Nov 6, 2016 – Saints
Today is the Sunday we celebrate All Saints day. Now, that may sound pretty Roman Catholic to us Lutheran folk. But before we dismiss this too quickly, let’s think about what a saint is.
During family devotions, a father asked his children, “What is a saint?” His little daughter remembered the beautiful stained glass windows in her church portraying Jesus and the Disciples. She answered her father, “Saints are those people at church that the light shines through.”
She’s exactly right isn’t she? A saint is a person who lets the light shine through. Vs 4 of the hymn we just sang calls this to mind, we feebly struggle, they in glory shine! The light of God in Jesus Christ shines through those who’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. A saint is anyone in whom Christ now lives and who lets Christ’s light shine through him or her. Christ provides the light. Remember that, we are not the light; we simply let His light shine through our lives out onto the dark world around us.
We so often restrict the meaning of saint almost beyond the bounds of scripture when we use the term only to refer to such dead Christians who once led exceptionally holy lives and / or performed miracles. The Bible speaks of all Christians as sanctified people – as saints. Saint Paul, for example, addresses the Corinthians: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2 ).
Christians are saints despite the fact, the fact, that they’re still sinners. I’ve seen one list of the 5 Latin phrases every Lutheran should know. And again this week, look at your 500th anniversary reformation coin if you have it and you’ve already got three of them there: sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia. And here’s a fourth, Simul iustus et peccator, literally it’s, ‘simultaneously justified and a sinner’. Another way to translate in a more memorable way is ‘at the same time sinner and saint’.
The word ‘saint’ comes from the Latin word sanctus, which means holy or sanctified or, and this one’s important, consecrated. Consecrated is that idea of; being set apart for specific use. So, a saint is one who is chosen by God for His use. That’s all. And that’s each of you.
In the reading from Revelation today it says, “Salvation belongs to our God!” You’ve not been set aside by your choice but because of God’s choosing you to be set apart for Him. The blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ accomplished that ‘setting apart’. Saints are saints, not because they’re sinless but because, by the blood of the Lamb, all their sin is forgiven. As such, God declares them just and holy in His sight. They are sanctified, set aside, and now lead a new life of faith in Christ.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” Saint Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Saint Paul also urges those who are declared holy by faith, to serve God with holy works in every day of their lives. These are not works that save or redeem a person, but are done to express thanks and joyful obedience to God for His choosing you. Because the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and given us faith, we too are saints.
One of the things we are called for, that we’re ‘set apart’ for, is telling others about Christ. We share Christ, so that others also may know that they are sinners, made saints – people who’re redeemed by the blood of the lamb. A saint is a person, just an ordinary person set aside by the extraordinary God of creation so that God’s light can shine through to others.
Blasé Pascal has been quoted as saying, ‘There are two kinds of people in the world: (1) saints, who know they are sinners, and (2) sinners, who arrogantly think they are saints.’ Saints are those who know that they’re sinners who need a Savior to take away their sins. And then there’re the sinners, who feel no need for a Savior from sin – they simply reject what God has said is true of them. The sinners who turn from God’s grace, are ignorant of the truth that they’re without hope. It is easy to want to reject what God has done because we think we’re pretty good on our own. It is dangerous to linger over such thoughts because that can lead us outside of God’s grace and into His judgment.
However, sinners who know they need a savoir find that salvation only in the name of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. He has taken away the guilt of our sin. He has made us saints.
He has made us to be sinners and saints who know our need of a savoir. But saints in the classic sense are also known for what they do. We live the gospel in the community not because we’re so civic minded, but because in that way others can know that we’re no different than they are.
Saints are also known as the children of God. The epistle lesson today teaches this. The first verse of that lesson says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
Children are known to take after their parents. So, what does God do that we as His children take after? God loves; so we love. God acts; so we too act. We are called the children of God because of God’s love for us. We know that we are loved by God for what reason?
We know that God loves us because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That work, that righteousness of Christ, is put on us in our baptism and marks us as God’s own children and saints. We are not of this world anymore; we’re not trying to look and act like the world. We’re the ones with the light of Jesus Christ.
But a saint, one who lets the light of God shine through them, does so by what they do. Ever heard of Saint Ambrose? If you look at hymn number 332, that hymn was written by Saint Ambrose in the late 300’s! The late 300’s! And we still sing it today usually around advent, which is coming soon. It’s a beautiful hymn of praise to the Son of God, coming into this world to live and die and rise again to make saints. Ambrose let the light of God shine through in his life. But what do you know about Ambrose?
Before he became bishop of Milan he worked in the government. He was a roman prefect, a governor of sorts. This guy, whose hymn is in our hymnal, was a government employee some 1800 years ago! Saint Ambrose was well schooled and he was brought up in a Christian home, but he served the public good before he became a bishop.
Saints do their work on earth with a heavenly purpose (X2). Saints do what they do for the sake of God’s love. They are simply people, regular people, who are acting on the faith God has gifted to them and in that way, they let God’s light shine through them.
Let me tell you about someone else who many people today consider a saint because of what she did. Mother Theresa. A reporter once watched Mother Teresa bind the disgusting wounds of a leper. He whispered to another reporter, “I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world!” Mother Teresa’s hearing was better than he thought. She whispered to the reporter: “Neither would I!” She was willing to do this ‘disgusting thing’ for the Lord who has so dearly loved her. Through her also, shone the love of God.
What about us here? We’re also living out the gospel; with the love, with which God has first served us. Today, we have communion served to us. It is God who comes and serves us with His forgiveness and restoration in this holy meal. And as we receive that meal, we proclaim that God’s Son, Jesus, has died on the cross for us and shed His blood to redeem us. That’s the love that God has showed us. And that’s the love that shines through us to our community, friends and family.
I want you to take this piece of paper home with you. If you’ll cut off the bottom portion and then overlap the sides and tape them together, you can put a votive candle in a glass in the bottom and let the light shine through the people at the Last Supper where Jesus instituted Holy Communion. Like the little girl said to her daddy, saints are those the light shines through. We come to communion and receive again the refreshment and nourishment for our souls that renews the light of God in us.
We believe that God has drawn us together at Zion Lutheran Church to be Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel – to let His light shine through each of us. What form that takes for each of you I can’t tell you, but I can tell you that His light will shine through each one of you.
Remember we are ‘at the same time sinner and saint’. After all as we come to confession and communion we know we leave here forgiven of our sin and made saints by the light of His love. That light goes with you, the saints of God, wherever you go. It’s just who you are. In Jesus name, Amen.
Sermon #852 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Revelation 7:9-17 9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“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. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
Epistle 1 John 3:1-3 3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Holy Gospel Matthew 5:1-12 5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.