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All Saints Sermon: Forever and Ever. November 6, 2022

November 7, 2022

This sermon was preached at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, IL, on All Saints Sunday. You can view the service here and the bulletin here. The image is The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, by Fra Angelico, 1420s (public domain).

Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. This year’s celebration of Halloween involved less preparation than in years past. Rather than searching for and purchasing new costumes, we urged the kids to dig through the layers of costumes stored in a bin in the basement. So it was that we once again had a police officer, Spider-Man, and a Yeti. Our kids’ costumes were helpful, heroic, and mythical, not to mention adorable. But they weren’t scary or monstrous. Mine was the scariest costume. I also utilized what was lying around the house. Since I always have a rock-star wig and a Green Bay Packers jersey on hand, I threw together a little outfit I called “Haaron Rodgers.” What’s scary about that, you ask? Well, have you seen my Packers play recently? They are monstrously bad.
  2. Halloween is a time to pretend. We see zombies and werewolves, vampires and ghosts, but it’s all make-believe. Today, however, we hear of the allegorical but very real monsters that afflict us. Our first reading today comes from the Book of Daniel. The first six chapters of the book contain some of the Bible stories that are most familiar to us, featuring providential escapes from a lion’s den and a fiery furnace. In chapter seven, the book pivots to apocalyptic visions. Daniel sees four great beasts rising out of the sea. He is troubled and terrified by the vision; if you look up the verses that were omitted from the reading, you’ll see why. These would not make for cute and cuddly costumes! The four beasts represent four successive empires, kings and people that will seek to control God’s people and the land, usually thought to be the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Seleucid Greeks. The beasts are symbols of the very real forces that would arise in the future, raging and waging war, destroying and devouring anything in their path. How, Daniel must have thought, could his people survive such calamitous disaster?
  3. If you’re like me, you don’t much time worrying about ancient Babylonians, Medes, Persians, or Seleucid Greeks, but that doesn’t mean the beasts have given up or gone away. We could give the beasts any number of names: One quartet could be war, gun violence, white supremacy, and hatred. Or more broadly: sin, suffering, sickness, and death. We live in a world in which powers and principalities attack and afflict us, coming at us from all sides and emerging from within, too. And no matter what promises you hear on the radio the next few days, no midterm election is going to save us. It might even make things worse. Like Daniel, our spirits are troubled by these visions. Like Daniel, we might be terrified. But as for Daniel, so for us: the vision of the beasts is not the end of the story. Yes, the great beasts will arise. “But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.” And then, to drive home the point that forever isn’t long enough to adequately describe God’s reign, Daniel is told, “forever and ever.” Yes, the beasts arise and attack. No, they will not win. No, they do not get the last word.
  4. Jesus enters this world, submitting himself to all the vicissitudes of being human, to the blessings and woes we all encounter. As he is crucified, it appears as if the many forces arrayed against God have won the day. But God silences and defeats these beasts in the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. As Paul writes, God has raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all other powers and every other name. We, by the grace of God, have been joined to Christ through the waters of baptism. We have been clothed not in a costume for make-believe, but in the very righteousness of Christ. By water and the Word, we have already gone through the great ordeal. You who were dead are alive. The powers still circle and seek to ensnare, but the battle is over. Life has triumphed. And though we will each still face a physical death, the promise is sure and the inheritance is guaranteed. You are redeemed, for God’s purposes and to God’s praise. You are redeemed. Forever. Forever and ever.
  5. In praise of God, we live with God’s purposes, enacting the peaceable Kingdom now in anticipation of the Kingdom’s coming fullness. In praise of God, we enact Jesus’ teachings. Love your enemies. Do good, even to those who hate you. Bless and pray, even for those who wish you ill. Offer the other cheek, turning violence toward peace. Give, even to those who take from you. Do unto others, as you would have them to unto you. Love Jesus, as Jesus loves you, and in this way give glory to our God.
  6. Today, on this All Saints Sunday, we remember those who have gone before us in faith; those who taught us so much about what it means to live as God’s faithful people. Today, we remember fourteen members of our Grace community, some who lived to wonderous old age, others who were taken from us far too soon. All of whom are loved, all of whom are missed. Today, we remember that each of these saints was washed in water and Word, and that the baptismal journey once begun has now been completed. Today, we light candles, proclaiming that the little, flickering light of their baptismal candles has become for them the all-encompassing light of Gods’ presence. Today we remember Ed, Bob, David, Don, Gloria, John, Jerry, Scott, Carolyn, Don, Barb, Virginia, Evie, Cameron, and all who have died in the faith, and we proclaim that they have received now the promised inheritance. They live in the light of God’s glory. Forever. Forever and ever.
  7. May we, friends, like the saints who have gone before us, keep the faith. May our lives be lights giving glory to our Father in heaven. Let us stand against the powers of this world, those beasts that rage on but have already lost. Let us love and pray and bless and give and make peace, for we have been given the fullness of God’s grace for the sake of Christ Jesus. Let us sing God’s praise, giving glory to the One who has won life out of death, until our lives, too, are taken up into God’s forever. Forever and ever. Amen.

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

From → Sermons

3 Comments
  1. prmoodyprm@aol.com permalink

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

  2. Martin Baumgaertner permalink

    All Saints Day let Christians endeavor
    To know we can be severed never
    From recent lost friends
    Whose lives met their ends
    But were taken to Jesus forever

  3. LaNell Mahler Koenig permalink

    Thank you. I printed the sermon and put it into Jerry’s Memory Book.

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