All Saints' Day Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about All Saints' Day

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All Saints' Day is celebrated on November 1. This day is not as an occasion to invoke the saints but to give thanks for all who have gone before and to celebrate Christian unity with the “great cloud of witnesses” that precedes us (Heb. 12:1). The focus on All Saints’ Day should not be on extraordinary achievements of particular Christians but on the grace and work of God through ordinary people. It is important to remember that all who are united in Christ, whether dead or alive, are saints (“sanctified,” made holy, to serve God) because—and only because—of the unmerited work of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Scripture

Psalm 24 "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob" (Ps. 24).

Psalm 116 "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones" (Ps. 116:15).

Isaiah 25 " . . . Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isa. 25:6-9).

Daniel 7 "But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever — forever and ever" (Dan. 7:18).

John 14 "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:1-3).

Ephesians 1 "I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers" (Eph. 1:11-23).

Philippians 1 "And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1).

2 Timothy "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you" (2 Tim. 1:3-5).

Hebrews 11 "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks" (Heb. 11).

1 John 3 "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is" (1 John 3:1-3).

Revelation 7 "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them" (Rev. 7:9-17).

Revelation 21 "Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children" (Rev. 21:1-7).

Points to Ponder

What's a Saint, Anyway? Now is a great time to teach the difference between imputed righteousness and earned righteousness. We may, by our actions, be proven righteous. This is an earned righteousness and it is what we most often think of when we hear the word "saint." However, imputed righteousness is the doctrine that, because of Jesus Christ's death on the cross, we are considered righteous. We stand in the shadow, as it were, of Jesus' righteousness, and it is credited to us. All Christians — all who believe that Jesus' death pays the penalty of their sin — receive the righteousness of Christ and are, therefore, saints.

Does Grief Belong at Church? While much of modern church culture seems to be answering "no" to this question, the psalms — which were the words of worship for Israel — answer a resounding "yes." At church, the psalms reprimand us, we are to tell the truth. And the truth is that many people are grieving loss. Maybe a parent or grandparent who has died in the past year. Maybe a death that happened long ago but forever altered the course of a person's life. Maybe a silent grief, as from miscarriage. All Saints' Sunday is a beautiful time to invite people to light candles to remember, to tell the truth about loss, and to do all of that within the supportive community of church and under the reign of our King who once grieved at the tomb of a friend.

Remembering God's Work As a sweeping generalization, Protestants often don't know their own history. Because we've veered away from the practice of venerating the saints, we may have veered too far in that we don't remember them at all. It has always been the plan of God to work through people to accomplish God's purpose. The stories of God's work teach us 1) about who God is, 2) about what we are to value as members of Christ's kingdom and 3) that, by the Spirit's power, we too are able to contribute to God's good work in the world.

Voices on Earth and in Heaven It is there in our standard prayer of thanksgiving in the communion liturgy: "Therefore we join our voices with all the saints and angels and all of creation to proclaim the glory of your name." This is worth preaching on: that the worship that takes place in our sanctuaries is the earthly harmony of a heavenly melody. Many widows and widowers I have met in the church express a longing to sit in church and sing with their loved one again. When we remember that the veil between heaven and earth is thinnest in our worship, we provide theological truth and pastoral comfort.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.