Saints Now and Eternally
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The most popular preachers are those who want you to believe that, if you are a Christian, your life will be better. You will be "blessed" with riches and your problems will disappear. Apparently they have not read the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us that you are blessed when you have nothing but Christ, when the world hates you because of Him. The devil hates Jesus. The world hates Jesus. Your own flesh hates Him! All three of those enemies are after you because you belong to Jesus. The devil’s highest goal is to get you to stop trusting in Jesus. He wants you to believe that God is going to punish you. Dear saints of God, don’t believe him. We saw St. John's vision in the book of Revelation. The robes of the saints are white. You have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Satan can accuse you all he wants, but it doesn't change the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, died for your sins and blotted them out by the blood that He shed on the cross. The devil says you're no saint, but the Lord says you are His. Are you going to believe the father of lies or your heavenly Father? Dear Christian, your whole life, you will struggle to believe you are a saint when the devil says you aren't. But thanks be to God in Christ, whose death and resurrection wipe out your sins and defeat the devil's lies.
But there's more suffering for Christ's saints in this life. The world hates you because of Jesus. Jesus says, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my sake." That means the world doesn't just hate you because of you. It hates you because you are in Christ. It hates you because you desire to do good and to make peace and to be merciful to others, because you desire to live like Christ. Sometimes we try to do good, and it seems like the world pays us back with trouble and difficulty and misery. What did you expect? The world hates Christ and so it hates those who are His. The mere fact that you are baptized is an accusation against a world that despises Christ and His gift of eternal life. So the world will hate you. It is your connection to Jesus that earns you the scorn and bitterness of this world. The world hates Christ. It put Him to death. But He has risen! He has overcome this world. And you will overcome it too.
There is still more suffering and struggle for Christ's saints! Our own sinful flesh hates Jesus too. It rebels. It struggles. It wants to break free. It wants to toss Jesus out and go back to enjoying the favor and temptations of the world. It's bad enough to have Satan and the world against us because of Jesus, but our own flesh? We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and in us the Spirit does battle against our flesh. Your sinful nature wants nothing to do with Jesus or righteousness or God's Word or loving others. It wants to live and do its own thing. So the sinful nature has got to go. So it is that the Old Adam within us gets drowned at the font in Baptism. That Old Adam is silenced by the words of absolution and purged by the body and blood of Jesus within you. It is those gifts of Jesus that make you saints. And that is our struggle: that when we act like pagan sinners, the Lord still calls us saints! That is the Spirit at work within you, so you may believe your sins are forgiven and that you are God's children. When you see Jesus face to face, you will see what God Himself has made you: a new creation by His Word and sacraments!
If you listen to the beatitudes closely, you will see that He describes His saints in this life, but He describes gifts which are for the life to come. That's the struggle of saints. We know our Lord has given us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We know the glory of the Lamb's throne in paradise awaits us. Until that day, we live as saints whose hope is in Christ's promises. The Lord calls us blessed even though we are targets of the Devil. The Lord says we are blessed even though we are hated by the world. The Lord says we are blessed even though our sinful flesh could care less. You are baptized, absolved, fed with Christ’s body and blood. That's what makes you a saint!
But it is a mighty struggle with such great enemies out to get us. That is why we celebrate All Saints' Day! We are blessed to see the gifts of Christ in the saints who have gone before us: saints who were fed to the lions or burned like torches; saints who were skinned alive or exiled to dismal places; saints who witnessed to kings. The saints who are in heaven are the saints who heard the preaching of Christ in all times and all places, like our own parents and children who have gone before us, delivered from this evil world and brought into the glory of Christ's heavenly throne. When we sing in the liturgy, Sunday after Sunday, about "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven," we are rejoicing that our Lord really keeps His promises. He really does preserve His saints through their hardships and struggles. He really does indeed deliver His saints from their enemies. He has done it for them, and He will do it for you. After all, you are saints. Jesus says so. 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.