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Children of God

November 6, 2022 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 John 3:1–3

Festival of All Saints

November 6, 2022

1 John 3:1-3

 “Children of God”

All Saints Day is November 1 on the church’s calendar, but in many places, this has been transferred to the first Sunday in November, and that is what we are observing in worship today. It has been said that the Festival of All Saints is the church’s Memorial Day, a time to remember those who have died in Christ. Today on this Festival of All Saints, I have people on my mind – people who have gone before us in faith and are with the Lord. In worship this morning, we will give special remembrance to those from our congregation who have died in the Lord over this past year, and they are especially on my mind: Anna, Carol, Emily, Tommy, Pastor Ben, Joanne, and Laura. When all is said and done, what we are observing here is not so much about the saints as it is about the victory of the grace of Christ in his saints. “We are celebrating what Christ has done in and through the witness of us, the saints, through the ages” (Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, After Pentecost 2. Marion Soards, Thomas Doseman, and Kendall McCabe. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992; p. 130). Together with the whole church on earth and in heaven, we are all the saints, as today’s Epistle lesson tells us: “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). Based on this, today’ message 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.

People often observe that when we are children we want to be grown up, and when we are grown up, we wish that we could revert back to childhood. As adults, we would not take kindly to someone who says that we are acting “like a child.” Do we then take offense to being called a “child of God” or “children of God?” It’s no accident that in Scripture Jesus clearly tells us that unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). This, then, is our calling as saints: to become children of God; to shine with the light and love of Jesus in a darkened world that does not know Jesus.

If asked, most Christians would say that they are definitely not saints. That title, we often think, is reserved for people who are much stronger in faith than we ourselves are. We are all too aware of our faults and shortcomings, “the evil we have done and the good we have failed to do.” And that is the Law at work in our hearts and minds, accusing us and condemning us because we have not lived as God would have us live. And we know it. But the Law cannot save us; only the Gospel can. Only the Good News that Jesus has lived, died, and rose again to do for us what we could never do for ourselves – only this can save us. Jesus has lived that life of perfect obedience to the Father’s will that we could not and cannot. Jesus has paid the price for our disobedience with his innocent suffering and death upon the cross, becoming the atoning sacrifice for all our sin. Jesus has risen from the dead, triumphing over death and the grave, assuring us that all who live and believe in him will do the same. It is this faith that makes us children of God; saints of God. Clothed with the righteousness of Jesus himself, baptized into Jesus’ own death and resurrection, it is as God’s own Word tells us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2a). This isn’t some hoped-for, future outcome; it is a present reality. And it gets even better! John goes on to describe this: “And 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). For all the saints, for all the children of God, this is what we look forward to.

In the profession of our faith that we make in the Apostles’ Creed, we confess: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” The communion of saints is that mystical union in the Body of Christ that joins together the whole church on earth and in heaven, making us on in Christ Jesus. This blessed communion is something not even death can destroy. In Christ who has destroyed death and the grave, we are one with fellow believers of every time and place. This gives us a greater sense of unity and confidence in Christ, especially when days are difficult and times are trying. This communion of saints leads us into the Holy Communion. Berthold Von Schenk (1895-1974), a now deceased Lutheran pastor, wrote beautifully of this communion of saints and Holy Communion:

When we are bereft of loved ones, it is a tremendous shock. For a time we are stunned. Not everyone can feel at once their continuing companionship. We should not for that reason despair. An adjustment must take place in our lives, reaching deep into our habits, emotions and thoughts. Some souls may make this adjustment quickly. For most of us it comes slowly and hard; many an hour is filled with loneliness and agonizing doubt. But ourselves we can never make this adjustment. We must come to a sense of the continuing presence of our loved ones, and we can do this if we realize the presence of our Living Lord. As we seek and find our Risen Lord we shall find our dear departed. They are with Him, and we find the reality of their continued life through Him. The saints are part of the Church. We worship with them. They worship the Risen Christ face to face, while we worship the same Risen Christ under the veil of bread and wine at the altar. At the Communion we are linked with Heaven, with the Communion of Saints, with our loved ones. Here at the Altar, focused to a point, we find our communion with the dead; for the Altar is the closest meeting place between us and our Lord. That place must be the place of closest meeting with our dead who are in His keeping. The Altar is the trysting place where we meet our beloved Lord. It must, therefore, also be the trysting place where we meet our loved ones, for they are with the Lord… Our human nature needs more than the assurance that some day and in some way we shall again meet our loved ones “in heaven.” That is all gloriously true. But how does that help us now? When we, then, view death in the light of the Communion of Saints and Holy Communion, there is no helpless bereavement. My loved one has just left me and has gone on a long journey. But I am in touch with her. I know that there is a place where we can meet. It is at the Altar. How it thrills me when I hear the words of the Liturgy, “Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven,” for I know that she is there with that company of Heaven, the Communion of Saints, with the Lord. The nearer I come to my Lord in Holy Communion, the nearer I come to the saints, to my own loved ones. I am a member of the Body of Christ, I am a living cell in that spiritual organism, partaking of the life of the other cells, and sharing in the Body of Christ Himself… The Blessed Sacrament links us not merely to Bethlehem and Calvary, but to the whole world beyond the grave as well, for at the Altar the infinite is shrined in the finite; Heaven stoops down to earth; and the seen and the unseen meet. (For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church, Vol. IV. Delhi, NY: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau; pp. 1376-1378).

“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). Amen.

 

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