Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
On the Feast of All Saints, we remember those saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus and rest from their labors. They are with Jesus in paradise. But for us? Not yet. In this day and age, we’re used to instant gratification in most things. But our life in Christ, our life under the cross, is more like being in the midst of a battle with some grave illness. There’s always that wait for the next test or treatment or meeting with the doctor. And while we struggle through a life filled with distress and suffering and heartache, we wonder when God is going to put a stop to all of it. And the answer is, “Not yet.” Yes, you are baptized into Christ. You are going to rise from the sleep of death on the Last Day and live forever…but not yet. That’s why the church takes time to remember those who have gone before us, the faithful who rest from their labors. For them, the time has come. The Lord has brought them out of this life into eternal life. What they have, we will have too…but not yet.
To a church living within that time of “not yet,” Jesus speaks blessings and promises. Jesus tells us what we are. And He tells us what we have coming. In this life, we face persecution. In the life to come, we will have every blessing and the entire kingdom of God. In this life, people hate us and attack us, and we cry out, “How long, O Lord.” And the Lord answers, “Not yet.” But when ‘the strife is fierce and the warfare long,’ then what? How do we know these promises are true? What will make our hearts brave and our arms strong? How can we possibly wait it out until the “not yet” becomes “now?” The answer is Jesus. The promises are true because Jesus made them. And we know His promises are true because He died and then He rose. The reason those saints have not died in vain is that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. The reason they are with Him in paradise is the same reason the thief on the cross is: our Lord told them so. The reason we know what He said is true is because on that third day, that tomb was empty. Jesus rose. And therefore we celebrate all saints because we haven’t lost our brothers and sisters in Christ. They aren’t gone. They are with Jesus.
And because He rose from the dead, His promises to you are true as well. Despite the suffering, persecution, tragedy and anything else that plagues you in this life, you have Christ’s promise: the kingdom of God is yours. You have it now. You don’t have to wait. You entered that kingdom when you were baptized. You were clothed in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. Every pronouncement of absolution, every sermon announcing Christ crucified for sinners, every time you feast on the body and blood of Jesus: this is a proclamation that the enemies of the faithful are defeated. It may not be fully realized quite yet, but they’re going to be gone for good when Jesus returns. And every celebration of the Lord’s Supper, when we are gathered around the body and blood of Jesus, we are there with the angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven. Bodies rest in graves, but around the Lord’s altar, we who walk as yet by faith and those saints already with Christ in paradise are gathered around Jesus. These gifts are how you know His promises are true.
Even though it’s not yet time for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, those things still are going to happen. And you still have forgiveness and life now. But until the resurrection of all flesh, until the “not yet” becomes the “now,” His promise to you is that He will keep you and all His saints in faith until that day. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.