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Presently Blessed

Revelation 7:2-4,9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Pastor Jason Zirbel

All Saints Day
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

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Sun, Nov 1, 2020 

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

Today is supposed to be a joyous day, not just because it’s Sunday and we should rejoice as we recall the resurrection of our Lord and our new life in Him; not just because God has blessed us with yet another opportunity to come into His holy presence and receive His good gifts.  No.  I say this especially of today because today is All Saints Day.  We should be especially full of joy today!  And yet… today is the day that winds up causing many Christians sadness.  After all, today is the day that we tend to focus on those faithful loved ones who’ve been separated from us by death.  We miss them.  We know they’re in heaven.  They’re with Jesus, and this does give us joy.  Still, though, like St. Paul says, we grieve, not like those who have no hope in the heavenly reunion and resurrection that awaits us, but while we remain here on this side of eternity, we do still grieve the separation.  It’s normal.  It’s natural.  It hurts.  And it’s this separation that so often winds up being the focus.  In fact, it’s very easy for us on a day such as All Saints Day to get so focused on the past and so focused on the future that we wind up missing the joy of the present.  With all the focus on past and future, we tend to overlook the not-so-glorious present.  This is especially true as we consider all the woes and sorrows we’ve had to endure these past several months.  It’s kind of difficult to be joyous in the midst of all the sickness, all the natural calamities, all the loss, all the fear, all the anger, and all the worry.  Look around.  How could anyone have joy in the midst of all this sorrow?

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.  No matter how bad things may get, it is already finished in Christ.  Honestly: It’s so sad to see good Christians forgetting or forsaking the joy of their present-tense baptismal reality before God.  They’re too busy worrying about election results.  They’re too busy being angry and holding grudges, because being right winds up being more important than being righteous.  Many a “good Christian” has forsaken/forgotten the joy of their present baptismal blessedness because they’re too busy worrying about somebody else not wearing a mask or sitting too close to them.  They’re too busy worrying about their temporal mortality that they wind up forgetting their immortality in Christ.  They starve their soul to feed their fear.  It’s so very sad. 

Look to this font.  This is your saintly, present-tense reality.  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 declared you innocent, and so you are.  He’s covered over your sinful shame with His white robe of righteousness.  Sound familiar?  It’s not just a future-tense thing that awaits you!  Here in the waters of 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 right now, and nothing and no one can ever take that away. 

You wanna talk present-tense joy?  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? 

I say all this because our world and our lives are about to get very interesting in two days time.  There are some very scary and uncertain times ahead of us, no matter who gets elected.  No matter who gets elected, there are going to be a lot of angry and disheartened people come Wednesday morning (and for days, weeks, and years to come).  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken us!?” My fellow saints: No matter what the outcome may be, God is in charge, and He is working all things for your good and for your salvation.  Repent, turn, and cleave to Him.  Trust in Him above all things, and remember that He has already declared, “It is finished.” Remember: Jesus Himself told Pontius Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above.”

Folks: In faith you have nothing to fear.  You belong to Him.  You are His saint; His holy one.  Flee to Him.  Cleave to Him.  Put not your trust in princes in whom there is no salvation [Ps 146:3].  Trust in Christ.  This is true, whether we’re talking elections or masks and germs or food shortage or natural disasters or economic downturns or anything else.  Trust not in creation, but in the Creator.  Trust not in the things of man, but in the Son of Man.  Trust in Christ.  This is what all faithful saints at all times and in all places have always done.  History is filled with plenty of examples of faithful saints bearing good and God-pleasing fruits, even and especially during times of sorrow.  Special circumstances don’t call for special measures.  Trust in the Lord always, not just when it’s convenient or optimal.  No matter what’s happening in the world, saints in Christ have always and will always flee to Christ; to receive a foretaste of the feast to come; a feast that all the faithful who have gone on before us are enjoying right now at that half of the Lord’s Table that’s in heaven in all its fullness and splendor and glory.

Think about that when you come up here to the Lord’s Table to be fed and nourished by Him with His very body and blood.  You don’t get this from YouTube!  There is no substitute.  You come to this half of the table; the earthly half that feeds the Church Militant.  The rest of the communion of saints—the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven—is gathered around in faithful worship at the heavenly half of the Lord’s Table, communing with the same Almighty Lord and Savior at the same exact time, a true communion of saints that transcends all time and space and human understanding.  Kind of puts this in a different, joyous light, doesn’t it?  I hope so.

As saints in the present, we hold forth Christ as the One who calls us blessed; that is, as those who have been justified and blessed and declared holy by Him, because of Him.  It’s all about Him.  The focus is all on Him.  We hold forth Christ as He ever abides with us, even as we walk through this fallen and sinful world by faith and not by sight, obediently—yea, joyfully—bearing our crosses and, just like St. Paul, rejoicing in the privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake, trusting whole-heartedly that in the life to come we too will see Him face-to-face with our own eyes as He is, for we will be like Him and we will live forever with Him in His paradise without fear, darkness, shame, sin, death, pain, suffering or tears.  This reality is—right now—the joy of the saints who have gone before us in death.  This same reality, my friends, is the blessed hope and the sure and certain future of all who walk this earth by faith alone in Christ alone.  This is the sure and certain blessed reality of all who are called saints in Christ. 

I pray that this very present-tense blessedness of your very present Lord and Christ gives you joy and peace, today and into all eternity, for yours IS the kingdom of heaven. 

AMEN



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