Certain feast days in the church calendar have a decidedly baptismal focus. All Saints’ Day is most certainly one of them! 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 death awaiting the return of the Lord. In our text for this All Saint’s Sunday three primary themes that relate to baptism surface prominently: love, epiphany, and hope.
The first is love. 1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Despite all our iniquity, our selfishness and sinfulness, God has called us His own children through the waters of Holy Baptism. Believers are not just named as children of God, we are actually reborn as His children, actually “fathered” by God. A new being is created in that Holy Sacrament. This love lavished upon us is unique. It is a one-sided, unconditional love. It is a love that does not give what our corrupted sinful nature deserves; not what our thoughts, words, and deeds have earned. It is a love that is undeserved. A love that is forgiving beyond compare. A love that brings the gift of eternal life to those who deserve only eternal punishment.
By Baptism believers – saints – possess eternal life even now. Yet the corruption of our sin hides the glory that is already present in us. This glory is seen only by faith. We saints know God, enjoy fellowship with Him, trust Him, and live in Him. We have been given this gift of faith love and fellowship in Holy Baptism. But the world is a stranger to God’s love. No faith, no fellowship, no love – in short, no room for God. Although the unbelieving world cannot see the glory they cannot mistake the difference in lifestyles between believers and unbelievers. And all too often the world hates us for it, is ever ready to call us out on it when we don’t measure up. Good lives, loving lives, faithful lives, always draw comparison or judgment, confronting the world with just how far short it has fallen. And that leads us into the second baptismal theme in the text.
Next is epiphany. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Epiphany comes from the same root word for “appear.” And herein is the primary theme of All Saints’ Day. The saints who are still living do so with the knowledge that they will be like Christ because only those who are like Him will be able to see Him as He is. And that will happen on the day of his appearing/epiphany. The saints who are at rest in death, waiting the day of His appearing, are reminders (icons) to us living saints, proclaiming the outcome of their knowledge and their hope. Their lives of faith and hope help the living saints to see that they, with those who preceded them, will see the Lord as He is.
You were a dying sinner before God came to you and called you His child in baptism. When Christ comes in glory, He will reveal the glory that He has given to you now. Luther: “God is infinite, but we are finite creatures. Moreover, the creature will never be the Creator. Yet we shall be like Him. God is life. Therefore we, too, shall live. God is righteous. Therefore we, too, shall be filled with righteousness. God is immortal and blessed. Therefore we, too shall enjoy everlasting bliss, not as it is in God but the bliss that is suitable for us.” (AE 30:268) One day, in His great and final epiphany we too by His grace, will appear just as He is, a beloved Child of the heavenly Father. And this leads us into the last of the themes from our text.
The third, and final, baptismal theme of our text is hope. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Our hope in Jesus is that we are no longer slaves to sin. Having been purified and made holy, and given the sure hope of eternal life, we seek that which is holy and right. Born of God, we are now free to serve our Saviour, much to the chagrin of the world around us.
Following baptism, saints are called to live in hope: “Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet him with joy and enter with him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom.” Hope is a condition of the mind and the heart formed within the baptized because they have been purified as Jesus is pure. In the waters of purification we have been made like Him – by Him: cleansed and pure. The baptized are the purity of God: loving, merciful, and faithful as He is. And because we have been purified and have glimpsed Jesus, we can live in the hope that flows as living water from our baptism: hope that we will see Him as He is and will be like Him. The saints, called children of God by name, who lived and died in the hope of the Lord and have gone before us with the sign of faith, call us to live in hope.
It is not easy to live as what we already are. Not when the lure of the old sinful self promises nothing but ease and happiness. But we have something greater upon which to fall back when living the life of a saint is too hard. We have the love of the Father. A love beyond comprehension. A love that makes us better people than we would be without it. You are God’s own child! We have the promise of Christ’s Epiphany, and the guarantee that when He returns we will finally be just like Him, because He was first like us. You are God’s own child! And lastly, we have hope. Hope that we are already free. We are already more than conquerors. We are loved and protected and cared for and forgiven. You are God’s own child, gladly say it, gladly live it! We are blessed with a God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who will be with us every step of the way in this life … to see us through to the everlasting life that awaits us – with all the dear saints who have gone before and know these things the love, the epiphany and the hope to be absolutely true!