All Saints’ Sunday
November 5, 2017
I Peter 1:22-25
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
“Clean your room!” “Make your bed!” “Load the dishwasher!” Who says? If it is your snotty older brother or sister barking at you, nothing gets done. You don’t have to listen to them!! But, if it is your mom and dad speaking the same words there should be a different result. (At least that is what I would hope!!)
It matters who says what they say. Today is All Saints’ Day, one of the great days in the Christian Church. The saints became saints because of the One who spoke to them. We are listed among the saints because of what He has spoken to us. What He speaks makes a huge difference in our lives and how we live.
But we don’t like authority. We don’t like anyone telling us what to do. During this Reformation year I have been reading books about Martin Luther or written by Martin Luther. Paul Strawn writes a book titled, “Don’t Tell Me That”, a book about Luther speaking about the Law of God. Strawn tells an episode about his three year-old as he introduces the subject. Strawn says that as he walks into his son’s room he notices a broken toy under the bed. He can tell it has been deliberately destroyed. So he tells his son, “You broke the toy.”
Strawn writes, “That did it. Tears flowed. His hands went up to ears. His mouth opened and out came the words I have never forgotten: “DON”T TELL ME THAT!”
After doing the terrible deed, he hid it, then, when it was found, he didn’t want to hear about it, he didn’t want to see it and he didn’t want anyone to bring the subject up. “Don’t tell me that!”
Dale Meyer, who is back preaching on The Lutheran Hour, as of 6:00 this morning, also serves as the President of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. At the Opening Service at the Seminary in late August he quoted the book, “Barna Trends 2017”, to provide a reality check to the students who would one day pastor a congregation. Meyer brought the question of how many people are answering religious questions to the wanna-be pastors. Who do people say the Son of Man is? Barna Trends 2017 summarizes “5 Popular Beliefs about Jesus.” First, “The vast majority of Americans believe Jesus was a real person.” Second, “Younger generations are increasingly less likely to believe Jesus was God.” Third, “Americans are divided on whether Jesus was sinless.” Fourth, “Most Americans say that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.” (In light of doubts about His divinity and sinlessness, what does a commitment mean?) And fifth, “People are conflicted between ‘Jesus’ and ‘Good Deeds’ as the way to heaven.” Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Barna’s president, David Kinnaman, sums it up: “American’s dedication to Jesus is, in most cases, a mile wide and an inch deep.”
There seems to be a problem. We don’t like to be told anything – especially if it exposes us. Give me praise. Tell me how great I am. But don’t mention my failures. Don’t enumerate my sins. Don’t tell me the truth if it is going to hurt.
There is a problem. We think that we can create our own truth. What we say, is what goes. We get the final word. My, is that deadly. In Meyer’s sermon in St. Louis, he continues, “In the Bible, faith has two aspects. One is internal, how we feel about something. That is the way most American’s feel about faith – whatever’s in your heart. The second aspect of faith in the Bible is something outside of us, not in us, something objective, not subjective, something we look to, something we focus on, something that shapes who we are and how we live life.” I believe that faith must be much more objective than subjective.
In my words everything has a foundation when you can answer with authority “who says”. The saints had a foundation that was immovable because they trusted that their faith and life had a foundation on what God said. They stood firm. They kept the faith and remained faithful because they knew the one who gave them the truth. They didn’t base their faith on feelings that, at times, can be fickle. They based their faith on God’s word, God’s truth.
Here’s the text for today, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.” (I Peter 1:22-25)
Who says? God says!! That is why we confess our faith about the utter awfulness of our sins. We can’t hide it under the bed or hold our hands over our ears or tell God, ‘Don’t tell me that.’ God has spoken. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) It means everything to a believer that God says sin is sin.
Today you leave the sanctuary and if you look west you will see a new plaque. It only has four letters – but they mean everything to us. VDMA. Latin – Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum - English – The Word of the Lord Endures Forever. It comes from the First Peter passage who took it from Isaiah 40.
This phrase became the motto on the Lutheran Reformation. It spoke, without reservation, about the confidence of God’s enduring power and authority in His Word. In 1522, Frederick the Wise, the King who protected Luther from sure death, had these letters embroidered on the right sleeve of the clothing of all the officials in the court. From the prince to the lowly servant, they all had the same confession and confidence, VDMA, “The Word of the Lord Endures Forever”. Who says? God says!!
When Frederick died, his son, John the Steadfast and, later, his nephew, John Frederick the Magnanimous, used the same symbol. The Smalcaldic League, the Lutheran army in Germany, had it on flags, banners, swords and uniforms to display their confidence.
At Ascension, fittingly, the first place that the plaque VDMA was placed was in the Columbarium, the place where the remains of our saints are kept. They wait for the resurrection there and the promise that their ashes will come to the fullness of life when Christ returns. Who assures us that such things will happen? God does. God says, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” ( I Corinthians 15:42-44a) Today we read a long list of folks who are no longer here on earth. You know them. They are your beloved. We named your husband or wife, your mother or father, your relative or friend. But we have said that they are ok, they no longer suffer, they are in splendor and they will rise again physically on the last day. Why do we speak so confidently? Because God says it to be true. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) VDMA. The Word of the Lord Endures Forever. Our God can’t lie.
The second place that you will see it, (and we made it big so you will never miss it!!), is when you leave the sanctuary. You have been here to hear God’s truth, to receive forgiveness, to remember your Baptism, to come to the Lord’s Table and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and now you leave. You are reminded that God’s Word, His truth, His comfort, His guidance and Spirit are with you as you leave this place and go to live your life. God and His Word doesn’t stay here – it goes with you.
God’s word will last forever and it will last today. It is effective and transforming. It gives hope in dying and strength for living. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) They are forever and they are for our life today.
When someone says something, when you read something, when you see it online, and that something that you hear or read or take in is big and impressive, you have to wonder – who said it? Do they have it right, do they have any authority to speak? Is it true or not?
Who says the greatest things concerning our soul and our life, concerning now and forever, concerning sin and forgiveness? God does. His word endures forever. Faith and faithfulness, courage and dedication are all based on the truth – The Word of the Lord Endures Forever.
Maybe you won’t wear those letters on your sleeve, but they are deep in your soul and give peace to your mind and direct your steps everyday and even forever – The Word of the Lord, our Lord, Endures Forever. Amen!!