All Saints’ Sunday
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn # 462 St. Thomas
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Rev. 7:2-17
The Gospel Luke Matthew 5:1-12
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #463 Sine nomine
Thee, By Faith, Before the World Confessed
The Hymn #311 by Hus Jesus Christ, unser Heiland
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #656 Great White Host
KJV Revelation 7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. 5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. 6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. 7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. 8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. 9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
KJV Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Veit Dietrich Collect
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst deliver Thy Son for our offenses, and didst raise Him again for our justification: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that He may rule and govern us according to Thy will; graciously keep us in the true faith; defend us from all sins, and after this life raise us unto eternal life, through the same, Thy beloved Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Revelation 7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Thee, By Faith, Before the World Confessed
The Reformed often create a series of sermons on heroes of the Bible, focusing on various Biblical figures and how we should be like them. Good men, like the late D. James Kennedy, sometimes stray into the realm of the stars portraying the Gospel. That is not quite as bad as sermons in a deck of cards, but it comes close.
Roman Catholics stress the saints, the Virgin Mary above all others. Another focus of their preaching and teaching is the Mass. For them, the Mass is everything. I am not sure if I can convey the different spirit among Catholics. Some of it is expressed in paying for Masses (and prayers) to be said for the dead. Another part of it is the demand for daily communing (as the height of piety). Or, it may be that the local Roman Catholic Church is seen as a sacrament offered to the community. The pope offers Mass on his trips because Roman Catholics view this as demoralizing all others, especially Protestants, because they do not have the Mass. This supposedly displays the visible domination of the Roman Catholic Church over all others, which are defective, even the Eastern Orthodox.
One Roman Catholic mother expressed it best when her daughter came from a Lutheran service. The daughter said, “We went to a worship service. How can you complain about that?” The mother said, “You did not go to Mass.” The daughter might have been excused if she went to both, but not just to the Lutheran service. Roman Catholics teach the sacrament as the ultimate good in worship and piety, while Lutherans teach the pure Word as the ultimate good, with Holy Communion serving as the Visible Word.
The new Romanizing tendency among Lutheran clergy is usually focused on the Mass and often on Mary as well. The word Mass itself is not bad. Luther used it. The Book of Concord used it. The Romanizing tendency turns away from what the Visible Word offers to an obsession about details and methods of celebrating, down to how the hands should be held.
The old LCA services became very high church by the 1980s. When I saw a pastor wearing white gloves holding the liturgical book for the LCA president, while he was reading or chanting, I thought, “Good grief.” But the same LCA president, James Crumley, must have said the same thing a few years later, when he celebrated Holy Communion at the Ad Fontes conference. The female pastor next to him adopted a strange posture of adoring the True Body, her hands folded, her body bent forward a bit, her face frozen in a smitten look. Crumley kept looking at her, somewhat alarmed and irritated. Who knows what they do now in ELCA? Who even wants to know?
The Biblical focus on Holy Communion is upon the teaching of the Savior, the pure Word of God, not the power of the incense, the style of the liturgical garments, and exact movements to be made.
Likewise, All Saints Day does not make saints an object of worship… or a series of moral lessons about heroes and success stories. In fact, many of the most famous figures of the Bible had glaring flaws, which only the Bible could get away with revealing. Every synodical history shows its leaders walking 6 feet off the ground, confessing the sin of not buying enough Girl Scout cookies, or in some cases, buying Girl Scout cookies.
We could look at the first half of this lesson and assign all kinds of meaning to each number and tribe. But it appears to show us plainly that the Gospel is universal in scope, that great numbers of saints will be in heaven.
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
Notice that four groups are together: every nation, kindred, people, and tongue. The Bible uses groups of four to show us something universal in scope. The Gospel went to the Jews first, as Paul preached, and then to the Gentiles, after the Jews excommunicated the apostles and kept them from preaching in the synagogues. The Jews had three great opportunities to believe in Christ:
1. When the prophets preached the coming of the Messiah, all those who believed in Him were forgiven their sins.
2. When Jesus preached the Gospel, after John alerted the nation, all those who believed in Him were saved.
3. After the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the apostles preached the Gospel in Jerusalem and the synagogues, until they were driven out and killed.
