For St. Louis Cardinals fans, it would have been a lot more pleasant if they had known two months ago what happened two weeks ago, when the Cardinals won Game 7 of the World Series. The dark days of August wouldn’t have seemed so dark. The disappointing losses of September wouldn’t have been so disappointing. And Game 6 of the World Series would not have been the nail-biter that it was.

Not knowing the outcome is the way it usually is in this world. We live day-to-day, hour-to-hour, breath-to-breath, except for one huge exception. That exception we celebrate each November 1st.

The Exception

That exception to the rule of uncertainty in this life is the outcome of our Christian lives. Even though the home team makes plenty of errors, suffers countless injuries, and faces seemingly hopeless situations, the outcome is already known—this despite the fact that the other team can seem undefeatable, with a manager who is absolute ruthless, as Luther describes him:

The old evil foe now means deadly woe,
Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight,
On earth is not his equal.

The reality of their plight will strike home for many Christians on their deathbeds, when Martin Luther’s great funeral hymn will describe the valley of the shadow of death through which they must pass:

In the midst of earthly life, Snares of death surround us.
Who shall help us in the strife, Lest the foe confound us?

In the midst of death’s dark vale, Powers of hell o’ertake us.
Who will help when they assail, Who secure will make us?

In the midst of utter woe, When our sins oppress us,
Who will help when they assail, Where for grace to bless us?

The Substitute

Thankfully, the hymn is able to provide the answer to its own questions: “Thou only, Lord, Thou only!” Into this great contest God sent His Substitute, His Word, the embodiment of His grace. He provides the sacrifice, so successfully so that He comes all the way around to score. Again, Luther:

The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it.
He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife—
Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won.
The kingdom ours remaineth!

Christ our Substitute has picked up His whole team and carries them to victory and to the celebration to follow. The first lesson for the celebration of All Saints Day, from Revelation 7, speaks of the victors: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” And what a celebration will be theirs:

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The Stands

For the St. Louis Cardinals fans who were in the stands, it was quite the celebration that followed Game 7 of the World Series. To actually have been there to stand, to cheer, to experience the fireworks and confetti-showered speeches must have been awesome. An Internet offer in the days that followed provided opportunity for fans to locate themselves in the stands via an aerial view of Busch Stadium, an opportunity always to be able to say “I was there.”

The Revelation 7 picture of the great celebration of all saints provides that same opportunity to all God’s people as true world champions, already to see themselves present, already to be able to say “I am in that crowd.” All we can say is what we will all say when it is our time to celebrate the victory: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

+ Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig
Secretary of Synod