Remembrance with a Hopelessness or Filled with Excitement and Joy

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His Glory.   Ephesians 1:11-12

In looking over some of my Dad’s sermons, I was struck by one for All Saints’ Day he wrote in 1947.  He described how today, we Christians have lost richness in our faith because of how the world has entered in and imposed its own perspectives upon us.  For example, there is a conflict between the festivals of the world and the Christian festivals, and often the Christian festivals fade into the background.

As a case in point, New Year’s Day gets all sorts of attention – no one regards the Church’s New Year’s Day, the first Sunday of Advent, with same kind of fanfare.  As well, New Year’s Day celebrations dominate January first, but in the Christian calendar, this eighth day after Christmas rejoices in the Circumcision and Name Day of Jesus, which emphasizes when God shed His own Blood for the first time in all of creation’s history, binding Himself by Blood to all who were circumcised since Abraham, as well as the first Blood shed on the road to the Cross which would bring salvation to humanity.

All Saints’ Day is another Christian festival which is treated more or less with indifference compared with the fanfare of a Remembrance Day celebration.  Between these two memorial day festivals, there is an interesting contrast:  One is a sad comment, a sense of hopelessness about this world; the other has an uncontainable excitement and joy about it.

November 11 – Armistice Day – ended World War I, the war which was to end all wars, yet it sowed the seeds for another world war.  Two years after the end of that second war, the world geared up for a cold war with nuclear annihilation in the background.  Korea, Vietnam, and various other infernos and brushfires were waiting in the wings.  Freedoms won would be gradually discarded and then would require to be fought for again.  China and Moscow now stand poised for when North America shows cracks in its fortress.

In the background of such Memorial Days there is a certain sense of hopelessness, wondering whether the losses from the wars will ultimately prove to be in vain.  It is no wonder that these special days of this world have a sadness weaving its way through each, because the hopes at the end of each war have only been betrayed by yet more hostilities, more loss of life, more suffering.

But All Saints’ Day, on the other hand, is a joyous occasion.  For one, it celebrates a loss which will never be repeated, and that that death was followed hard on its heels by a resurrection.  The triumph won is permanent.  The treasure promised will never be threatened.  The future has been irrevocably wrested from the enemy.  What Jesus accomplished has transformed every believer’s death since then.

There is no hopelessness, for those in Christ have finished their course, not with an appearance of victory like earthly memorial days celebrate, but with a real and eternal triumph: they were conquerors with Christ – and still are.  Death cannot defeat them – they are gloriously alive and are with our Lord Jesus.  One day, on the great Day of the Lord, they and we will meet in the air and we all will greet Jesus as He comes in Glory to put an end to this present world. Their bodies will be raised from the dead, and those of us who remain, our bodies will be changed to be like His body.

Their death has become the entrance to what St Paul described in the first chapters of Ephesians in particular.  They enter a place which is swirling with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and revelation, with the final attainment of all which has only been partially seen as if from a distance, with the satisfied settledness of a hope which is absolutely fulfilled, with the achievement of the glorious inheritance of all who rest their confidence in their Lord, within their submission to the mighty power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Just who are these fantastically privileged people?  Everyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and has kneeled before His Power and Lordship.  These are what the Bible calls the saints, which include those who are dead as well as those who are living.  These are that great crowd, as recorded in the Book of Revelation, which no man can number which surrounds the throne of the Lamb.

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But this is not what we find in the Bible.  Those who are considered “the holy ones,” who are in the company of Jesus, who are simply human beings like you and I.  They struggle and are tempted just like you and I are tempted.  The real point of what a saint is, is that they take God at His Word – they surrender to His Will, they turn their sin over to their Savior, they welcome His forgiveness, they rejoice in the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and they find their victory in Christ, for they are indeed more than conquerors through Him Who loves us – and Who continues to love us each and every day.     .

