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All Saints Day

The throne room is always filled with them. They are heaping praises on God. Martyrs, Apostles, and Prophets. Business men and Sunday School teachers. Missionaries, pastors, and priests. They are, with one voice proclaiming, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

And they are watching us. They are a cloud of witnesses (Heb 12) cheering us on, rooting for us, and praying for us. They are eagerly waiting to see what we will do with the glorious gift of the Gospel that they entrusted to us with their faithful lives.

What have they left us?

1) An example to follow.

These men and women have shown us how to live. Among the saints are those who showed unswerving commitment to God. They were tortured, beaten, fed to lions, and burned at stakes. All the while, they showed unswerving commitment to Jesus.

“Five times I received forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” –St. Paul

Throughout the affliction, his concern is for others: “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

“Bear with me—I know what is best for me. Now at last I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing visible or invisible envy me so that I may reach Jesus Christ. Fire and cross and battles with wild beasts, mutilation mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ!” –St. Ignatius, on the way to be martyred in Rome.

These men, and so many other men an women, gave their very lives for the sake of the gospel. All the while, they were concerned about others. They were concerned about the unity of their churches or the fate of the lost.

Let these people be the example that we follow.

2) A gospel to believe

The beginning of the church was contentious at times. After seeing their Lord walk out of a grave, the Apostles handed down the core of the gospel. They taught us that Jesus died and rose again on the third day, that he ascended into heaven, sat at the Father’s right hand, and that he will come again.

As the people of God reflected on these things, though, various wrong understandings cropped up. Sometimes, these were innocent attempts to understand the message passed down. Other times, they were blatant reinterpretations of the life of Jesus.

The Gnostics denied the goodness of the physical creation. The Modalists and Arians jumbled up the doctrine of God. The Docetists, Eutychians, Adoptionists, and Nestorians confused the understanding of who Jesus was. The Donatists confused the sacraments. Pelagius misunderstood human nature.

And the saints wrestled. They prayed. They sought the leading of the Holy Spirit. They met in councils. And they passed the core of the Gospel down to us.

I am so grateful for their work. Doctrines that I take for granted, such as the Trinity, the Person of Christ, the fallenness of humanity, the atonement, salvation by grace through faith, the sacraments, and the bodily resurrection of the dead, were all preserved and faithfully attested to by the work of the Holy Spirit through the saints. Now, I simply believe the core of the Gospel, which they have passed down to me.

How should we respond?

1) Live as they lived.

Give your life for the sake of the gospel. Pour out your life as an offering. They gave their lives so that you could have the gospel of our Lord. Don’t waste it. Don’t cheapen their sacrifice. Live as they lived. They’re watching, holding their breath, waiting to see what you’ll do with the gift they gave you.

2) Believe as they believed

Make it a point to pass down the faith given to you. Tell it to your kids. Tell it to those you bring to faith. Believe it in the core of your being. Submit to it, as belief always entails submission.

Don’t give into the temptation of this age to soften the sting of the exclusive gospel. These men and women gave their blood, sweat, tears, and very lives to pass down the Christian Gospel to you. Don’t cheapen the gift by taking their Jesus and leaving their Christianity. Submit yourself to the faith passed down. After all, you submit to God, he doesn’t submit to you.

Happy All Saints Day.

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2 Responses

  1. I spent years of my life celebrating this day as a catholic, never grasping the meaning and relevance as I did just now, reading your blog.
    Happy All Saint’s Day to you, as well!
    PS…Do you do All Soul’s Day tomorrow?

  2. I’m right there with you. I am just beginning to think about the importance of the saints in Christian devotion. I think it will increase my devotion to God to consider them.

    I’m sure some Anglicans celebrate All Souls Day, but most probably wouldn’t. I don’t know anything about it (just checked it out on Wikipedia), but it seems that it is a day to pray for the departed who have yet to see the face of the Lord. Most of the Anglicans I run with either don’t believe in Purgatory, or, if they do, they never seem to mention it. I think this day would be reserved for the Christians that believe that their prayers will affect the souls in Purgatory.

    I do know it wasn’t in my prayer book as one of the Holy Days.

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