10/31/99 All Saints Sunday, P21A
them that Overcome...
ll Saints Day was probably originally set aside as a day to honor the martyrs, who had died for their faith. The names included those such as Peter and Paul, and the Marys, plus many more names that were heroes of the establishment of Christianity.
If you were asked to name the Saints, who would you name? Caught unawares, football fans might include The New Orleans Saints. But, since its All Saints Day, we might name our own twenty-four who have been transferred from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant during these past twelve months.
My personal list might include names like: Pierce Harris, Bishop Cannon, my Dad, my little Me-Maw. The name of Jay Campbell would be on my list. He was the first of my high school buddies to die. Killed in an automobile accident at age sixteen, on his first date, making a left turn into the Dixie drive-in Movie. Two days later we packed the First Baptist Church in Asheboro. Mickey Strayhorn, Bobby Bulla, and I rode together to the funeral. Two years later Mickey was killed when he lost control of his Ď55 Mercury. Bobby Bulla died in the jungle of Vietnam. My list has grown too long over the years, but all are recalled as my personal list of saints. All are longed for and I will someday see them again.
Would a loving God place within us this awareness of immortality if it were not true?
Many of us here today are still going through that hard time of bereavement. Our pain is so fresh. Our hearts are healing, but still the pain is so real. Godís Holy Spirit has drawn up close to us as we have drawn closer to Him during our loss. We know that in time there will come an understanding and acceptance. Most of us have been through this before and we have learned that God will be faithful.
Deep within every beating heart is the hope for reunion with God and with those we love. God has provided a way. He sent his Son to become our bridge.
One of our families eight long camping trips, that eventually covered the contiguous forty-eight states, hugged the Atlantic Coast. We shot up through eastern Carolina into the tidewater area and caught the worldís longest bridge and tunnel across the Chesapeake Bay connecting Virginia and Maryland. It was an exhilarating trip to drive across the ocean. It was the only way across. God has provided a way across by way of the Cross.
I hear a story this week about a Russian couple who got on an airplane to visit relatives in Florida, but when they got off the plane they were met by snow and cold winds instead of sunny beaches. Upon investigation the airline discovered that their atheist, old-line Soviet, airline clerk had refused to place the Saint in front of St. Petersburg, Florida, and they ended up in Petersburg, Alaska. They had gotten on the wrong plane. But the good news is that they could change planes and still get to sunny Florida to visit their family.
Sometimes people get on the wrong plane to glory, but the good news is that we can change planes.
There have always been a multitude of voices claiming to know the way, but only the way that God has paved will lead home. In the early Church believers faced options. There were New Age gurus even back then calling folks to tread down the wrong road. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who maintained the purity of Christian doctrine, and experience, that we might today have the choice to follow in Godís way. Often times their choice to follow Christ came at great cost, it cost many of them their lives, but their reward was great in heaven.
You see, our names, yours and mine, also need to be on the list of Saints. Within the early Church the practice began to refer to those of us who are yet alive as Saints Militant; still waging the warfare against evil--- and those who had gone on to their reward as the Saints Victorious.
Thus, St. Paul addressed his letter to, The Saints at Corinth... or, the Saints at Thessalonica. They dated Sainthood from the experience of New Birth--- acceptance of Godís Way.
Christians have always been known as having two birth dates. Mine are 10/16/44 and 2/15/66. Just a couple of weeks ago I was driving on I-85 around Charlotte, on my birthday. I had the idea to exit and drive through downtown on Trade Street which dead ends at the main entrance to Presbyterian Hospital, where I had been born 55 years prior. The light was red and I sat in the car waiting on tears, or some feeling, and the only thought that I had was, What a dumb thing for a grown man to do!
The day we were born is important, especially to Master-Card when you call, or when Sears wants to verify your account. However, I would imagine that for many of us, the day that we recall as the new beginning of our Christian walk is of more importance to us. There will come a time in our lives when nothing much else matters but the confirmation that we are indeed on the right plane.
A scripture that leaped off the page for me in a time of crisis is from Jesusí Sermon on the Mount. It is His promise of heaven being at the end of lifeís journey for every believer:
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor