“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this commemoration of all the saints, is the Epistle lesson I just read from the third chapter of Saint John’s first letter. Dear friends in Christ, the world doesn’t know all the saints. It doesn’t know how the mourning could be comforted, it doesn’t know how the meek will inherit the earth, it doesn’t know how the poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven. The world doesn’t know all the saints, because it doesn’t know the Savior. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.” The Creator came into the creation and those whom He made didn’t know Him. They didn’t recognize Him for who He was, and so they rejected Him, they turned their backs. But ignoring Him wasn’t enough. In their ignorance, they raged against Him, putting Him to death. Now, they certainly don’t know all the saints, those who proclaim alive a man the world put to death, those who follow a man the world watched die.
The world doesn’t know you, it doesn’t understand you, it doesn’t get you. If it did, it would be like you are, but as it refused to have anything to do with Jesus, it refuses to have anything to do with you. Christ and all the saints is a huge hole in the world’s knowledge; all else the world can quantify, understand, put in a lab, but people clinging to a crucified man, that the world will never understand. It can only know, it can only understand, by becoming as you are, one of all the saints. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” See the Father’s love, the love that He has for you, a love the world cannot understand or comprehend, a love the world does not know. But you know this love, for you have heard the Word proclaimed to you: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You have heard the declaration, as water was poured over your head, that you are now a child of God; that is what God has called you, that is what He has said about you at the font.
You are called a child of God, all the saints are called children of God, and these are no empty words. These are God’s words. Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The Word of God does what it says. You are called a child of God, and so you are, His Word makes it happen. It is reality, not a pious wish, not an uncertain hope, but reality. You are a child of God; that is who you are, that is what you have become. God said it, and it is true. God said it, and He doesn’t lie, He doesn’t deceive. Your identity is as sure and certain as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as sure and as certain as the empty tomb.
“The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now.” The world doesn’t know you, for you have become something the world can never understand: a child of God. It doesn’t know Jesus, it refuses to know His resurrection, and so it doesn’t know you, it doesn’t know all the saints. The world scoffs at even calling you, or anyone else in the Church, living or dead, saints. The term ‘saint’ in our world today has come to means a person who is morally upright, who does good deeds incessantly, who acts in kindness toward all. And the world laughs at the notion that the Church could then ever be called the assembly of all the saints. The world sees our sin, it sees our wretchedness; it has encouraged it, it has led us from sin to sin. The world knows just how dirty we are, how filthy we make ourselves, it can even make some good guesses about the sins you think you have kept safely hidden.
All Saint’s Day seems like a joke, a lie, that the Church could somehow corner the market on sainthood. All Hypocrites’ Day seems more accurate, more true to life; the world calls us out on our pretending, our playacting, our hypocrisy. And we know that the world speaks the truth. When we examine our lives, we see very little that is ‘saintly,’ at least as the world defines that term. But the true definition of ‘saint’ isn’t about moral perfection and piles of good works. Those who are true saints, all the saints we commemorate today, are those who have been declared so by the Word of God. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” You are a saint, you one of all the saints, not because you do not sin, but because you are forgiven, because you are covered with the blood of Jesus.
You are a child of God now; that is your present reality, that is true because it has been declared to you, and God’s Word does what it says. You know this, it is certain and true, an anchor in this world of sin. It is especially true when you approach that time that all the saints must pass through: death. The world laughs at All Saint’s Day, it scoffs at our commemoration of those who are dead. The world can show us the graves, it can take us to the bones, it knows just as well as you do, that death is inevitable, it is inescapable. All the saints are dead, they’re gone, no more. Whether it is Peter or Paul, Augustine or Luther, or people closer to home, like Moe, Wally, Harold, or Danielle, the world simply proclaims reality to us: they’re all dead, and one day you will be too.
And we must admit once again that the world is right; certainly, all the saints who have gone before us remain in the grave, certainly the grave is our destination, too. In the face of death, we too shudder, we too fear its coming. But the one mystery that the world can never solve gives us hope, a sure and certain hope: the grave of Jesus is empty; He has been raised from the dead. And because He has been raised from the dead, so all those who belong to Him, all those who have been declared children of God through His shed blood, now live with Him, even though they died, and will one day be raised with Him. The world doesn’t know you, it doesn’t know all the saints, because it doesn’t know the resurrection. It searches for His body, but that body will never be found, for what the angels said on Easter remains true today: “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” Christ is risen, and all the saints will rise. Christ is risen, and all the saints who died in Him live. The world sees a dead man on the cross; we see the One who was crucified in our place rising in victory, the proof and guarantee that death will not hold us either.
That is the death and resurrection you were baptized into, and your present identity is the pledge of your future reality. “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” Now we are saints not yet in glory, now we are saints who have the promise of resurrection. We are God’s children right now, at this very moment, possessors of an inheritance that Saint John hesitates to even try to describe in detail. Know, dear friends, that we will be like Christ, all the saints will imitate Him in His resurrection forever. We don’t see our inheritance with our physical eyes; the crown of glory and robes of Christ’s own blood-bought righteousness are invisible to us and to the world, and in fact what our eyes see is too often the opposite, but know that this inheritance belongs to you even now in this world of sin. And know what you will be: like Christ, seeing Him as He truly is to be seen, the glorified Son of God, enthroned in His splendor.
In this world, that reality is concealed, hidden from human eyes, but we have been given the very Word of the One who does not lie that this glory is ours, it is our possession right now because we are saints, because we have been called children of God, and thus we are. Jesus died for you and He rose for you, and He gives you a hope that is unshakable in this world of sin and death. “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” All the saints are those who hope in Christ, those who have been given the promise, the sure and certain guarantee that they are children of God. All the saints are those who are pure, not because they are sinless, but because they are forgiven, because they have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, shed for them upon the altar of the cross. All the saints will imitate Christ: as His grave was left empty behind Him, so shall the graves of all the saints, including yours and mine, be.
The world doesn’t know all the saints. It doesn’t know how they could hunger no more, neither thirst anymore. It doesn’t know how the sun could not strike them, nor any scorching heat. It doesn’t know how graves could be opened and the dead could be raised incorruptible. The world doesn’t know the saints because it doesn’t know the Lamb. “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The slain Lamb will be our Shepherd, our Good Shepherd for eternity, shepherding all the saints to green pastures and quiet waters. In this world, you have mourning, but take heart, you will be comforted. In this world, you are poor in spirit, but take heart, you will receive the kingdom of heaven. In this world you are meek, but take heart, you will inherit the world. In this world, you hunger and thirst for righteousness, but take heart, you will be satisfied. In this world, you will be persecuted, but take heart, you will receive the kingdom of heaven. In this world, you are pure in heart through your baptism into Christ, and take heart, you will see God. You will see Him face to face, as the saints of old did, and you will see Your Savior as He is, for you will be like Him. You know this, this is your sure and certain hope; what the world doesn’t know, you do: you know your present identity as a child of God through your baptism into Christ, and you know your future reality reflecting the glory of Christ in imitation of Him. “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” In the Name of Jesus, Amen.