Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For All the Saints

Halloween I do not like.

We established that yesterday.

But All Saints Day is today. And it is indeed a commemoration worth observing. In fact, if believers in Christ observed All Saints Day as much as they observed Halloween, my suspicions of Christians being more interested in fun than principle would be far less raw.

Basically, the purpose of All Saints Day draws on the victory Christ secured over death by His resurrection, and how that victory translates to our own mortality. Since everyone who is saved will, upon their death, be automatically in the presence of our Lord for eternity, what fear should we hold about dying?

"Death, where is thy victory," remember? "Grave, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ!" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Granted, "how" we actually die is still something of which I'm apprehensive. And you'd be hard-pressed to find Scripture that tells us the process of dying is something we should anticipate, or we shouldn't fight against. Doctors and medical science have been gifted by God to honor life, and the advances in prolonging life our researchers have been able to achieve come not at the hubris of mankind, but the kindness of God in the form of Common Grace.

Still, when our time comes, I think we'd all prefer drifting away to heaven while in a deep sleep, although few of us can hope to die that way. Nevertheless, the point is that no matter how we die, where we end up is not in dispute, or a dreadful place. Even if the streets weren't paved with gold, simply spending eternity in God's presence would certainly be far better than anything we could possibly experience down here.

Which brings us back to All Saints Day, where the emphasis isn't on a morbid bunch of corpses, but on the reality that life is not confined to flesh. Life continues regardless of what happens to our bones, skin, and organs. That's another reason why giddiness over Halloween is so unBiblically tainted, in my opinion. It's not the residue from human expiration that should fascinate us, but the fact that just as the grave could not hold Christ, it has no hold on us, either!

So don't let the over-Catholicised term "saints" throw you. If you've been bought by the blood of Christ, you're a saint, whether you always act like one or not. Saints exist to worship God and enjoy Him forever, which is exactly what those saints who've gone before us are doing in real time right now, in Heaven.

Paradoxically, while we look back at the example of the "Church Triumphant," as dead saints are euphemistically called, we also look ahead to our own glorification with the end of our journey through sanctification to the feet of Christ. In heavenly bodies. Forever!

I have to admit, though, that I really don't understand how this will all work out. But I'm in good company, because nobody else down here really does, either. Which doesn't matter, because God hasn't told us everything about how we'll transition from earthly bodies to heavenly bodies because we're supposed to trust Him to accomplish it.

Faith. Remember?

That's why observing All Saints Day can be so helpful, since faith is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Honoring those saints who've already won their battles against flesh and the principalities of evil here on Earth helps us put into perspective the merits of God's love for us and the sacrifice of His Son. And helps remind us of the eternal reward for us saints, and all who follow after us.

A common hymn at Presbyterian funerals is "For All the Saints," a wonderfully appropriate tribute to the life God provides each of His children in their walk towards their Heavenly home. Consider its text here, and think about the saints in your life and family who've gone on before you, and the example you're setting for your loved ones as you continue your life journey even now.

After all, if the Lord tarries, someday, the church may be singing this song, and thinking about you as they do.

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, oh Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might!
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight.
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light. Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor's crown of gold. Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west.
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest.
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest. Alleluia!

But, lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of Glory passes on His way! Alleluia!

From Earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia!

For All the Saints - text by William Walsham How, 1864

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