Children of God
Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 John 3:1–3:3
Festival of All Saints
November 2-3, 2013
1 John 3:1-3
“Children of God”
All Hallows Eve, or as we usually refer to it, Halloween, was this past week. Children – young and not so young – love to dress up in costume and come to our doors trick-or-treating. The children from our Early Childhood Education Center were parading around in their Halloween costumes last Thursday, and it was great fun to watch them. What would Halloween be like without little ones excitedly running around? I’ve got children on my mind, and am thinking especially of a colleague in ministry. He and his wife have no children of their own, and for a number of years have been seeking to adopt a child. For anyone who has been in this situation, you know it can be an achingly slow process. This couple submitted all the required paperwork, went through all the interviews, accomplished everything that needed to be done, and then waited and waited and waited. They hadn’t heard anything for so long they had almost forgotten about it. And then out of the blue, the phone call came from the adoption agency just this past week on October 23. A little boy born only one week earlier was waiting for them, and he is now their own son through adoption. In fact, he is being baptized today, adopted into the family of believers through the waters of holy Baptism.
Today on this All Saints Sunday we focus on the truth that we also have been adopted into a family. The words from the Epistle lesson for today tell us this: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). To be called “children of God” really means something; it means that we have been adopted by God. Through the cleansing blood of Jesus, we have been brought into a living relationship with God and know him as our loving Father and He knows us as his beloved children. Today we celebrate this truth, together with all the saints, who like us have been brought into the family of believers. The message for this Festival of All Saints is entitled, “Children of God.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
It is precisely because God has declared us to be his own beloved children that we are saints, though we probably do not consider ourselves as such. We often operate with the understanding that saints are larger than life individuals; super-human people who have super-human faith and do super-human things in faith. We see saints as perfect, sinless – without fault. We do not measure up to this, but in truth no one does. We get that we are sinners, but we don’t get that we are saints. In his letters to churches in the New Testament, Paul frequently begins by writing: “To all those in Rome/Corinth/Ephesus who are loved by God and called to be saints”(Romans 1:7a). This is the Biblical truth of what saints are: children of God who are called out of darkness into God’s own marvelous light, who are set apart through faith in Christ Jesus for God’s good purposes in the world. Saints do not merit, deserve, or earn any of this; rather, it is freely given as a gift through God’s grace and received by faith in Jesus. Saints are not self-made people, but Christ-made people. You and I are saints, and so are all who trust in Jesus, those on earth among us here and now, together with those in heaven who have died trusting in Jesus. Together in Christ, we are all the saints, all the children of God.
Today’s Scripture lessons point out the present and the future of God’s children, his saints. John writes in that Epistle lesson: “Beloved, we are God’s children now…” (1 John 3:2a). This is a present reality, whether we feel like it is or not. God our Maker and Redeemer tells us it is so, and we must not be deceived by what our conflicting thoughts or emotions may tell us. In the Gospel lesson, the Lord Jesus pronounces as “blessed” all of his children who are now poor in spirit, who mourn, the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake all for Jesus’ sake. Present discomforts may trouble us, but Jesus promises that they will give way to a future that is far beyond anything we can imagine. John goes on to say in that Epistle lesson, “… what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b). And this is what is described in that First Reading from Revelation. All those clothed in white robes, washed and made clean in blood of the Lamb, “… they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17). My friends and fellow saints, this is what awaits us as children of God. The best if yet to be.
The truth is, saints get weary and discouraged. They struggle with sin every day and can feel beaten down in faith and life. And when we do, there is no better place for us to come than here to the Lord’s altar, for it is here in this blessed Sacrament that Jesus comes to strengthen, forgive, bless and encourage us. In place of our weariness and discouragement, he gives strength and new hope for our journey of faith. In place of our filthy rags of sin he gives us his own robe of righteousness to wear. And besides all this, in a wonderful and mysterious way we are united with that whole heavenly host here at the Lord’s table, even as our liturgy reminds us: “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying…” And being refreshed and strengthened through Christ’s true Body and Blood given and shed for us, received under forms of bread and wine, we rise up and go back into the world to live as God’s saints, his beloved children who have been set apart for his own good purposes in the world. He calls us to shine with the brightness of his love wherever we go, whatever we do.
Truly, by God’s amazing grace, we are all the saints. Truly, we are God’s beloved children. Let us now live as God’s beloved children that God may be glorified in us until Christ shall come again. Amen.