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Present-Tense Holiness

Revelation 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Pastor Jason Zirbel

All Saints Sunday
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

View Associated File

Sun, Nov 3, 2019 

The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.

All Saints Day.  It’s easy today to get focused on the past, focused on the future, and wind up missing the joy of the present.  From a past-tense perspective, we give thanks to God for the sainted Christians who’ve come before us, paving the way and setting an example for us to follow (for better and for worse).  Adam, Noah, Moses, St. Paul, Martin Luther… these are just a few that come to mind.  Let us not forget more recent saints like St. Sharon, St. Sue, St. John, St. Lenora, and St. Cliff.  We thank God for all these wonderful saints; for the fact that God blessed our lives with them.  We thank God for their faith and for the fact that, just like Revelation tells us, they are now out of the fight and away from this veil of tears, gathered in worship around the throne of the Lamb of God, clad in their baptismal robes of righteousness and singing their loud praises to Him in a joy/bliss that we can’t even begin to imagine. 

And that’s where the future-tense aspect of All Saints Day comes into play.  Who here can’t wait to get home to heaven?  Who here can’t wait to join our sainted loved ones (and all the saints—from every nation; all tribes, peoples and languages) as we gather around the throne of the Lamb of God in perfect worship and praise for all the rest of eternity?  Understand: This doesn’t mean you have a death wish.  No one is going to report you or commit you if you profess your desire to get home to heaven.  That’s what faith does!  That doesn’t mean you go out and try to expedite the arrival.  All things are left to God’s good will/working.  We go home to heaven when He calls us; when He says the time is right.  But… until then, it is perfectly good, right, and salutary to express a faithful longing for heaven’s paradise. 

And that’s where the present-tense often winds up on a day like today—somewhere in the midst of this veil of tears; in the middle, sandwiched between the book-ended joys of past saints and future glory.  With all the focus on past and future, we tend to overlook the not-so-glorious present.  Well… let that not be the case with us today.  Now, all that I’m about to say you already know.  But… we need to hear it.  We need to hear of our present-tense sainted Gospel reality, again and again and again, especially while we still reside on this side of eternity.  The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are all working very hard to make us forget who and what we are—present-tense—in Christ and because of Christ.  Sometimes we make the job easy for them, don’t we?  We take our focus off of Christ.  In good times and in bad times, we can/do get stupid, forgetting and forsaking the Christ-centered blessedness that is ours right now.  We long for the past.  We hope in the future.  But we never seem to understand or appreciate all that we have in the present. 

So… I’m going to say things you already know, but you need to hear them.  You are saints—right now; present-tense.  In the original Greek, that word “saint” (hagios) is simply translated as “holy one.” Now, we know that no one is holy in and of themselves.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  One is not naturally holy, nor do they have the ability to make themselves holy.  Rather, they are made holy.  God makes them holy.  He pronounces them holy, not because of anything they did to merit holiness, but solely because of what Christ did for them in His all-atoning death and resurrection.  Saintly faith holds fast to this cruciform Good News; the Good News that Christ Himself victoriously proclaimed from that cross: “It is finished!”

Think about that.  Let that sink in.  No matter how low a man may sink in life; no matter how bad or wicked a man’s past, that sinful past has already been put to death in the blood of Christ.  It is finished.  No matter how bad things may seem right now, or how dark and uncertain the future may seem to be, it is finished in Christ and because of Christ.  Your God and Lord has come to you and brought His blood-bought victory over sin, death, and the grave to you.  He’s washed away all your guilt in the font of His holy Baptism.  He’s put His holy name on you; on your head and your heart, marking you as holy; as a beloved coheir of the Almighty.  You bear His holy name, and nothing and no one can take that away.

Look to this altar.  Look to this rail.  This same holy and almighty Lord comes to you, right here, right now, into your midst.  The saints in heaven, as Revelation tells us, are forever gathered around Christ.  Where Christ is there is heaven.  Folks: Here is Christ.  Here is where heaven is meeting earth!  The Lamb of God, the same Lamb of God who all those heavenly saints are gathered around in festal worship and praise, comes and dwells in your midst with you.  This place is made holy, not because of us and what we do, but because of Christ and His holy presence.  Standing in the presence of Christ, we are standing on holy ground.  It is here that He calls you to the foot of His throne; to His feast table, where angels, archangels, and all the sainted company of heaven are gathered.  It is here, in the present, that He sets His feast of eternal life before you; a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come.  He gives it [Himself] to you and bids you eat and drink, for the forgiveness of all your sin; for the peace that passes and surpasses all understanding. 

I know you already know all this, but still… how often we forget.  How often we take for granted.  How often we ignore or overlook all this present-tense, Christ-centered blessedness and glory staring us in the face.  Folks: Here is Christ.  Here is where heaven is meeting earth.  Here is where angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven are gathered.  Why would you NOT flock here each and every chance you could?  What more reason do you need? 

Through the working of faith by the Holy Spirit in these, God’s very real and present means of grace, you believe the Good News of Christ’s all-redeeming death and resurrection.  God Himself justifies you on account of this Christ-centered faith.  He declares you “holy.” You are a saint (present-tense)!  No matter what this world throws at you; in good times, in bad times, in sickness, in health, richer, poorer, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty… you belong to Christ, and this same Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, comes to you to comfort you, assure you, to dry your tears, to nourish you, and to shelter you with His presence.  Your Lord never hits the snooze button.  He’s never too sick or too busy to be here for you.  He never has something better or more important to do.  “Take and eat.  Take and drink.  This is My body and My blood, given and shed for you.”

The faith that understands this very present and present-tense Christ-centered reality can’t help but sing out for joy “blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!” Or… as Revelation tells us, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Folks: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, presently in your presence.  Here is God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation in the flesh… for you.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us.” See and rejoice!  Rejoice and give thanks to God for the saints of the past; give thanks for the future blessed holiness that awaits us and all the saints in resurrection glory in heaven… but don’t lose sight of the blessedness and holiness that is ours right now in the present in and because of our very present and gracious God and Lord.  Rejoice with all the saints—in heaven and on earth—for you are blessed (present-tense) and yours is (present-tense) the kingdom of heaven. 

May this Christ-centered, ever-present reality guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him, now and into all eternity.  AMEN.

Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.

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