Last weekend we celebrated Reformation Day on October 31st. The children dressed up in the Halloween costumes, but Martin Luther came, dressed as a monk, and we had drama as well as preaching and singing and praying.
Even though we were one day away from All Saints Day, we made Sunday Reformation Day. "Here I Stand" was our theme. The radical freedom of the grace and love of God was our theme, that grace that allows us to say "Here I Stand" in the midst of great fear. After all, wasn't it Peter who said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." "Here I stand. I can do no other."
This weekend we will remember all the Saints, especially those who from their labors rest. I'm thinking about that already, trying to sift out all the things I want to say, thinking about the funerals I have had in the past year. I'm thinking of baby Thor who never lived outside his mother's womb, and I'm thinking of K, who died too soon of a terrible disease, but who caught all of our hearts with her trust in God. I'm thinking of those who we lost to cancer or Alzheimers or simply old age. For all the saints....
Last weekend on Sunday we pulled out all the stops, and had a rip-roaring Reformation celebration. At our small Saturday service, the mood was simpler. There were not costumes and no decorations. Though the theme was still "Here I Stand" I preached a sermon which referenced the story from Daniel of the three men in the fiery furnace. When I asked the small gathering who those three men were, they all knew: Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego.
At 5:00 p.m., they are small, but they are mighty.
I compared the three men who stood up to the powers that be, who stood up to idols and kings, to Martin Luther standing up to the religious and political leaders of his age. "Here I Stand." The three men said, whether we live or whether we die, we will worship the True God. Martin Luther said, "Whether I live or whether I die, I will place my life in God's hands. I will trust God's word of life, of love, of pardon."
I asked the small crowd on Saturday if they knew what happened to the three men in the fiery furnace.
"They were not burned," one man said.
And what did the observers see? They saw a fourth man, walking around in the fire, walking in the flames with them. Who could it be? Who could that be? It was our God, our gracious God who does not meet us half way, but comes all the way down to be with us, in the fire, in the fights, in the hard times.
After the service an elderly woman approached me. She has been fighting cancer off and on for several years.
She clasped my hand and looked me in the eye and said, "He's with me every day."
In the fire.
For all the saints....
This year, I want to remember the saints who have gone before us, and the saints who are among us. We do not often recognize them. But they still shine.