All Saints Day, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 5, 2017
Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 149, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12
Full Service Audio: bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship
You have a past, a present and a future. I have a past, a present and a future. My ancestral past goes back to Europe; to Germany, Norway and England. In college, when I was studying for a semester in Germany I visited my Great-Grandmother’s hometown of Altenbruch near Cuxhaven. I found the family house and some of my grandfather’s cousins. I myself have a past growing up in Indiana, New York, Missouri and Virginia. I have a present as husband, father, pastor, a resident of Ohio. And I have a future, but I am not sure all of what that will be.
You have a past. You live in the present. You have a future. You can look back and look forward, but you live in the present where you learn one thing for sure is true; life is hard. Life is a struggle. School is hard. Work is hard. Marriage is hard. Being single is hard. Raising a family is hard. Even retirement is hard. Life is hard.
We all have a past. We live in the present. We look to the future. We look to the future through our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and this can hold great promise and great worry. The future can be frightening and troubling as we see turbulent times and know that our days are numbered and in the end we all face the grave
Knowing you face death can make the future seem bleak, but the grave is not the end. The struggles of this life are not all that there is. You are more important than that. God has made great promises to you. You are a baptized child of God. In the waters of Holy Baptism you have been set apart from the multitude of unbelievers. You are a part of the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.
You are part of the Church, the Body of Christ here at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Hamilton, Ohio. The Church has a past. A past here at Immanuel which has been a congregation in Hamilton on Front Street and Main Street for 121 years after breaking away from Zion Lutheran in 1896. Immanuel is part of the Missouri Synod which was formed in 1847 by German Lutheran immigrants to America. Lutherans trace their history back to Martin Luther and the Reformation and back further to the Roman Catholic Church, back to missionaries to Europe, back to the early Church all the way to first disciples of Jesus and Jesus Himself. And before Jesus’ incarnation back to the prophets and King David and Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. All the way back to Noah and back to Adam and Eve.
How long will we preach the Word and administer the sacraments? How long? Until Jesus returns. The Church has no choice but to do what She has been given to do until Jesus returns in Glory.
The Church has a past. We did not invent something new here that we are doing, we are doing what has been given to us to do from the Lord Jesus Himself; to preach the Word and administer the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. We see this past and present in the verses immediately before our First Reading from Revelations where the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel are assembled as the Church Militant doing the Lord’s work on earth. The church militant protected by the whole armor of God standing firm against the schemes of the devil as we learn in Ephesians. Ephesians 6:12-13 (ESV) 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
And so the Church lives this out in the present doing what it has been given to do. We gather each week to again put on the whole armor of God by hearing the Word of God read and preached. We continue to baptize infants, children and adults as we saw with little Samuel this morning, to seal them as children of God. We continue to gather to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion for the forgiveness of sins. And how long will the Church continue to do these things that She has been given to do? How long will we preach the Word and administer the sacraments? How long? Until Jesus returns. The Church has no choice but to do what She has been given to do until Jesus returns in Glory. The church continues to live out what She has been given to do baptizing, preaching, teaching, communing and burying those who die in Christ. And we will continue to do this until the judgement day.
The Church lives out the present standing firm against false teaching and sin and selfishness. The Church lives out the freedom of Christ. Not using freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serving one another. And this is tough; loving and serving one another. Being Salt and Light to the world is exhausting. Love is messy and inefficient. Love takes great patience and perseverance as we struggle through this life on the way to the grave.
And when we bid farewell to a loved one at the cemetery it is not goodbye forever, but rather, see you later. The cemetery is not the end. The Church has an eternal future. Those who are in the Church have an eternal future. You are part of the Church that we hear about in our first reading. Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” The future church sings praises in the presence of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
As a repentant, baptized follower of Jesus, you will be in this multitude wearing a white robe and waving a palm branch. Life now is hard being poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker and being persecuted. Life is hard, but you have a future in the great multitude before the Lamb where God will wipe every tear from your eyes.
Today we remember all those who have died in the faith and now wait for the Lord’s return and the resurrection of the dead. We remember them and look forward to the great reunion in heaven. This is the future for the church. This is your future.
This is why we do what we do in the present; because we have a future. This is why we gather together to hear God’s promises; and what great promises God makes to you in Christ Jesus. This is why we sing to Jesus in the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy.” Because where two or three are gathered in His name Jesus is here with us. This is why we gather and sing the Gloria Patri which is the song of the angels sang at Jesus’ birth because Jesus was present with His people. This is why we sing, “This is the feast”, as we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, “Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God…For the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign.” That is why we sing the Alleluia verse that declares that Jesus is the one with the Words of Eternal life. This is why we sing, “Praise to you O Christ” after hearing the words of Jesus. This is why we sing the Sanctus with words of the Seraphim singing in the presence of God, witnessed by Isaiah, and the words of the crowds in Jerusalem waving palm branches and welcoming Jesus into their midst on Palm Sunday, “Hosanna in the Highest!” This is why we sing the Agnus Dei with the words of John the Baptist as he sees Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This is why we sing the Nunc Dimittis which is the song of Simeon who held the little Lord Jesus in his arms at the temple and knew that now he could die in peace. We sing words of the Bible about Jesus’ presence because Jesus is present here with us today in His Word and in His Sacraments. The Lord is present with us here for the forgiveness of sins. The present church sings praises in the presence of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
The present is a struggle but you have a future. You have a future because you are part of the Church; you have been baptized into Christ. You have an eternal future with all the Church singing praises to the Lord in the heavenly city forever. You have a past, you live in the present, you have a future in Christ.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001