Summary: Theme: All Saints Day. Opening paragraph refers to Luther's reason for posting his thesis on Nov. 1. Jesus has a discussion with the Sadducees about resurrection. A reference to Polycarp & other martyrs. Promise of our own resurrecton.
In Jesus Holy Name November 1, 2020
“The Saints Belong to the Soul Keeper”
Have you ever wondered by Martin Luther chose to post his 95 Thesis on October 31st? It was not by calendar accident that Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.
He knew that the next day November 1st All Saints Day would be one of the most attended days of worship. November 1st had become a day of “holy obligation” by Papal decree in 1484. The Papal Decree told people that when they entered the church for worship on All Saints Day a soul would be released from purgatory. Attendance sored. Even this holy practice became corrupted. Eventually people would walk in the door, walk out again, then in again, then out, then in… each time, believing they would release a soul from purgatory.
The celebration of All Saints Day is not new. The early Christian believers, as far back as the 3rd and 4th Century set aside one day a year to remember and honor all Christian martyrs.
In the 2nd century, Polycarp, the Bishop of the church at Smyrna was burned at the stake because he refused to call Caesar “God”. Before the fire was lit, his captors said: “Come now, bishop, where is the harm in just saying ‘Caesar is Lord’ and offering incense, when it will save your life?”
Polycarp replied: “eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I then blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
Through the centuries countless others have made the same confession. The Apostle Paul was put to death by Nero. One of Martin Luther’s fellow monks was captured in the Netherlands and burned at the stake. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and shot in 1945. Rachel Scott, a devout Christian teen, active in her youth group at Orchard Road Christian Church, was the first student killed in the Columbine High School Massacre, April 20th 1999.
These and all who have been martyred because of their faith in Jesus now rest under the altar of God in Heaven until Jesus returns. John writes in Revelation 6 “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God.” “They were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer…”
This is why, on this All Saints Day, the church stops to remember the cloud of witnesses, family members, brothers and sisters in the faith who have died holding to the secure promises of forgiveness and salvation, guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Rich or poor. Famous or forgotten. Respected or reviled, your life’s situation makes not difference. Death is not a respecter of persons; it will come for everyone you love. It will not select according to logic, or love or fairness. All that can be said with certainty is this: Death is going to come to every person.
This is reality, but too many of us live our days as if we have some special one-of-a-kind immunity from the word “terminal”.
Some like William Saroyan, a well-known writer of plays and short stories thought he had a one-of-a-kind immunity from the reality of death. From his deathbed he contacted the associated Press and said, we all know that, “Every body has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.”
In spite of an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, many people seem to think death will come for billions of strangers, but leave them untouched. Let me lay it on the line. Every human being has sinned and the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 3:26) Because you have broken God’s commadments you will not be untouched, nor will I. (from a sermon by Rev. Ken Klaas November 1 2009)
The cemetery is not the dominion of the Grim Reaper, but the domain of the Soul Keeper, Jesus. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!” Jesus came to Bethlehem to implement the prophet’s words. Jesus said, “Trust in God, trust in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s house.” “He who believes in me will live.” This is the promise of Jesus.
The Gospel of Matthew tells of a confrontation Jesus had with the Sadducees over a question about resurrection. Yes, they knew about the
daughter of Jarius, the boy at the village of Nain and Lazarus.
Traditional Judaism was divided on the topic of the resurrection. The Sadducees were an aristocratic group made up of the families from which the chief priests were chosen. They rejected the oral traditions of the Pharisees and they rejected belief in the resurrection. The Pharisees believed in a “spiritual resurrection” and in angels. The Sadducees believed in neither… much like Woody Allen, and other Atheists.