As we continued our series, “Name Above All Names,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I looked at one of Jesus’ most revered titles: Son of God. With roots in the promises to Abraham and David, Jesus’ identity as the Son of God stretches all the way before Creation and speaks of His unique relationship with God the Father and way of living upon earth.
Today, is the celebration of All Saints’ Day. What is All Saints’ Day and why should we celebrate it?
Since the 4th century, Christians have celebrated the lives of saints and martyrs. However, it was not until AD 609 that Pope Boniface IV dedicated one day of remembrance for all martyrs. Since that time, and after a broadening by Pope Gregory IV in 837 into a celebration of all past saints, All Saints’ Day has been a solemn holy day in the Roman Catholic Church, often connected with reverence for past Christians and relics. While often criticized for idolatrous veneration of departed Christians, even after the Reformation, most Protestants continued to celebrate All Saints’ Day as a way to connect God’s faithfulness to His people in times past with God’s faithfulness to His people now.
In Hebrews, chapter 11, the writer takes us through what is sometimes called the “Hall of Faith.” We hear of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Rahab — all of whom faithfully walked through their ups-and-downs with God. The first words of chapter 12 take a sudden turn to the present: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The lives of great heroes of the faith are celebrated as an inspiration for the Christians listening in the present moment, that they too might live with God faithfully in their everyday lives.
I love that phrase: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” Those witnesses are the believers in God that have gone before us. They bear witness to us that there is a way to live faithfully with God upon earth now even as they also bear witness that there is future hope with God beyond our earthly lives. Although it may sound strange to our ears, all past believers are ‘saints’ in that they are ‘holy ones’ (the literal translation of the Greek word hagioi) through Jesus Christ. All Saints’ Day brings to the foreground the spiritual bond that exists between believers from all times and in all places. More specifically, All Saints’ Day highlights the connection between the saints who have gone ahead of us into God’s presence (sometimes called “the Church triumphant”) and the saints still upon this earthly plane (sometimes called “the Church militant”). We celebrate those who have gone before us so that we might be encouraged to run the race before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
In a culture dominated by the ever-pressing latest and greatest that is new and now, All Saints’ Day is a powerful corrective. It reminds that we are an important part of God’s story, but we are not the only part of the story. When we celebrate the saints of previous times we realize that we would not be here were it not for Abraham, Jacob, Ruth, David, Esther, Isaiah, Mary, and so many more.
In a culture that is obsessed with our present opinions about our present matters, All Saints’ Day offers us perspective. It helps us grow beyond “the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about,” to steal a phrase from G. K. Chesterton. We reconnect with Catherine of Siena and Augustine of Hippo, with Perpetua of Carthage and Janani Luwum of Uganda, with Sojourner Truth and Blaise Pascal. We need them; perhaps even more than we know.
In a culture that has forgotten how to think about the future, All Saints’ Day reminds us to have hope of a future day. Since there are saints who have gone before us, we can persevere now as saints upon earth. Jesus Himself told us that He is preparing a place for us and, as John testifies, there will be a great company there of saints from every tribe, tongue, and nation around God’s throne celebrating in God’s eternal kingdom.
By God’s grace, we, too, will join that great company. But until we do, we celebrate God’s faithfulness in their lives as a means to lean into God’s faithfulness in our own lives as persevering pilgrims in this land that is not our home.
As I continued our series “All I Want for Christmas” this weekend at Eastbrook Church we looked at David, one of the great heroes of the Bible. Building upon his life story, we studied the pivotal Scripture passage found in 2 Samuel 7:1-16, where God makes a series of significant promises to David. With a bit of quick work, I walked us through the longing for a new David figure that arose after David’s time, and is seen in the Psalms and the Prophets. I then tied it all together with a look at Jesus as the new David.
You can view a video of the message and the accompanying outline below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can also view all the messages from the “All I Want for Christmas” series here. Connect with us further at Eastbrook Church on Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This week, our Leadership Team at Eastbrook viewed an inspiring and informative message by Oscar Muriu, Senior Pastor at Nairobi Chapel (Nairobi, Kenya). The message was entitled “Viral Leadership: Multiplying Impact Exponentially” and was given in August 2013 at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.
In this message, Muriu shares his five convictions about leadership development:
- The size of your harvest depends on how many leaders you have (Matthew 9:37-38).
- Live for the next generation (Psalm 71:18).
- Identify the budding leaders around you and take them to God in prayer (Numbers 11:10-17).
- Instill the five loves into your budding leaders (Mark 12:30-33).
- Never do ministry alone – always have budding leaders around you (Acts 4:13).
It’s worth watching the entire message at this link, but you can view a five-minute excerpt of the talk below.
- This week we bring our series on Ruth, “Unexpected,” to a close. Whether you are on your own or in a small group, take time to read Ruth 4:13-22 aloud.
- These last verses in Ruth bring together many themes and loose ends from the book. The first theme relates to God’s provision for Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4:13). Compare the end of Ruth and Boaz’s story to their beginnings (Ruth 1:3-5, 8-9, 16-18; 2:1-2, 8-12, 19-20; 3:9-13). How do you see God at work in their story?
- A second theme relates to God’s restoration for Naomi, moving her from emptiness to fullness. How has God been at work in Naomi’s life? Look specifically at Ruth 1:1-5, 19-21; 2:20-22; 3:1-5, 16-18;4:14-16.
- Naomi’s restoration does not necessarily bring answers to all of her suffering. Part of her restorationRead More »