This article by Erica Tape originally appeared on the Concordia Publishing House Music website on October 30, 2018.
Sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus. Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone.
This Reformation teaching is especially poignant on All Saints’ Day, a day when many of us remember those who have gone before us in the faith. The solas teach us about the pure Gospel, and the Gospel gives us hope in the resurrection. As you rejoice in the Reformation, may you find comfort in the Gospel and share that comfort with others who may be mourning on All Saints’ Day.
“Our Vict’ry Has Been Won”
In the end of the fourth stanza of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (LSB 656/657), we sing about everlasting life:
And take they our life,
Goods, fame, child, and wife,
Though these all be gone,
Our vict’ry has been won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.
Our vict’ry has been won”! As the Reformers taught, we don’t have to burden ourselves with achieving a perfect life or having unwavering faith. These things don’t earn our victory over death and Satan. Jesus is the one who earned our victory. Because of Jesus, “the Kingdom ours remaineth.” We inherit God’s kingdom, which is salvation and everlasting life. All the saints who have gone before us inherit it too. They aren’t gone forever. We will see them again in the resurrection.
“A Mighty Chorus to Thy Praise”
“O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe” (LSB 666) is listed in the Lutheran Service Book index as a recommended hymn for Reformation Day. Let’s look at stanza four:
Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise
This hymn draws from Revelation 7:9–17, which speaks about the new creation. Revelation tells us that angels sing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (v. 10). As the Reformers reminded us, we don’t boast of salvation as something we ourselves earned. Jesus earned it for us through His death and resurrection. On All Saints’ Day, let us remember that all Christians who have passed away are part of this heavenly choir, eternally singing God’s praise. And we shall join that choir too.
“Defend Your Holy Church”
In “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 655), stanza two talks about Jesus defending us from all evil and giving us eternal life:
Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.
Throughout his life, Luther regularly felt attacked by Satan and experienced intense bouts of anxiety and depression. He wanted everyone to hear the Gospel so they didn’t have to doubt their salvation like he once did. When God “make[s] known” Himself to us through faith, we come under His protection from Satan. God defends His people. He defends His Church. We can rest knowing that our departed loved ones are safe in God’s arms too. They are with Him singing His praise eternally.
“Come unto Me!”
In stanza seven of “Salvation unto Us Has Come” (LSB 555), we are reminded who the source and giver of our faith is:
Let me not doubt, but truly see
Your Word cannot be broken;
Your call rings out, “Come unto Me!”
No falsehood have You spoken.
Baptized into Your precious name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.
Here is the Gospel pure and true, which the Reformers so loudly proclaimed! The Holy Spirit creates and sustains our faith as He works through water and the Word. When we are baptized, God calls us to Himself: “Come unto Me!” He keeps us close throughout our life; whenever we stray, His Holy Spirit draws us back to Him: “Come unto Me!” And when our time on earth ends, God calls us to Himself once more: “Come unto Me!” As we remember the departed saints, we trust that God called them to Himself as their time on earth ended. They are safe in His arms; we do not need to fear for them.
If you or anyone in your congregation finds All Saints’ Day a difficult day to get through, point them to these hymns. Point them to the Gospel. Remind them that God wraps His arms around those who mourn, and that He eternally watches over us and those who have passed on.
Listen to Our Reformation Playlist
As we celebrate Reformation Day, enjoy recordings of Reformation-themed pieces and meditate on the comfort they can bring you on All Saints’ Day.