All Saints’ Observed – November 6th, 2011 – Matthew 5:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
This sinful world loves to pull the wool over our eyes. The world and our sinful flesh love to deceive us, to hide from us the true wonders and blessings that we have. It’s as though in our lives in this world we are always wearing mud splattered goggles, and we see merely grime and filth and not the landscape beyond. Today, in our Gospel Lesson, Christ Jesus clears our vision, speaks to what true reality is. We hear this lesson today, on All Saints’ Day, because while we struggle to understand these truths that Christ teaches us, our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us now see these truths clearly before God – we feebly struggle, they in glory shine – as the hymn would put it. But let us turn away from the grime of the world and our sinful flesh and give ear to our Lord’s teaching, so that we might be strengthened and encouraged.
“Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.’” And thus our Lord begins the Beatitudes, thus He begins what is known as the sermon on the mount. And our lesson for today, the Beatitudes, is one of contrast. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Why would we ever think that someone who is poor in spirit, someone who is downtrodden, worn out, someone who sees difficulty in this life is blessed? Because when you realize the troubles and sorrows of this world, you can then rejoice in the true gifts of God and receive them with gladness. How many people are content to wallow like pigs in this mud sty of a world? How many are content to blow off the things of God and live like animals, simple rooting after their base wants and desires. But to you who are poor in spirit, who recognize the lack of what this sinful world offers, Christ Jesus promises you the Kingdom of Heaven. For you do not realize that Christ Jesus Himself was poor in Spirit – do you not know that even as you lament this life, Christ was moved to bloody tears in the Garden? He knows what a mess this world is, and for your sake, to rescue you and give you the kingdom of heaven, He came down into this world and went to the Cross so that you might live. You are blessed, even if the world doesn’t think so.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The world doesn’t think those who mourn are blessed. In fact, the world hates the idea of mourning – let’s not have a funeral, let’s have a “celebration of life.” It’s pretty lousy to celebrate a life that you no longer get to share. And so we mourn. We don’t pretend this world is all sunshine and daisies. And we even mourn things before we die. Whenever we lose something, we mourn it. You don’t have the strength you used to – and you mourn. Opportunities are lost, friends and loved ones move away – and you mourn. But to you who mourn, Christ Jesus promises you comfort. For do you not realize that Christ Himself mourned the loss of Adam, of Eve, of this world to sin – and so He came to be your Savior, to restore you? Indeed, He promised you His Holy Spirit – and what does Jesus call the Holy Spirit? He calls Him the Comforter – because when the loss stands before you, the Holy Spirit reminds you of the promises of God, God’s promise to you that you will live, that you will be restored, that every tear will be wiped away from your eyes. You are blessed, even if the world doesn’t think so.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The world doesn’t think the meek are blessed. In fact, the world despises the meek. The world says that if you want something, you’ve got to grab it for yourself. The world says if you want something done right, be bold and arrogant and do it yourself. The world calls for you to loudly protest and demand change with threats and accusations. But what of you, when you see your own frailty? When you realize you just don’t seem to have that strength or vigor – or more to the point, when you don’t want to have to bowl over the blow hards and the rabble rousers – when you just want to be. The world says that you will then get the short end of the sick. But to you who are meek, Christ Jesus says that you will inherit the earth. For do you not realize that Christ Himself was meek, that when He was reviled He did not revile in return, that even He prayed that the cup of suffering might be taken away? Yet the Father raised Him on the third day as the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and you who are baptized, who were meekly united to Him, you shall inherit it as well. You are blessed, even if the world doesn’t think so.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The world thinks striving after righteousness, after forgiveness and true justice is folly. The world loves revenge, but lying calls it justice. The world loves “mercy” as long as you get plenty of praised heaped upon you for showing it. But actually striving after doing what is right, actually striving after truly loving your neighbor – that’s rare. And more over, confessing your sins, admitting that you have not been as righteous as you ought – that is never done. The world hates confessing its sin – in the world it’s never my fault, or what I do isn’t really that bad, or if it is, let the cover ups begin. But you know that all this palaver by the world is false – for you struggle to do what is right, and you see your on sin and you long for it to be forgiven. This can be painful and harsh, but to you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Christ Jesus says that you will be satisfied. He is your righteousness. Whereas you might lack, Christ by no means lacks for righteousness. He hungered for it, strove to do it, and He did – and He gives His righteousness to you, declares you to be righteous for His sake. He takes up your sin and gives you His holiness in its place. He declares you to be His temple, He gives you new life, He makes you His workmanship so that you do bear good fruit. We do not see this perfectly yet, but it is the truth. You are blessed, even if the world doesn’t think so.