Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from the Lord Christ as we observe All Saints Day.
This last Monday and Tuesday, Pastor Griffin and I were at the annual conference for all the Lutheran Pastors of the Missouri District of the LCMS. This year the conference topic was marriage, and golly Ned was it depressing! We spent the whole first day talking about the reality of homosexual marriage and how it will impact the Church if we keep preaching that it’s sinful. In the words of our presenters ours schools will close, we’ll lose tax exempt status, and our pastors will get thrown in jail. Talk about uplifting! The second day wasn’t much better. We talked about the sin of cohabitation. And while we reaffirmed the need to confront people who are sexually active and living together without being married, we also acknowledged will probably lose members over it leading to confrontation and conflict in the ministry. Boy! I tell you, as I left there I was in mourning!
Perhaps, you grieve in the same way. You look out in the world and it pains you that so many stand opposed to God’s will. And it doesn’t just have to be the 6th commandment. It’s the lack of mercy toward the defenseless like Syrian refugees or unborn babies. It’s the destruction people invite into their lives through substance abuse. It’s wanton devastation of an individual’s reputation through gossip. It’s the anger and lack of forgiveness that vomits out of a disciple’s heart. It’s the worship of false deities like entertainment or money. It’s the apathy over worshipping the true God. You know. It doesn’t even have to be sin. It could just be the sight of those with broken bodies or minds. Whatever it may be, it just makes your heart heavy.
And then you gaze inwardly, and you realize you’re no better off. No matter how hard you work at it, you just can’t seem to get it together. We seem to be forever fraught with weakness, limitation, and sin. We are not what we are supposed to be as Jesus’ disciples, as parents, as children, as whatever, and it seems out of reach. What is wrong with
me? So not only does the world make us grieve, but so also we mourn over what’s going on in here, in our hearts.
So, life pains us, but life ends. And that makes us mourn, too! As we observe All Saints day, we read the names of those who passed away this year. As we did that our sadness renews that death has stolen our future with our loved one. Now, it may even be that you didn’t personally know those people, but I guarantee the bell toll reminds you of a name that you once saw on the All Saints list in years past, and you feel that hitch in your throat and the wetness on the corner of your eyes.
Yes, life at times grieves us, but even though life has its share of sadness, the end of life, death, grieves us even more. We mourn. We mourn, because there’s this tug in the back of our minds and in the innermost recesses of our souls that remembers what once was and no longer is. We know that the world isn’t supposed to be like this. We know that life shouldn’t cause us such grief, and we know that it should not end in death, and so we mourn.
In the tear streaked face of our grief Jesus gives one of the most glorious promises in all of scripture. It’s one of the beatitudes. And it is pure good news. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
At first glance, this seems about as obscene as high fiving people at a funeral, because they’re sad. Still, we are Jesus’ disciples, and so first and foremost we should believe these words, for the sole reason that He said them. We allow these words to shape our reality and not our own experiences. And according to Jesus, it’s actually a good thing you mourn. But this is not so because you mourn. No, it’s a good thing, because you will be comforted. And God is the one who will do it. In fact, he has and he will.
He has brought us comfort in his Son. Jesus has taken all of our grief, our mourning into himself. As Isaiah prophesied, “Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows.” He has taken all of that “it
shouldn’t be like this” stuff and conquered it in the cross. He defeated it with his death. There at the cross, he completed what he had been doing throughout his ministry. As he forgave sins, healed the diseased, blind, and lame, as he cast out demons, as he preached the Gospel, as he died, he was making the world the way it should be.
So, you see you are not wrong to mourn, life isn’t supposed to be this way. But Jesus has taken care of it. So, although you mourn over life, it won’t always be like this. It will be okay. That’s the comfort that the Gospel gives us in this life, this very day. The Gospel is the absolution, and the comfort that you don’t have to be a perfect person, because Christ was. The Gospel is the bread and wine as a foretaste of the feast to come, and the assurance that a better world is on its way. The Gospel is the peace that allows us to grieve in hope that those who died with faith in Christ are resting with him in heaven. No, this Gospel doesn’t take away the hurt, but it makes it so that you can endure it.
Now, please don’t think that good Christians should walk around mopey and depressed all day. No, truly we should find joy in this life. God has blessed us with many excellent things in this life that we should take pleasure in. We should have fun. So, following Luther’s advice in his sermon on this text, we should especially do so, when we mourn over the state of the world, lest we become overwhelmed with sorrow and despair.
At the same time, this is only temporary. Our true comfort in this life comes from the Gospel. But even that would be meaningless, if it were to always stay this way. It actually comforts us to hear that it will be okay, only because it actually will be one day. And that is our ultimate comfort. This is more than just kind sentiments, but God the Father will do something about the source of our grief. This is to say, He will make what Jesus accomplished on the cross reality. It’s like the Psalm says weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
And when that Morning dawns, the King of glory will come to us, and he will comfort us. On that Day, the world will no longer resist him, but confess Jesus to be Lord to the glory of the Father. On that Day, He will cure our warring madness, so that heart and mind fully seeks His will. On that Day, he bid the people that we named earlier, Harold Ray, Mutt, Marvin, and all the others to rise to eternal life. Whatever it is that makes you mourn and think, “It should not be this way,” on that day Jesus will give your comfort.
That’s our focus for All Saints day. It’s why we wear the white of the Easter season. We remind ourselves that all those whom the Holy Spirit has made holy through the Gospel, all saints, will rise from the dead just as Christ did to live in the new creation set free from its bondage to sin and destruction.
And when that’s our future, blessed are you who mourn. Blessed are you who realize that this isn’t the way the world is supposed to be, but that it’s broken. Blessed are you who look to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to do something about it in the cross and empty tomb. Blessed are you, for you will be comforted. Amen.