All Saints’ Sunday
Beloved. On All Saints’ Sunday we remember not only the great saints of the Church that have gone before us and whose souls are now with the Lord in heaven, but also the great number of the lesser known, the unknown saints—those that we, by God’s grace and mercy, will probably one day be. Certainly we can all think of one departed Christian who has been a blessing and encouragement to us personally—be it a parent, friend, co-worker, teacher etc.—and who is now with the Lord. That person, dear to you but unknown to most, is also part of that great cloud of witnesses [Hb. 12.1] that surrounds us, that great host of saints. This is what we call and mean by the communion of saints, which we confess in the creed. Once a Christian is dead and gone, that Christian isn’t dead and gone. The body rests in the ground and awaits the resurrection on the Last Day when it will be raised holy and perfect and reunited with the soul; but now the soul is in heaven, in eternal joy and bless, beholding the holy God Himself. The dead in Christ are not dead, but they are still part of the Church, one Church with us. They belong to the Church Triumphant—those who by God’s grace and mighty working remained faithful to the Lord in this life and died in the holy Christian faith and who are now in heaven. There is one Church, part in heaven—the Church Triumphant—and part on earth—the Church Militant, which is still struggling and striving here on earth against sin and the attacks on the faith but on whom the Lord is mightily working through His word and sacrament to keep and strengthen in faith faithful to the end. That’s us here and now. All Saints’ Sunday is a vital part of the Church Year. It holds before us, for our strengthening and encouragement, in the midst of our struggles against sin and the attacks of the devil, the world and our own sinful nature, God’s mercy—that He wants to save us, as He did the saints; that He will preserve us steadfast in the faith, as He did the saints. And when we look at our sin, feel our sin, we see the grace and mercy God showed the saints in forgiving them their sin and bearing with them in their weakness—and we can be certain that He will do the same with us.
From ancient times the Church has used the Beatitudes, the beginning part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as the Gospel. In the Beatitudes Jesus describes the condition of the Christian in this life—the life of the Christian in the Church Militant. And how does Jesus describe our life as Christians in this world? Blessed!
Blessed—even though and in the midst of our poverty, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting, persecutions. The beautiful thing about the Beatitudes is that Jesus doesn’t tell us “how” to be blessed, but simply that we are blessed; He describes that blessedness that is ours—ours in the midst of this sinful world; ours in the midst of our sufferings. And really, when it comes down to it, Jesus’ teaching, the Beatitudes of today’s Gospel are aimed and directed against the world’s way of thinking. For example, the Beatitude we are examining this morning, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted: the worldly way of thinking is that the best thing people could have would be to be joyful and happy and without any trouble. The world calls “blessed” those who avoid mourning! But what does Jesus do? He calls Blessed…those who mourn. You see how opposite Jesus’ and the Christian’s way of thinking is from the worldly way of thinking? It’s not that as Christians we purposely go out and try to find things to make us sad, strive for misery. Instead we realize that mourning will be a part of this life but as we recognize that fact and there can be great blessing in mourning.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. There is something significant as we live out our lives as Christians. Our sufferings and our mourning—they are not something senseless as the world would have us think. Instead, remember, dear Christian, that because of our baptism we are united with Jesus. He is in us and we are in Him in a wonderful, glorious union. That means that just as Jesus mourned during His earthly life, so we, too, will suffer and mourn. Our mourning is joined with that of Jesus who mourned; because He mourned, we too will mourn. Think of how Jesus must have mourned during His earthly ministry. Here, He, the holy God who made the world and everything in it perfect and holy comes to a world contaminated and ruined by sin and death. He sees the devil as the [Jn 12.31] ruler of this world leading it into sin and hell. During His earthly ministry, Jesus saw the sick, lame, blind, deaf; He saw the demon possessed; He saw poverty and need; He saw the ravages of nature. Jesus, too, was personally affected as He suffered and mourned at the death of His friend Lazarus.
Then Jesus comes to preach the Good News of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Him and His work. Jesus comes to proclaim that He, the long awaited Savior from sin, has come to reconcile sinful humanity to the holy God. But how is He met? Early on in His ministry, people of His own hometown want to throw Him off a cliff; the religious leaders want to stone Him. People that He healed do not thank Him. Great crowds He had fed, turned away and rejected Him after He began to teach them. What great sorrows and mourning our Lord endured!