Why is it that we are afraid of holiness today?  Holiness is simply when a person desires to live in harmony with the will of God.  That is what makes the saints great – for they are men and women who do not care what others say about them, but they are very concerned about what God says of them; they do not try to fit in with what the world does, but find satisfaction and hope in the presence of the Lord in their lives; they would rather have the smile of God than the smiles of men, and the frowns of men than the frown of God.

The saints are those who make the Will of God govern their decisions and actions, who have seen attitudes and perspectives changed because of the Holy Spirit’s work in their minds and hearts.  They are those who have been “crucified with Christ,” who risked discomfort and restraint by making the Will of God be in the center of their whole existence, and thereby who have tasted the very atmosphere of heaven in the delight of our Lord’s presence.  The saints are those who bear the wounds of Christ – for they have been rejected, ridiculed, spit upon, beaten, hurt and persecuted because of Christ, yet who, in the Holy Spirit’s power, seek to love in return.

The saints are those who know failure and weakness, and yet who lean on Jesus’ forgiveness, not to become complacent, but rather who are thereby freed to take more steps within the Life of Jesus which surrounds them.  They are the ones described in the book of Revelation who wear the white robes, the robes of their lives washed in the Blood of the Lamb, which has allowed them to put the past away, free from any of its attempts to control their life now.

The saints are those who have found the wealth of the riches of God in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus in Communion.  Here is the support and prayers of the Body of Christ surrounding them, here is the strength and determination to continue forward for daily life, whether it be in the encouragement of the lives of the saints or in the hand of a fellow believer next to us.  This is the fellowship of all who are saints, all for whom Jesus has affected their lives, thoughts, hopes and dreams.  How awesome as we discover in Jesus the meeting place of heaven and earth, the grand fellowship of all believers, for in Christ all live, all rejoice together, all unite in praise, all discover the mutual blessing and support of God’s People.

Sadly, yes there is a catch to all the celebration which All Saints’ Day contains.  There are those who are outside all the wonder and joy.  There are those who stop short of submitting their lives into the hands of the Redeemer Who has earned for them all these real blessings of heaven, Who had not hesitated at the Cross in opening the window of God’s grace, mercy, steadfast love and forgiveness.  They are afraid of what it would cost, which may seem painful for a while, but which holds for them enormous joy forever.  Yet that cost is actually minimal.  It means that they repent of that which inhibits them, honestly laying before the Savior the burdens that have been beyond their own ability to manage by themselves.  To be released from such chains is a simple thing which pays back freedom and all which comes when one surrenders himself to be a child of God.  It’s their choice whether to continue in the emptiness of a world’s concept of a memorial day with its failures, or the exuberance of the All Saints’ Day.

Here again we circle back to Holy Communion which is the weekly altar call for renewal in our Lord Jesus under the working of the Holy Spirit.  Again we lay down our burdens, road blocks, darknesses, and anything else which hinders us from participating in a true All Saints’ Day in our lives.  No, you and I do not know what God has in store for us except as we listen to His Word – even then we can only partially see His purposes in what is happening in our lives and our world.  However in His Word are realities to which we can cling and begin to experience what has been planned from before the beginning of the world.

This is All Saints Day, where the saints are with Jesus – the saints of bygone times and the living saints we stand in the midst of – we stop to realize all which is to be found here within the presence of our living Lord.  Together in this remembrance we rejoice in the wonders of His grace and mercy.  Together we sing praises to His Name, we fall in adoration in full gratitude for all which He has done for us.  We are one as we are gathered in worship to proclaim His promises and to adore Him, especially as we come to His Table in the midst of a great throng which no man can number, and yet where we find those whom love: it is a true Remembrance Day of Him and of His great benefits surrounding us in His eternal People.  We are one with the Church above – those saints who are with Jesus, who have encouraged us onward by their example, whom we have walked with, with whom we have shared the wonder of God’s Glory, those who are filled with a present remembrance of Him in daily life.

There is no earthly Remembrance Day which can come close to the remembrances in All Saints’ Day!

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