Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Menominee - Michigan
All Saints Sunday
November 6, 2016
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
One day long ago, at a time when things were looking darkest for the free world, Adolph Hitler was addressing a large audience in Germany. In the front row sat a man of pronounced Semitic appearance. The man was clearly a Jew. Following the address, Hitler came down from the platform, walked up to this man and said, “While I was speaking, you were laughing. What were you laughing about?” The man replied, “I wasn’t laughing. I was thinking.” What were you thinking about?” asked Hitler.
“I was thinking about my people, the Jews, and that you are not the first man who didn’t like us. A long time ago, there was another man who didn’t like us. His name was Pharaoh, and he put heavy burdens on us down there in Egypt. But for years we Jews have had a feast called Passover, and at that feast we have a little three-cornered cake and we eat that cake in memory of Pharaoh.”
“Years later there was another man who didn’t like us. His name was Haman and he did his best to get rid of all the Jews throughout the realm of King Ahasuerus. But for years we Jews have had another feast called the feast of Purim and at that feast we have a little four-cornered cake and we eat that cake in memory of Haman.”
“And while you were up there speaking, sir, I was sitting here thinking and wondering what kind of cake we were going to eat to remember you by.”
This Jewish man is celebrating his people’s breaking the chains of their enslavers, and on this All Saints Day in the church, the annual church festival in which we remember those who have been called home to their new life in Christ during this past calendar year, we also celebrate the lives of our fellow saints; our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, who have broken the chains of the enslaver that is death, and are now part of the eternal banquet in which we will all partake in one day. We are reminded of the hope of the resurrection and the joy that is found in that hope.
It is the same joy in hope that is found in our Gospel lesson from St. Luke this morning, a lesson focusing on the beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, a lesson probably not as well known to us as the Matthew version of the beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, which are a little more drawn out. But when you compare these beatitudes from St. Matthew and St. Luke, there is also one other difference that really jumps out, that the beatitudes in St. Matthew makes direct reference to spiritual poorness, spiritual mourning, and spiritual hunger. They lift up that all fall short of the righteousness of God, which would be every single one of us.
St. Luke is not nearly as broad, but presents the beatitudes in a much more literal and direct fashion in that in these first few verses Jesus is speaking to those who are economically poor, those who are physically hungry, and those who have been emotionally engaged in physical suffering and loss. And while every single one of us have experienced loss and grief, are doing so to some degree right now, and will certainly again experience death’s painful blow in the days or weeks or months or years to come, I think that it’s fair to say that on this All Saints Sunday that Jesus is speaking directly to those of you gathered here this morning who have said goodbye to loved ones during this past year. For those of you who are mourning, when you are reminded of your loss during anniversaries or celebrations, when you hear certain songs, or when you encounter certain people, when this wound of loss is opened up again and again before it can fully heal, for anyone who has teetered on the edge of hope, to you is Jesus speaking these words today.
Because if anyone can know the trials and frustrations that accompany this world we live in, it is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus knew economic hardships. He was born to common peasant parents who worked hard to eke out a living. And Jesus knew hunger. Immediately after his baptism, Jesus was swept out to the wilderness where for forty days without food where he must surely have been tempted to give up himself for a simple loaf of bread. And Jesus certainly knew suffering and loss and complete abandonment. On the cross, experiencing human suffering and a most human death, Jesus cried out those agonizing words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus himself was not immune to the very same pain and suffering that we experience in the fullness of our humanity because He experienced the very same as you and I do, in the fullness of his humanity.
But what Jesus also experienced, which is where we place our hope, was being the firstborn of the new creation, the very real resurrection of life coming out of death, a life that is now eternal. And you know, while those of us who gather to worship here today have not yet been consumed by that final foe that is death, which we will be, we do so because every single one of us that gather here as the faithful baptized have already conquered that final foe that is death.
We conquered death that moment that we were washed in the waters of baptism, for in our baptisms, we were drowned. The old, sinful Adam that resided in us was washed away completely, and from that death the new person emerged, the one who had conquered death. And so on this day where we lift up the saints who have died to their mortal lives during this past year, it is so appropriate that we add a few more names to those that we have already read aloud and printed in our bulletins, the names of those who were granted life immortal during this past year. Today we also add the names of Matt Pearson, Sr., Matthew Thomas Pearson, Gary Pearson, Lawson David Berman, Hannah Ann Heidbrier, Paige Marie Heidbrier, Elijah James Harpt, Elizabeth Anne Baublit, Clayton Cree Slawinski, Andrew Charles Brown, Colton Curtis Goslin, Kian Michel Molnar, and Hadley Mae Jensen; as well of all those who have been baptized at this font and in this sanctuary, or whatever body of water has provided the physical element of water, to which the name of Christ has been invited.
And it is because we have first been baptized, because we have already conquered that old foe of death, we can and do indeed celebrate the lives of the saints this day. In fact, much like the Jewish man in my opening illustration, we remember our vanquished foe with a cake as well; the cake that we share to celebrate that victory over death this morning that has been so cleverly disguised as a simple bread wafer of the Eucharist, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we experience and live in the certain joy that this meal ensures, that death, our enemy, has been firmly and completely defeated. Thanks be to God. Amen.