All Saints’ Day • 1 John 3:1–3 • November 3, 2013

By Kent Burreson

Looking Forward to the Family Reunion
Certain feast days in the church calendar have a decidedly baptismal focus: Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, Pentecost, the Presentation of our Lord, and . . . All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day focuses upon the lives of all those made holy, sanctified to the Lord through the waters of Holy Baptism (Ti 3:5–6), both living and at rest in death awaiting the Parousia of the Lord. All Saints’ Day is the family reunion day for all the baptized, the entire church, as it “hopes in him” who will appear (v. 3). This epistle pericope from 1 John 3 manifests the assembly (reunion) of the children of God, the beloved of God, those living with sustaining hope in God. Three primary themes that relate to baptism surface prominently: love, epiphany, and hope.

First, love. The love of the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the basis for adoption as children of God. It is because of his love that the Father calls us his children. As Bruce Schuchard observes in his commentary on 1 John 3: “Because he loves, God gives to all his faithful both new life and a new identity. Possessing a ‘new name,’ they belong to him.”[1] It would be appropriate to begin All Saints’ Day not with confession and absolution but with a rite of remembrance of baptism that focuses upon the new name that is given the newly baptized in the rite of baptism.[2] It would also be appropriate to name all the saints who have died in the Lord over the past year and for those assembled to name those that they hold dear in their hearts no matter when they died. By these rites the church remembers that through baptism we are God’s children now, as the Father calls his beloved by name.

Second, epiphany. Epiphany comes from the same root word, Φανενοω or Φανομαι, as the primary theme word of verse 2. Christ Jesus was manifest at his epiphany in the Jordan River, as the Father called him his beloved Son and invited all who hear to listen to him. This same Christ Jesus will be made manifest again at his second epiphany. And herein is the primary theme of All Saints’ Day. The saints who are still living live with the knowledge that they will be like him because only those who are like him will be able to see him as he is. And that will happen on the day of his appearing/epiphany. The saints who are at rest in death, waiting the day of his appearing, are reminders (icons) to the living saints, proclaiming the outcome of their knowledge and hope. Their lives of faith and hope help the living saints to see that they, with those who preceded them, will see him as he is. For a family reunion it is appropriate to bring out the family albums. So it is for All Saints’ Day. Let icons and paintings be used that point the assembly to its members, dead and living, and to their lives of faith and hope. For even these representations manifest the epiphany of the One who appeared to the world at his baptism in the Jordan River, and whom we will see as he fully is: the incarnate Son of God.

Third, hope. Following baptism, baptismal candidates are called to live in hope: “Live always in the light of Christ, and be ever watchful for His coming, that you may meet him with joy and enter with him into the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom.”[3] Schuchard describes hope as a condition of the mind and the heart.[4] Through baptism this condition is formed within the baptized because they have been purified as Jesus is pure. In the waters of purification they have been made like him: cleansed and pure. The baptized are the purity of God: loving, merciful, and faithful as he is. And because they have been purified and have glimpsed Jesus, they can live in the hope that flows as living water from their baptisms: hope that they will see him as he is and will be like him. The saints, called children of God by name, who lived and died in the hope of the Lord and have gone before us with the sign of faith, call us to live in hope.

Proclaim that the God of love has manifested his love in his Son and through him calls all who are baptized into him, by name, to live as his children. And to live, as the saints named and unnamed, seen and unseen, in hope for what we will be when we see him as he is. Does All Saints’ Day have you looking forward to the final family reunion?

Endnotes
[1] Bruce Schuchard, 1-3 John, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: CPH, 2012), 318.
[2] See Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: CPH, 2006), 268; for a rite of baptismal remembrance see Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 97.
[3] LSB, 271.
[4] Schuchard, 324.

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