It was the persecution of the Jewish Christians that pushed the earliest believers onto the Roman highway system (50,000 miles or more of paved roads) and the seas, to reach the four corners of the world. The apostles were sent by Jesus and they gladly went, but persecution drove the Gospel into new areas with great speed. The growth of the Gospel was miraculous. The Roman Empire persecuted Christianity as an illegal religion, but within a few centuries, Christianity reached the highest levels of Roman government. Think about that. The most powerful and long lasting empire of the world tried to erase the Christian faith through the sword, but Constantine the Emperor was directly involved in the Nicene Creed being formulated. The Sword of the Spirit, the Word, conquered Rome.
Revelation was probably written during one of the persecutions of the Roman empire. One tradition says that John was exiled to the island of Patmos for refusing to participate in emperor worship. Once the empire was established under Caesar Augustus, the first emperor, the rulers took on more power until they demanded dead emperors be worshiped as gods. Before Augustus, Rome was a Republic. Emperor worship was silly enough that one emperor on his deathbed said, “I think I am becoming a God. Puto ut deus fio.”
Nevertheless, when a Roman soldier said put incense on the altar to the emperors, many people did, just to avoid trouble, whether they believed in it or not. It was an easy concession to make. But those who did not give in faced death, prison, or exile. Soldiers demanded Scriptures and tore them up. Imagine that. The early Christians did not have to own a building, but they had to have the Scriptures, which were more costly and valuable to them than real estate. Tearing up or burning the Bible was almost equal to destroying a congregation. Nevertheless, the Word of God was preserved and the Church grew faster, the more it was persecuted.
In this light we can see why Revelation is filled with so many passages glorifying God and offering comfort to those who remain faithful. Revelation is a poetic book, with wonderful yet simple phrases.
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
An expert on Lutheran hymns called Revelation the hymnal of the New Testament. It is easy to find hymns based upon Revelation texts, including the all-time favorite of all denominations, “Holy, holy, holy,” a hymn that praises God rather than man.
KJV Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
KJV Isaiah 6:2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
Revelation also reflects all the prophecy books of the Old Testament and much of the New Testament as well. Few people realize this.
Imagine how grief stricken and alarmed the early Christians were. We forget that these people heard the Gospel, often from eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ, yet they saw the apostles jailed and murdered, their own friends imprisoned and killed. When we know the person killed for the faith, it makes us wonder if God really watches over the Church. I had a class at Ft. Wayne where one of the students was from the Union of South Africa, during the worst turmoil, when Winnie Mandela and her cohorts put car tires around the necks of their victims and burned them with gasoline. The African pastor said, “I am likely to be burned to death when I go back. I am identified with the Whites for being here and for being a pastor.” We said, “Why go back?” He said, “My members are there. I must go back.”
Now people are a little more aware that there is a vast genocide going on against Christians in Africa, Muslim battling against Christians.
Death and suffering were acute realities for the people who first read the book of Revelation.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Our name for those who died because of their faith is “martyr.” It comes from the Greek word for “witness.” The martyrs testified to their faith in Christ and died because of it. But the lesson does not emphasize their great effort, but being washed “in the blood of the Lamb.” They are in heaven because their sins were forgiven through the atoning death of Christ. The visible Church tends to praise people rather than God. I remember one old pastor who finally got up at a convention and shouted, “I am so tired of people being praised and thanked. We should thank and praised God alone!” The people at the convention were embarrassed by his outburst and went on praising each other into heaven.
The Book of Revelation is great comfort to us because it takes us away from us and directs our sight upon the living Christ, the Lamb upon the Throne. That must be an odd image for non-believers, but we know what it means. The innocent lamb was slaughtered for the sins of the world. Now He is triumphant on the Throne in heaven.
