“For All the Saints”
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7
The wonderful hymn for All Saints Day begins, “For all the Saints, who from their labors rest.” The first question is, “How did they get to be saints? The answer: the Holy Spirit. The rescue mission of the Reformation was to recover from Scripture the truth that by grace through faith we are counted holy (saint = “holy person”) in the eyes of God. He counts us holy because Jesus died and rose again to pay the penalty of all our sin. Luther used the occasion of All Hallows’ Eve to post this truth and others on the church door at Wittenberg, where those attending the All Saints worship would see it. The Holy Spirit works the faith to believe this truth when it is proclaimed from God’s Word, thus creating saints whose faith claims the grace of God’s forgiving love.
The other part of the hymn line raises the question, “From what labors do these saints rest?” Again the answer brings us to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that gives faith also produces in us the works of faith that glorify Jesus and serve our neighbor. Another Reformation theme, the “priesthood of all believers”, emphasizes that the Spirit calls and empowers all the saints, laymen and clergy alike, to bear the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives and to testify about Jesus. Other prepositions help us understand what the Spirit does for all the saints.
Into all the saints the Spirit of God breathes life-giving faith through the Word of God. To all the saints the Spirit gives spiritual gifts for the common good. Among all the saints the Spirit dispenses the various gifts so that each saint can contribute to the whole body of Christ. Behind all the saints the Spirit nudges the believer to use his or her gifts to the glory of God, free of the self-consciousness that would bury the gift. From all the saints the Spirit calls forth the ministries and service for which He has dispensed his gifts. Around all the saints the Spirit wraps God’s love, which unites them in the bond of peace.
We rejoice that in serving God’s kingdom we don’t have to do it all, only what God has given us the ability to do. When we work in the area of our talents and interests God is glorified, we are joyful, and others are encouraged to use their God given gifts as well. Through His Spirit God has indeed blessed his church with many gifts, for all the saints.
May we rejoice to use them, knowing that we too will rest from our labors. One day, but not now. Pastor Tom