those believers in Christ who have crossed the finish line into glory deserve to be remembered and honored.  For by so doing, in actuality we’re honoring the One Who paved the way and carried them across the finish line: Jesus Christ.  My friends, you may not always recognize it or feel it, but right now He’s carrying you, too.  He’s encouraging you through your fellow Christians.  He’s lifting you up through forgiving future saints who don’t like to see you down.  He’s sending angels to protect you every day.  And He’s nourishing your stamina by feeding your faith on the bread and water of eternal life.  Right now, since we’re in the world, we’re all too aware of the jeering section screaming in our ears and mocking us.  What you don’t hear is the cheering section of saints and angels urging us onward.  But, by faith we know they are there and so today we say: “By God’s grace we look forward to joining you very soon!”  Amen