I read this hymn onto a tape for Erin Joy, our daughter, who is with her sister Bethany in heaven.
I am Jesus little lamb, ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me, knows my need and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name.
Day by day at home, away, Jesus is my Staff and Stay,
When I hunger Jesus feeds me, into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst He bids me go where the quiet waters flow.
Who so happy as I am, even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended, by His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast, there within His arms to rest.
The Lutheran Hymnal, #648
Although we do not have to face the persecution and terror of the early Church, the Scriptures given to comfort them in their suffering help us in our pain today. I know many people whose lives are completely dictated by their physical limitations and pain. I think all of them would be glad to have 10% of the health we take for granted each day, when we do not bother ourselves to thank God for all He has given us. However, because they have so little of what the world values (and yet takes for granted) they focus upon God and His promises.
God has given us one great promise through Christ. It is not based upon our feelings, work, the correct attitude toward God, or anything else that can be found in us, apart from God’s work through the Holy Spirit. God has given this one great promise to us in many forms, in many different words, with many different additional promises and blessings. This is the form of the promise found in this lesson:
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
So often we fall into the frame of mind where we identify earning God’s promises with work. But Jesus answered the work problem quite clearly.
KJV John 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne.
Behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891, "The Present Crisis"
We find this attitude of tolerance quite frequently among unionists. It is often used to assuage a troubled conscience, one's own as well as that of others; for the unionist declares that every one may continue to hold his own private convictions and merely needs to respect and tolerate those of another. This attitude is totally wrong, for it disregards two important factors: (a) in tolerating divergent doctrines one either denies the perspicuity and clarity of the Scriptures, or one grants to error the right to exist alongside of truth, or one evidences indifference over against Biblical truth by surrendering its absolute validity;and (b) in allowing two opposite views concerning one doctrine to exist side by side, one has entered upon an inclined plane which of necessity leads ever further into complete doctrinal indifference, as may plainly be seen from the most calamitous case on record, viz., the Prussian Union.
M. Reu, In the Interest of Lutheran Unity,
Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1940, p. 20.
Here we discover the first mark of unionism: A difference in doctrine which hitherto has been regarded as divisive, is suddenly made to lose its divisive significance.
M. Reu, In the Interest of Lutheran Unity, Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1940, p. 19.
The second mark of unionism, therefore, is this: Differences in doctrine are made to lose their divisive significance with a view to uniting hitherto separate churches.
M. Reu, In the Interest of Lutheran Unity, Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1940, p. 19.
The third mark of unionism, therefore, is this: A formula of unification is found which each of two hitherto separate churches may accept but which each of them interprets differently. An external bond is found for internally divided groups.
M. Reu, In the Interest of Lutheran Unity,
Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1940, p. 19.
"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!"
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 28.
"Unionism is characterized by these marks: It fails to confess the whole truth of the divine Word; it fails to reject and denounce every opposing error; it assigns error equal right with truth and creates the impression of church fellowship and of unity of faith where they do not exist." (Wisconsin Synod,
Prayer Fellowship, Tract No. 10, 1954)
Francis Pieper, The Difference Between Orthodox And Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 64.
"When the time comes that the worldly shall gnash their teeth, they shall witness all the elect and angels saying to God: 'This man has been a faithful minister and teacher. He has proclaimed the saving Word of God to a world of castaways. On yonder earth he was despised, persecuted, and maligned, but he shines now as a star with imperishable luster."
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 402. Daniel 12:3.
"Thus in heterodox churches, in order to defend false doctrine, God's Word must continually be denied. It is rightly said: 'It cost nine lies to maintain one lie.' Whoever allows himself such liberties with the Word of God, let him beware, lest the devil also make this clear Word doubtful for him in the hour of death: 'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.' 1 John 1:7"
Francis Pieper, The Difference between Orthodox and Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 40. 1 John 1:7.
Closing of the Book of Concord
We have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquility, and unity (which, moreover, is not in our power to do). Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ. Triglotta, p. 1095