We come to Holy Week. As Jesus approaches Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as He sees the glistening and bustling city filled with the crowds of people for the Passover, Jesus [Lk. 19.41] saw the city and wept over it. He knew that most the people would reject Him and as a result the Romans would come in a mere 40 years and level the city. And then how Jesus must have mourned at Judas’ betrayal! And then there’s Gethsemane where Jesus prayed [Mt. 26.38]: My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.
Again, the point in this is that Jesus mourned. Should we expect any different? Hardly! In fact, as Christians we are called to share in Christ’s mourning; we join our mourning with His—after all we are united with Him in baptism. But as we are united with Him, that also means what? –That we are not alone in our mourning. Blessed are those who mourn
Yes, we are sinners living in a sinful world. We will suffer and we will mourn. There is no lack of cause in us and in the world in which we live. There’s sickness, death, broken marriages, set backs at work, etc. If we don’t have enough to mourn about in our own lives, we see how our loved ones suffer as sinners in this sinful world. We see and feel for them in their sufferings and hurts, our hearts go out to them. We lift up our eyes a little further and see the state of the world. We see how much hatred and war and sufferings there are caused both by natural disasters and man-made. There is much to mourn—not only for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren. And that’s just the sufferings and mourning that are common to all people. Add to that our sufferings and mourning as Christians. Jesus warns His Christians [Jn. 16.21]: Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. And the blessed Apostle tells us [Ac 14.22]: We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.
As Christians, our greatest mourning is the mourning over our sin. As Christians, we love the Lord and want to do His will; we want to live a life of good works, of what pleases the Lord. But we look at our lives and see sin; we see that we have sinned often, daily. Sometimes we sin before realizing our sin. We see and feel our helplessness in the battle of sin. We feel our spiritual poverty. We feel our spiritual barrenness. We, as Christians, want to do the Lord’s will; we want to live a life free of sin. But we still have our old weak sinful human nature that keeps us from it and keeps drawing us into sin; that works with the devil and the world around us. Our sin and our inability to live as we as Christians want is a great cause of our mourning.
But what? Blessed are those who mourn. Precisely the one who mourns, Jesus declares “Blessed.” And here is our great comfort. Precisely here as we mourn our sins we have the greatest of all comfort—the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. This holy sorrow/ holy mourning over sin is the first part of repentance. Where there is this sorrow over sin, there is the first fruit of joy/ comfort. Because why? In our mourning over sin, we, dear Christian, in faith run to Jesus, run to His forgiveness—His forgiveness that is full and free. And there is our comfort! That sin that we committed, that bothers us, that separated us from God is forgiven. Our mourning drives us to the Lord and there/ He is our comfort. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Notice the promise to those who mourn: they shall be comforted. That’s why they are blessed/ declared blessed by Jesus. As you recognize, sorrow and mourn your sin—you are blessed because you, dear Christian, run to the holy Absolution, run to the Blessed Sacrament and there you shall be comforted.
Although, our greatest mourning as Christians is over our sins, we also have the “regular” mourning like everyone else. We still mourn over the common sufferings of this life; we still mourn over the sufferings of others and the state of the world. But even here: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. The simple fact of the matter for all people is: we are sinners living in a sinful world and we will suffer and mourn. But what makes it different for the Christian? The reason why the Christian is Blessed in his/her mourning is that our blessedness/ joy/ happiness is not dependent upon having a good time and living it up. Our blessedness is elsewhere—it’s in the Lord. As we sing in the hymn [TLH #262, 4]: And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth. In our mourning, God comforts us with the glorious assurance that heaven and every heavenly blessing is ours. Again here, we look to the saints. They suffered here on earth—some, like the martyrs, tremendously on account of their faith; others just by suffering after suffering, a difficult life—but what? They are in heaven in eternal joy and bliss beholding God.
Not only do we Christians have the certainty of heaven and by that God comforts us in our mourning, but even in the midst of our mourning and sorrows now the Lord gives us the right and the best comfort so that we can endure. When we have to mourn, we, by faith, know that it is God’s good pleasure, that He knows it is best for us and that He is working mightily through it for our spiritual and eternal good. We know that suffering and sorrow will come into our life. But we have our Lord’s promise: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Holding to His promise, we don’t rage and despair as if God doesn’t/ won’t be gracious to us. He will! Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Be assured your mourning does not reach deaf ears. When you mourn to God over some sorrow be assured that at once God’s consolation is there. He cheers us and sustains us with the assurance of His grace, presence and help. His comfort comes in different ways and varies from time to time and person to person. But it is always the right comfort we need. Quietly listen and seek it. How blessed we are dear Christian: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. INJ Amen.