Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Feast of All Saints (observed) 11/7/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11:00am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: All Saints Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and Revelation lessons. To read the Bible texts for the Feast of All Saints, click here.
The Feast of All Saints is a day of vision; it is a day of looking, seeing, and recognizing. It starts in our text from Revelation chapter seven.
The Revelation to St. John is not only a Word, but a vision. He saw an angel, ascending from the rising of the Sun, with the seal of the living God. After that, he looked and saw a great multitude that no one could number.
They were from every nation and tribe and people and language; but they were all dressed in the same white robes; they were all waving the same palm branches; and they were all singing the same song of praise to God.
What John sees is the Church triumphant – those saints who have come out of the great tribulation; those saints who have come out of this broken world; those saints who by grace have endured and remained faithful to the end. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
That’s what John sees. The Revelation to St. John is many things; but above all it is a proclamation of the Gospel: for “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The hungry are fed; the thirsty are given springs of living water; and weeping is turned into dancing.
This is the sure and certain hope of the Church; and John gets to look at it. John gets to see it.
Jesus is looking around, too. That is the action which begins the most famous section in all of the New Testament. The Beatitudes begin when Jesus, seeing the crowds, went up on the mountain.
And He opens His mouth and teaches them. Jesus teaches them by telling them what He sees. And what He sees is not visible to everyone.
The world looks at the poor in spirit and sees people who lack self-confidence. The world looks at those who mourn and sees the defeated. The world looks at the meek, and they see someone to conquer. The world looks at those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and calls them insecure. The world looks at the merciful, and they see people trying to prove something. The world looks at the pure in heart and the peacemakers, but can’t even recognize them; and so, they persecute them for righteousness’ sake. The world reviles them and persecutes them and utters all kinds of evil against them.
The world has sight, but lacks vision. It has information, but lacks wisdom. They can look at the Saints, but they cannot see them or know them. But Jesus can, and Jesus does.
Jesus sees the poor in spirit, and He gives them His Spirit. Jesus sees those who mourn, and He comforts them with His Gospel. Jesus sees the meek and bids them stay so. Jesus sees those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and He feeds them His righteousness, hidden under bread and wine; Jesus sees the merciful and He has even greater mercy on them. Jesus sees the pure in heart, and they see Him too. He sees the peacemakers, and gives them His peace. Jesus sees the persecuted, and sees the liberated.
Jesus does not look at the Church and see that she has potential. The Beatitudes are not a list of to-dos. Jesus looks and sees the Church, redeemed by His blood. They are His own Body, His own reflection. Jesus looks and sees the Church so clearly, that He has the nerve to call her “Blessed.”
Jesus sees you. He sees you poor in spirit; He sees you mourning; He sees you sick and dying; He sees you persecuted and reviled. He sees you and knows you.
He has called you to Himself. He has baptized you and joined Himself to you. He has given you His Holy Spirit, so that you would see Him, too.
He wants you to look at Him. Jesus wants you to look at Him crucified and risen for you, so that you would see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God… That’s not what anybody out there will readily see when they look at you.
The world does not know us because they don’t know Him. They don’t see us because they don’t see Him.
And when our own vision suffers, when we look at ourselves and one another and struggle to see children of God, it is because we are still in this broken world. It is because we look into a dim and dirty mirror; it is because what we will be has not yet appeared.
But we know that when He appears we shall be like Him. We will see Him as He is. And the we will look at one another, and ourselves, and we will see what Jesus sees. We’ll share the vision that He shares with St. John: a countless parade of blesseds.
In this world, your eyes will fail you. And so, Jesus also makes use of your ears.
To water He adds His Promise and makes it a saving bath. To bread and Wine He adds His Word, and makes them His Body and Blood. To you… To you, Jesus adds His Holy Spirit.
For all of that, on this Feast of All Saints, Jesus calls your eyes to see what your ears have heard:
Your sins are forgiven.
Your suffering is fleeting.
Your death is turned to life.
You are children of God, bought with the Blood of His Son.
Your loved ones, who have departed with the sign of faith, are not in some place far away.
They are with Christ now.
You are with Christ now.
And so, it is only fitting for us to sing together; with Peter, Thomas, Richard, Ruediger, Belva, Nicholas, Alton, Dave, Ryan, Edith, Karen, Barbara, and Roger; with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, with all the Saints:
Amen! Blessing and glory
and wisdom and thanksgiving
and honor and power and might
be to our God forever and ever!