- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 28 October 2015 28 October 2015
Sunday, November 1, marks a special festival of the church, All Saints’ Day. With all the banners around the sanctuary, we will certainly be thinking about the patriarchs, evangelists and apostles, the heroes and martyrs of the faith! And yet, All Saints’ Day focuses upon the lives of all those made holy, sanctified to the Lord through the waters of Holy Baptism, both living and at rest in Christ.
The Lutheran Reformers retained the celebration of Saints’ Days and All Saints’ for some very good reasons. First, remembering the saints gives us the opportunity to give thanks to God for His mercy shown to those who have gone before us in the faith. Secondly, our faith should be strengthened as we recall God’s mercy and grace shown to these saints as to us. And thirdly, as we remember the saints, we are encouraged to imitate their faith and good works according to our own callings even as John reminds us “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
As we remember the saints of the Lord, giving thanks for those who now rest from the labors safely in the arms of Christ, we with this great cloud of witnesses fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–3). As the Lutheran Confessions correctly state, “Scripture does not teach calling on the saints or pleading for help from them. For it sets before us Christ alone as mediator, atoning sacrifice, high priest, and intercessor. He is to be called upon, and he has promised that our prayers will be heard.” 1
It is certainly worthwhile for us to remember and consider our parents, mentors, teachers, examples, brothers and sisters in the faith, our loved ones who rest now from their labors, the multitude of witnesses past and present. It is meaningful and appropriate to recall and imitate the faith of the saints. And yet, as we do so, we fix our eyes where they fixed theirs—on the Lamb of God whose blood washes away our sins.
Not only then does All Saints’ Day help us recall and focus on the mercy and grace of our faithful God, but it brings us the comfort that we are still united to the saints we mourn and long to see again. The collect (prayer) of the day for All Saints’ underscores the unity of saints in heaven and those of us still on the earth:
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You… Amen.
Knit together in Christ, we are one mystical body together now and forever. In the proper preface we pray, “Therefore with angles and archangels and with all the company of heaven… ” These words remind us that our worship is not limited by time or by space. Where Christ is present, there His saints are as well.
There is an old Swedish custom of having a curved or semi-circle altar rail for communion. The other half of the altar rail that is not there, or unseen, going behind the altar symbolizes the place where the saints who have departed this life are participating in Holy Communion with the saints on earth. When our loved ones die in the Lord, we can remember they are with us at the Lord’s Supper simultaneously communing at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that knows no end, singing the songs of the Lamb with angels and archangels.
Knit together in Christ we are joined to all who are joined to Him. We remember and give thanks for God’s mercy and grace to the saints who now rest from their labors. We follow them as they followed Christ. And we take comfort and give thanks to the Lord who has united His saints together forever.
Blessed All Saints’ Day,