All Saints’ Day: A Celebration and Encouragement

fullsizeoutput_ae3.jpegToday, 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.

Joseph

This past weekend we continued our series “Family Tree” at Eastbrook Church. This is the third week in the first part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew (see previous weeks here and here). During Advent, we will focus on the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. This message explored the significance of Joseph as seen in Matthew 1:18-25.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”  (Matthew 1:20)

Joseph the Upright (Matthew 1:18-19)

  • righteous – “faithful to the law”
  • merciful

Joseph the Dreamer (Matthew 1:20-23)

  • dreams of Joseph (1:20-21; 2:13; 2:19; 2:22)
  • Joseph listens to God

Joseph the Obedient (Matthew 1:24-25)

  • hearing the angelic message
  • responding directly to what was spoken (1:20 & 1:24; 2:13 & 2:14; 2:20 & 2:21)

Joseph the Adoptive Father (Matthew 1:25)

  • The importance of taking Mary home
  • The importance of naming Jesus
  • “The Son of David”

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the life of Joseph from Matthew 1:18-25 in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize the angel’s  words to Joseph in Matthew 1:20-21
  • Consider reading about Joseph in all of the New Testament accounts of him:
    • Matthew 1:16, 18-25; 2:9-12, 13-23; 13:55
    • Mark 6:1-3
    • Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52; 2:1-12; 3:23; 4:22
    • John 1:45; 6:41-42

Men of Faith and Exile

This past weekend we began a new series at Eastbrook Church entitled “Family Tree.” This is the first week in the first part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew. During Advent, we will focus on the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. This message looks at Jesus’ connection with Abraham, David, and the exile.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1)

The Genealogy of Jesus

  • Matthew’s structure: 3 groupings of 14 generation
  • Differences between Matthew and Luke
  • Matthew’s goal in the genealogy: to show that Jesus is king of the Jews and hope of the nations

The Providence of God in History

  • “The son of Abraham” (1:1-2; Genesis 12:1-3)
  • “The son of David” (1:1, 6; 2 Samuel 7:12-13)
  • “After the exile” (1:11-12)

Seeing God’s Purpose in Jesus’ Genealogy

  • Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to the nations
  • Jesus is the new King and Messiah for a conflicted world
  • Jesus is the providential hope for humanity lost in exile

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Matthew 1:1-17 in one or more of the following ways:

  • Consider reading some of the backstory of figures mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy, such as:
    • Abraham (Genesis 11:27-23:20; 25:1-11)
    • Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-35:29)
    • David (1 Samuel 15:1-2 Samuel 8:18)
  • If you want to really dig deep into the Scripture around Jesus’ infancy and early years, read Raymond Brown’s in-depth book, The Birth of the Messiah.
  • Consider watching the Bible Project’s two videos summarizing the Gospel of Matthew and on exile.

God is King: Tracing the Kingdom of God through the Old Testament

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we began a new series, “The Kingdom of God.” This first weekend I explored the theme of the kingdom of God through the Old Testament, touching on the creation in Genesis, Abraham’s calling, the Exodus with Moses and Joshua, the entrance of the kings, exile, and two prophets, Isaiah and Daniel. It was a lot in a short time, but was my attempt to help us gain clarity on the big themes of God’s kingdom in the Hebrew Scriptures. Next week we will take a similar journey through the New Testament.

You can view the message video and outline for the message is below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty.” (Psalm 24:8)

God is King over all (Genesis 1-2)

  • He has made and rules over everything
  • Humanity is made in God’s image and serves as God’s representative upon earth

God is King and His people play a part (Genesis, Exodus, Joshua)

  • God promises Abraham to raise up a new people (Genesis 12:1-3)
  • God delivers Israel at the Exodus and brings them to the Promised Land (Exodus 6:1-8)
  • God’s kingdom is different; He’s on His own “side” (Joshua 5:13-15)

God is King but Israel wanted another king  (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings)

  • Samuel and Israel’s rejection of God (1 Samuel 8)
  • Saul the first and faulty king (1 Samuel 9)
  • David the new, but imperfect, king (1 Samuel 16; 2 Samuel 5)
  • Solomon and the decline of the kingship toward exile (1 Kings 11)

God is King and His kingdom is coming (Isaiah)

  • A day will come when the nations will stream to Jerusalem (Isaiah 2)
  • A messianic king will reign on David’s throne and bring God’s kingdom (Isaiah 9 & 11)
  • He will restore Zion’s glory, rebuild the exiled ruins, and bless the nations (Isaiah 60 & 61)

God is King and no other kingdom will endure (Daniel)

  • God’s kingdom will overwhelm and supplant the kingdoms of earth (Daniel 2:29-45)
  • God’s kingdom will break through the beastly kingdoms of earth when the Son of Man appears (Daniel 7:1-28)

Key themes of the kingdom of God in the Old Testament

  • God is King
  • God’s kingdom is different than and superior to all other kingdoms
  • God’s kingdom will come when the Messiah arrives
  • God’s people play a part in His kingdom
  • God’s kingdom brings blessing to the nations

The Perfect King (Psalm 72)

Songs of the Savior Series GFX_App SquareThis past weekend at Eastbrook, I concluded our series, “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent,” by exploring Psalm 72.

Psalm 72 is not an explicitly messianic psalm, but echoes themes of the Messiah that are seen in Isaiah 11 and Zechariah 9. New Testament writers nod toward Psalm 72 in many ways, for example in Matthew’s wording about the wise men coming to give gifts and worship to Jesus.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here, participate in Eastbrook’s Advent devotional, or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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