“For All the Saints”

“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

A Leap of Faith

 

                                                                                                                                                                

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.  John 5:24

 Earlier this week, Felix Baumgartner skydived a record 128,000 feet from the stratosphere, reaching a record speed of 834 mph. It took years to plan this incredible fall from a height that required a spacesuit and was over in about four minutes before his parachute opened. He had already made other record breaking parachute jumps from fixed points, known as BASE jumps.

You may think it’s crazy to spend one’s life taking such risks, but on our last day we must all make one huge leap of faith. Our jump will not be toward this earth, but away from it. Our physical death will result in our separation from his life into an existence from which we will not return. Unlike Felix’s daredevil leap, this one can only be done once. Like him, we would be wise to prepare for it, so that it will not be a fatal fall. Felix depended on his parachute to make a safe landing.  On what do you depend?

The good news is that it doesn’t depend on something manmade, or upon luck or our own strength or merit. It depends on God, who is mighty to save all who call upon Him. I recall as very small child wanting to jump off a platform into a river. I was afraid to do so until my dad positioned himself below in order to catch me. His reassuring voice and strong arms made it safe to leap. My other Father, God, awaits my first and final leap from this body into in His strong arms. Because I know He is there, I don’t need to fear death.

Yet, it is not just because He is strong and able to catch me that I have no fear.  It is because He is above all full of grace and mercy.  You see, I am a sinner.  By that, I don’t mean I just make “mistakes”. In the selfishness of my human nature I rebel against God. Everyone does in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree, whether they admit it or not. I, we, need a savior from sin, because it separates us from God if it is not forgiven. The holiness of God cannot abide the presence of sin.  But the mercy of God forgives our sin; not by accepting it, but by placing the punishment of our sin on someone else. Thus, God’s perfect justice and mercy are not compromised.

Upon Christ my Redeemer God has placed my sin and its punishment. He was crucified for my sin and yours. He was raised from the dead to proclaim that His punishment was sufficient for the sins of all people for all time. Therefore I know that when I fall from this life I will not fall to my death but to new life.  I will not fall into punishment, but into the unmerited love of God. This final leap of faith depends upon the perfect Redeemer who kept for me the law I could not keep and gave His life as a perfect sacrifice for my sin. It depends on the Almighty God, for whom nothing is impossible.

In addition to holding the record for the highest jump ever, Felix also owns the record for the lowest BASE jump. In Rio de Janeiro he jumped 95 feet from the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city. I believe I’ll stick to jumping towards Christ the Redeemer, not away from Him. It is a much safer leap of faith.

Dueling the Devil

Dueling the Devil

4Little children, you are from God and have overcome them,

for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John  4:4

 Though I don’t think about it often the topic of demon possession and influence came up recently more than once. A family therapist told me that the most surprising and disturbing aspect of her work was what she could only describe as demonic activity. Then in a visit with pastors I learned about some of their first hand encounters with demonic influence/possession among those to whom they ministered.  This is a heavy topic that not many want to think about and some dismiss as mental illness. But without going into it too deeply let’s review a few points of caution and encouragement.

Caution: Demons are real.  They were before Christ rose from the dead and after.  The devil works directly to oppress and possess but also works through the particular weakness of our flesh and character.  He also wreaks havoc and discord in the world in order to destroy mercy and harmony. Therefore, it is important that we close the doors to the devil’s works, renouncing them daily, repenting where we have given into temptation and seeking the Lord’s strength to resist him. It also means that we readily forgive one who repents, so that there is no division and discouragement through which the devil’s condemnation can take a foothold. Access through the occult in any form should also be closed by ridding our lives of any such influences.

Encouragement:  The devil is already defeated and, when resisted by the Christian, he will flee.  Jesus crushed his power to accuse, condemn, and tempt the saints when he took our guilt and punishment upon himself on the cross. Having arisen from the grave he pronounced his victory over the devil’s works.  While we by ourselves are no match for his power and cunning, Christ in us is greater than he is. The Good News for us is that in spite of all the damage the devil can inflict his ultimate end is destruction. There is no reward or purpose in following a loser. We have the victory through Jesus Christ. 

 Pastor Tom Konz

A Safe Identity

 

A Safe Identity

34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34

 A service you can subscribe to will alert you to any attempts to steal your identity. If the perpetrator succeeds in his theft, this company will make it right. You have their million dollars guarantee.

There is another enemy in the world that is always trying to steal your identity as a child of God.  Satan wants you to be known to yourself and to God as “sinner”, a name change from “saint”, which God called you in your baptism. Paul forcefully challenges the attempt to condemn you by declaring that Christ Jesus, who died and was raised, is the one who is in charge. At the right hand of God, the place of ultimate power and authority, he prays for us to the Father that the cross which he bore will cancel the accusation of Satan.  God declares it so because of his grace, for Jesus’ sake, and quiets our conscience with the assurance that our identity is safe.

One of the services of this identity protection company is to send you a period reminder that your “status remains unchanged”.  We also receive this assurance from God’s Word, His Sacraments, and the mutual encouragement of fellow believers in worship. There is no change in your status as a saint made righteous by grace through faith.  What a blessing in time of doubt to know that our identity is safe.

In Christ. 

Pastor Tom