Well, it’s November 1st and it’s been a year of dealing with coronavirus fears and precautions. Even now, there are still mask mandates in some places—mostly hospitals and universities (at least in Michigan)—in a debatable effort to lessen the chances of the coronavirus spreading. Last All Saints’ Day, I wrote a rather odd article on how blessed we are to be living during COVID-19. And now, a year later, this church festival is still rather apt for God’s people as we ponder death and live as Christians in the world.
The Treasury of Daily Prayer rightly says All Saints’ Day encompasses “the entire scope of that great cloud of witnesses with which we are surrounded (Hebrews 12:1)” (p. 870). All Saints’ Day also encompasses the entire Church Year just before we enter Advent, the beginning of the new Church Year.
All Saints’ Day first reminds us of the life of the church that all Christians are called to live and participate, which we recall during the season of Pentecost that takes up the majority of the Church Year. Beginning in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit calls Christians to live as Christ’s disciples through preaching and Baptism—or as citizens of God’s kingdom (the corporate church)—as well as citizens in the world as they do good works out of love for their neighbour. Christians daily trudge through the world as they undergo the joys and sufferings of life. They do this not alone, but together as the corporate Body of Christ, the church (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Thus, All Saints’ Day begins with the reminder that we walk life together as God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, and holy nation, “a people for His own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We therefore suffer with those who suffer during such a time as this (1 Corinthians 12:26). We suffer with and serve those who are weaker than us, whether physically or in conscience. We build up one another rather than destroy (Romans 14:19-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:11), which is especially incumbent upon pastors (2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10).
As we live as God’s people, we live knowing to whom we belong, that is, who possesses us, which is Christ the King who was born incarnate to deliver us from our sins. This we celebrate on Christmas. As post-resurrection disciples, we cannot help but look proleptically toward the cross on Black Friday and the empty tomb on Easter morning. We not only confess and believe that Jesus died and rose again, but we also believe He died and rose for our salvation that “we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:4-5). We believe we have become partakers of Christ’s death and resurrection via our Baptism, according to this same text of Scripture. During such a time as this, we confess and believe that this baptismal grace is our hope and assurance
Furthermore, during such a time as this, in God’s baptismal grace given to us we look toward the eschatological promise. In our mind’s eye of faith we see that incalculable multitude of God’s saints from every nation, race, culture, and language who have come out of the great tribulation—like such a time as this—”who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14), which was done in Baptism. For that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ: the Good News—the promise—that “neither death… nor things present nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). And that love of God in Christ Jesus is the love that causes His saints to fall asleep in Christ until they are raised from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Therefore, for such a time as this All Saints’ Day in 2021, and as 2022 swiftly approaches where we may yet deal with another year of the coronavirus, let us be “not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17). And who are the righteous in Christ? Those who believe in Christ by faith (1 Corinthians 1:30). Even though the coronavirus has caused many saints to go before us, let us not be ashamed of the Gospel, for we know the power it gives—the power of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. This is the power of the risen and ascended Jesus—the one who healed diseases and has conquered death—who shall make us into conquerers of death when He returns in glory to raise us from the dead (Romans 8:37; Revelation 21:7).