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Mercy is looked down upon in the world. Even as it is touted loudly – it’s not really praised. If you show mercy to a person in need, you’re a mark, a sucker. If you show mercy in a business deal, well, that’s no way to get ahead. If you show mercy to a friend, well, you’re just a doormat who is going to get walked all over. The world says that you need to be hard and cold to survive and mocks true mercy and compassion that simply gives. But you know the importance of mercy, for you know that you yourself need mercy. You know your own lack, indeed even your own lack of mercy, and so your neighbor’s lack brings forth sympathy. You who desire mercy to rule the day, Christ Jesus says that it shall, and you shall receive it in full. Or do you not know that Christ Jesus desires mercy? Through the Psalmist He declares that He desires mercy and not merely sacrifice. His desire for mercy was what drove Christ to become Man, to win salvation – His desire is to shower mercy upon you, and so He does. Free grace and mercy is yours from Him. You are blessed as you strive for mercy, even if the world doesn’t think so.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The world disdains purity. It’s true. The world loves filth and whatever coarse pleasures it can get its dirty little fingers on. But what of you? It seems as we move on that these beatitudes apply less and less to us. Yes, I am battered and poor in spirit. Yes I mourn! Um… I suppose I’m meek. Um… I guess I hunger and thirst for righteousness. I’m sort of merciful… sometimes. Now pure in heart – what about it? There is a movement here, and shift in the beatitudes, where we see not just what the world does to us, but our own sinful nature slide more and more to the foreground. How often are we pure in heart? I find that my motives are almost always mixed, that I am at war with myself, the good that I wish to do I don’t do, the wicked that I do not want to do is what I end up doing. Pure in heart? Not overly. Which is why we cry out with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew right spirit within me.” Why? So that God does not cast us from His presence – so that we may see God. Do you not realize that while you are not pure in heart, Christ Jesus creates in you a clean heart, by the power of His Word He forgives you and makes your heart to be pure? This is His great promise to you, this is the direction in which your faith and life grow. And this, this can be so hard to see, for our sinful flesh is so strong. But because Christ Jesus is your Lord, He will continue to purify your heart, and He will bring you unto Himself, and so you are blessed, even if the world and your own flesh tell you that you aren’t.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Oh, how often we don’t make peace! How often we want to mix it up, bring vengeance on those who wrong us, how often we let ourselves be shaped by our anger! But Christ Jesus is a peacemaker – He says “Peace be with you” – He breaks into your life and declares His forgiveness to you – He washes you in the waters of holy baptism and says, “You are forgiven, you are a child of God, and I will work in you and through you and I will make you to be a peacemaker – I will make you to be one who speaks my word of Forgiveness.” And so often we do not see this in our own lives – so often we do not strive to make peace – and so Christ Jesus says to us again, “Peace be with you, I forgive you”. He fills us with His forgiveness so it cannot help but overflow out of us and onto our neighbors. And you are blessed, because Christ Jesus in the One who makes peace with you, and His Word beats down your sinful flesh, and He makes you to be His own peacemaker, for you are His brother, His sister, you are a baptized child of God, and by His Word He shapes you into a new creation – even as we struggle to see this. You are blessed, even though the world and your flesh tell you otherwise.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Christ Jesus has an impact upon your life – He comes in, He breaks through your sinful exterior, with His law He crushes your sin, and with His forgiveness He makes you to be His new creation. You’re not totally perfect yet – but even the beginnings of this new, good work He has begun in you will not be tolerated by the world. Indeed, our Lord tells you plainly that the world which hates Him will hate you now. You will be persecuted because you strive after righteousness, because you listen to the Word of God. People will do anything in their power to hurt and harm you, to sully your reputation, for they hate the God who has redeemed you, they despise the God who has forgiven and restored you, and they revile the love of God that God shows through you. This is the final, the last ditch effort the world makes to blind you to Christ, and your old sinful flesh, as it is being drowned and destroyed by Christ will call out to you to listen to the world, to give up, to abandon Christ. Ignore this temptation – and see this all for what it real is. You belong to Christ, and because of Him your reward is great. The world can bray like a donkey, your flesh can throw its tantrums, but these do not change the truth – you look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. You look to the time when all of God’s saints from every age and every place will be gathered around the throne with joy everlasting. And this is yours, for Christ has given it to you, even gives it to you today in His Word of forgiveness and in His Supper. Cling to Him, cling to His Word of life that gives you life now, that gives you the life everlasting. You are one of His saints, for you have been redeemed by Christ the Crucified, and your Risen Lord and Savior has promised you His own life as well, and the world cannot change that fact. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +