Saints Triumphant Sunday
November 15, 2020
SERVICE OF THE WORD
This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word. Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.
M: We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Confession of Sins
M: We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children. But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment. Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.
C: Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray: Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love. Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.
M: God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins. By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever. You are His own dear child. May God give you strength to live according to His will.
Prayer and Praise
M: In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.
C: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they who take refuge in Him. Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues forever. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
M: Let us pray.
Almighty God and Savior, you have set the final day and hour when we shall be delivered from this world of sin and death. Keep us ever watchful for the coming of your Son that we may sit with Him and all your holy ones at the marriage feast in heaven. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 52:1-6
Our God is the LORD of history. He subjugates nations as he wills and redeems his people out of pure grace.
Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. For this is what the LORD says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.” For this is what the sovereign LORD says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” (NIV1984)
PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 84
How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
they are ever praising you.
Better is one day in Your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
O LORD Almighty,
blessed are they who trust in You.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen
SECOND LESSON – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-19 (Sermon Text)
Jesus’ resurrection is the sure foundation of our confidence that those who have “fallen asleep in him” will participate in the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. The saints who are still living on earth will join the resurrected in a grand reunion with each other and an eternal communion with the Lord.
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (NIV1984)
VERSE OF THE DAY
Alleluia. They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple. Alleluia. (Rev 7:15a)
C: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 25:1-13
The parable of the ten virgins calls us to constant vigilance, since the day and hour of our Lord’s judgment is not known.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (NIV1984)
C: Praise be to you, O Christ!
SERMON The Triumph of the Saints— What Does This Mean!
Dear fellow Saints of God,
What do we do now? That is a question that I am sure many people are asking themselves these days— for a variety of reasons! If you voted for President Trump, you are probably asking that question with a great deal of disappointment in your voice. If you voted for Joe Biden, you are probably asking that question with a great deal of excitement in your voice.
What do we do now? That is a question that I am sure many people are asking now that the Pfizer pharmaceutical company has produced a vaccine for COVID-19 that is 90% effective! They are now ramping up the production of this vaccine and anticipate that they will be able to deliver 20 million doses by the end of November. That will be enough to inoculate at-risk nursing home residents, health care workers and first responders by the end of January. And by the end of March to early April there should be enough of the vaccine to have “general vaccination programs.”
What do we do now? That is a question that I’m sure many people are asking now that we are entering into the holiday season. What are we going to do for Thanksgiving? What are we going to do for Christmas? From what I hear on the news we are being strongly encouraged to continue practicing the COVID-19 safety protocols. That would mean no large gatherings of people from multiple households. You celebrate— but only with the people who live in your own household.
What do we do now? While there are a number of reasons as to why we might be asking ourselves that question these days, for God’s people in the City of Thessalonica that question took on an even more serious tone. The apostle Paul had shared with them the Good News that Jesus is the Son of God who lived and died and rose again to take away all their sins. God the Holy Spirit had given them the gift of saving faith in their hearts— the faith which enabled them to believe that through faith in Jesus there is a glorious life waiting for them in heaven and that one day Jesus would return to this earth to take them Home. But as more and more of their fellow Christians died and Jesus had not yet come back, they became more and more concerned. What do we do now? Did their brothers and sisters in the faith “miss out” on what Paul said Jesus had waiting for them?
Because of the concerns that were troubling God’s people in Thessalonica, God the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul write the words that serve as our sermon text for today. Since most of us here today have shed our share of tears at the funeral of a loved one, let’s study this text under the theme: The Triumph of the Saints— What Does This Mean?
Look at the opening verses of our text. Paul writes, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant (This word can also be translated as “fail to understand, to be mistaken, to be in error”) about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
There are two points that need to be highlighted here. First, the “hope,” the “confident expectation” of eternal life is based 100% on the physical resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. If Jesus did not physically rise from the dead just as He promised He would, then there is no “hope” for us. Then there is no “Triumph of the Saints.” As Paul told God’s people in Corinth, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 18).
