Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1 John 3:1-3 See 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. 2 Beloved, 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. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
All Saints’ Day reminds us of who we are. That is why the Apostle John in our Epistle reading tells us: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.
We are the children of God. What a loving Father we have who picked us up out of the dirt and filth of our sin, worthless, unlovable creatures and made us his children. As he raised up Adam out of the dust to make him a son, he has raised us up out of the slime and stench of sin to purify us and make us his children. That is the kind of love of a Father who never lets go of his children who by nature and on account of sin are not his children, not his people.
But he has laid hold of us. As you did not decide who your parents would be, so you did not decide to be God’s child. He sent his Son to die for you without your asking. He sent his Son to rise from the dead without your asking. And He sent the Holy Spirit into you at your baptism to make you his child on account of the sacrifice of Jesus.
What comforting words these are. They are written for you in Holy Scripture to give you peace and comfort. When in the course of this life with its trials, with its sufferings, with the attacks of the devil. As we get older and weaker and become afraid of the death that surely awaits us, we are assured that we have a heavenly Father who loves us. A Father who holds life and death in his hands. A Father, says Jesus, that no one can snatch us from his hands. See, what kind of love this Father has given to you, who calls you his child.
But not only does he call you his child, you are his child. And if you are his child, you are in his family. You are heir to everything that he is and possesses. He is Lord of life, King of kings, and you are heirs to his kingdom, you are heirs to the life that is His for all eternity. Heirs to life because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, gave his life in your place. He took your sin and filth into his own flesh and crucified his flesh on a cross, freeing you for all that oppresses you and holds you down. Freeing you from all that separates you from God and opening the gates of heaven unto you.
Then he says, “the world does not know you because it did not know him,” the Lord of life who gave his life for you. He is saying here that you are estranged from this world. You are heirs to a different kingdom, not the kingdom of this world. Not heirs of the vanishing riches and tarnishing splendor of this world where moth and rust corrupt and thieves plunder. The world oppresses you, its people reject you. You are scorned for the good name of Jesus. Some have lost their goods, fame, and fortunes. Others today have given their lives for the name of Christ. But all that is of no account, for you are your Father’s child. He holds you in his hand secure and safe from all harm and danger. And the inheritance he gives you is eternal.
Beloved, says God in our text, we are God’s children now. And if you are God’s children, then you are also brothers and sisters to each other. You are the family of God, a high and noble family with a family name that is proud and above all other names. You are to love and care for one another. But, alas, there is fighting and bickering, jealousy and competition, insult and injury, accusation and blame. Such is not beholding for the family of God. This is shameful and brings insult to the Holy name of God.
But God deigns to call you his child. In the midst of such division and sin, he has made you his children and his family. And this family is an eternal family. He notes that with the words, “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.” What we will be. That is to say that there is more than this life we live now. That death is not the end; the grave is not our final resting place. All Saints Day reminds us of this and tells us that whether in the world or with the Father in heaven, we are his family. All Saints Day reminds us that those who have gone before us are not gone but are still our brothers and sisters. They are still in the family. That we have not lost them, for they are still ours and members of God’s eternal family. Martin Luther once said, “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess.” Those who have been laid to rest in the hands of the Lord we still possess. They are ours still, they are our family still, and they are present today with us as we are in the presence of God for they too are in the presence of God. Today and every Lord’s Day when we gather at the altar to receive the body and blood of our Savior, we are surrounded by the heavenly hosts, of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Those who have gone to the Lord are together with us, surrounding us, partaking of that same meal, the same feast as we. They are never closer to us than at the altar. Yes, here with us is Dianne Teske, and all your other loved ones who have departed in Christ. They remain in our family, the family of God forever.
Notice in the Book of Job, that he had many riches, much cattle, and seven sons and three daughters. He lost them all, riches, possessions, cattle, and his sons and daughters. At the end of the book everything he had was restored two-fold. He had double the sheep, double the camels, double the oxen and double the donkeys. But he only had seven more sons and three more daughters. Why did he not receive double his children? Because the children who had come before were still his. They were living in heaven with the fathers. So in total, he had double the children as well. They were never gone to begin with.
So it is with our loved ones who have gone to the Lord and those who will go to the Lord before us. They are never lost, they are still our family and loved ones, and one day we will join them in the kingdom of glory and life everlasting.
But the writer of our text also says, “What we will be has not yet appeared.” What we see with our eyes is what has appeared. And what we see with our eyes is people filled with corruption and filth. We do not look like children of God. We do not act like children of God. We do not talk like children of God, and we do not love like children of God. Only on that day when we are gathered into our Father’s house and raised from the dead will we look like God’s children. Until then being a child of God is a matter of faith and trust in the words of our text; the word of God who cannot lie. Words that are trustworthy and true. Though you do not appear now as God’s child, one day at the resurrection you will. That is nothing but pure joy and gladness. That on account of Christ God already sees you as His child. The Father calls you his child, and so you are.
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. This has a double meaning. First, you who put your hope in Christ, who have the hope of being the child of God, have been made pure by the blood of Christ, poured out for you on the cross, and poured into your mouth at the Lord’s Table. For that blood was shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. God declares you pure. God sees you as pure. That ball of filth and dirt that wallowed in the mud and muck of sin, he raised up as his child whom he has purified and cleansed.
And secondly, you are being purified by the work of the Holy Spirit who lives in you. You are being transformed so that your life coincides with what you are, God’s child. How does a child of God live? He puts off the old sinful man with his lusts and greed and selfishness and drunkenness and slander and idolatry and immorality, and he puts on the new man, born of God in baptism. The man of love and purity and generosity who gives all that he is to and for his neighbor. The child of God lives to serve others and to sacrifice his life and all he has, his possessions, his fame, his talents for the good of others. He abounds in good works done for his neighbor. For he is a new man, a child of a loving God who reflects that love of his Father in all that he does. And his eyes are fixed on that day when he shall see God as he is and shall be like him. That is his hope and strength today and forever. Amen.