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Thankful saints

Author James Pope
Rev. James Pope, executive editor of Forward in Christ

November can be a cruel month. For people who live in the northern climes of our country, November is the bridge from the colorful landscape of fall to the cold reality of winter.

For Christians, November is a spiritually significant month. It begins with All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1. That day encourages us to pause and give thanks to the Lord for the faithful Christians who have gone before us.

We do not pray to Christians who are in heaven. Prayer is an act of worship, and praying to anyone other than God is idolatry. We do not pray that the Lord meet the needs of Christians in heaven. He is doing that perfectly. All Saints’ Day is a time to thank the Lord for fulfilling his promises by bringing Christians into his presence in heaven.

Later in November, we in the United States observe a national day of thanksgiving. While we do not need a governmental decree as a reason to assemble in our churches and give thanks to the Lord, we welcome it. The fourth Thursday of the month complements our mindset that every day is Thanksgiving Day.

Around the same time in November, the focus of our worship services is on Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day, the judgment of all people, and our glorious eternity with our triune God.

While we await the Lord’s return, we confess in the words from the Apostles’ Creed that we belong to the communion of saints. As Evan Chartrand’s article reminds us, we are saints in God’s eyes right now. Because of Jesus’ holy life and sacrificial death and because the Holy Spirit has connected us to Jesus in saving faith, our God views us as holy in his sight. People without any sins. Saints.

Putting these events together means that the month of November provides several reasons for us to view ourselves as thankful saints. The part about being saints is crystal clear. That is God’s declaration to us. The part about being thankful may need some work.

A childhood incident taught me a lifelong lesson about thankfulness. I had spent the weekend at a friend’s home. When it was time to go home, my mother picked me up. When I got into the car, she asked me how everything went, and I said, “Good.” We were about ready to pull away from the curb when she asked if I had thanked my friend and his parents for everything. A sheepish no was all I could muster. “Well, young man, you get out of this car and march right up there and thank them,” my mom instructed me. You have no idea how long of a walk that was from the car to the front door of my friend’s house! When my friend’s mother opened the door, I offered an embarrassed thank you and then started the long walk back to the car.

I am happy to say that incident scarred me for life in a good way. Since then, thanking people has come pretty easily. But I wish the same were true about expressing my gratitude to God.

Maybe you are like me and find Psalm 103:2 challenging: “Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” We can easily forget about God’s blessings. We can take them for granted. We can fail to thank the Lord for his goodness and grace.

But what do we do with those failings? Kick ourselves and wallow in guilt? No, we bring them to our Savior-God in repentance and faith, and he forgives us our sins. The Lord’s declaration of forgiveness reassures us again that we are saints in his eyes. And that provides yet another reason for us to be thankful. Thankful saints.

Author: James Pope
Volume 110, Number 11
Issue: November 2023

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  • James F. Pope

    James Pope brings a variety of experiences to his ministry at Forward in Christ, including serving parishes in Wisconsin and Florida; teaching history, theology, and staff ministry courses at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; serving as the “Light for our path” columnist for FIC from 2014–2019; and answering theological questions submitted to the WELS website from 2014–2021.

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This entry is part 12 of 17 in the series before-you-go

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