The second point that we do not want to overlook is that Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead gives us the “hope,” the “confident expectation” that for everyone who dies believing and trusting in Jesus as their Savior, death is but a “sleep”— a “sleep” from which our risen Lord and Savior will most certainly “awaken” us! (See also John 11:11, 14; Luke 8:51-56)
The fact that the Triumph of the Saints includes the guarantee that our crucified and risen Lord will one day “wake us up” from the “sleep” of death is brought out very clearly when Paul says to us this morning, “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Try to picture how triumphant Judgement Day will be for everyone who believes and trusts in Jesus! On that day the heavens will be rolled up like a scroll (See Isaiah 34:14; Revelation 6:14), our victorious Lord, our triumphant God, will return in all of His power, majesty and glory amidst a “loud command,” the “trumpet call of God,” and the “voice of the archangel” Michael. (See Jude 9; Daniel 12:1) Will the archangel Michael command everyone to bow on their knees before Jesus? (See Philippians 2:9) While that would certainly be appropriate, we are not told what the “voice of the archangel” will proclaim. What we are told is that the Triumph of the Saints will include this honor: “the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Once again try to picture that triumphant scene in your mind! All of the Old Testament children of God who “fell asleep” trusting that the Lord their God would most certainly fulfill His promise to send His Messiah into our world, all the New Testament children of God who trusted that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the long-awaited Promised Messiah, all the people you know who “fell asleep” believing and trusting in Jesus as their Savior— all of them will be given the honor of being the first ones to be raised from their graves. They will be the first ones to experience what Paul describes for us in 1 Corinthians 15, “The body that is sown (buried) is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). That’s the Triumph of the Saints!
But the triumph does not end there! Paul goes on to say to you and to me, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
Once again these words tie in so beautifully with what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 where he says to us, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52). The Triumph of the Saints includes the guarantee that if we are still alive when Jesus returns to this earth, He will instantly fulfill His promise to “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Does your physical body have any aches and pains, my friends? Are you enduring any of the consequences that come with growing old? Have you battled— or are you battling— any diseases like cancer or diabetes, heart problems or Alzheimer’s? Are you experiencing any “shortcomings” of any kind in your body or your mind? If so, then remember! Remember that the Triumph of the Saints includes the guarantee that one day Jesus will set you free from it all— forever!
While all of this is indeed included in the Triumph of the Saints, the most glorious part of all is found in those triumphant words: “And we will be with the Lord forever.” Just as we often refer to John 3:16 as the “Gospel in a Nutshell” so also these words are the Triumph of the Saints in a “nutshell.” “We will be with the Lord forever”! That means that we will live in His presence— forever! That means that we will see Him face-to-face and bring Him our worship and praise— forever! That means that we will enjoy the fullness of His blessings, the completeness of His protection and the greatness of His perfection— forever! Could there possibly be anything more triumphant than being “with the Lord forever”? Absolutely not!
Because we know what the Triumph of the Saints means, because we know what the Triumph of the Saints includes, Paul concludes our text for today by saying to us, “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” No matter what could possibly cause us to say, “What do we do now?” we have the ability to “encourage each other.” The word which is translated here as “encourage” is that amazing word “parakaleo”— which very literally means “to call to one’s side.” Whenever someone you know is going through a difficulty in their life, “call them to your side” and point them to the cross of Jesus Christ. (Pointing to the cross) “Encourage” them by assuring them of what Jesus has done for them! “Encourage” them by assuring them of what Jesus has promised to them! “Encourage” them by assuring them that through faith in the life, in the death and in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ the Triumph of the Saints is theirs!
To God be the glory!
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior. We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Dear Lord our God, as we gather together today to celebrate the Triumph of your Saints, we thank you for all that you have done for us and for all that you have given to us. Purely by your grace and purely by the power of your Holy Spirit we have been given the robe of righteousness that your Son won for us on the cross of Calvary’s hill, the robe that guarantees that we are indeed saints in your eyes.
We ask dear Lord that you would lead us to make faithful use of your Means of Grace so that our faith and trust in you will continue to grow strong and never grow dim. Forgive us for the times that we have not gathered around your holy Word and Sacrament.
As we remember our loved ones— the saints whom you have already called home to heaven— we thank you for the faithful witness that they gave while they were here on this earth. May the joy which they are now experiencing bring us joy. May the peace which you have granted to them bring us peace. And may the glory and perfection with which you have adorned them keep us focused on the blessings that you have stored up waiting for us in your eternal heavenly home.
All of this we ask in the Name of Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray:
C: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
M: O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
M: Brothers and sisters, go in peace. Live in harmony with one another. Serve the Lord with gladness.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.