Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Saints' Sermon

All Saints’ Day (Observed) – November 4th, 2012 – Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
          One of the frustrating things about being a fallen, sinful, human being, is that our awareness of the world, of reality is flawed.  As we are sinful folk, everything we see or experience is distorted, we are so often blinded by our own selfish and sinful wants and desires, distracted by the pleasures of the world, or even just down right terrified by Satan that we just don’t see or understand what God is doing for us and through us.  And that is the contrast that we see this All Saints’ Day in our Gospel text.  All Saints’ Day is an old, old holiday where we give thanks to God for all those faithful Christians who have gone before us, who are with the Lord now, who are no longer struggling with sin but rather simply delight and rejoice in His presence, awaiting the resurrection of the dead on the last day and the life of the world to come.  What we see dimly and distorted, they see clearly and face to face.  And so, to highlight that difference, we have our Gospel text – the Beatitudes.  The beginning of the sermon on the mount – the beginning of the teaching where Christ tells us how to see things, see things as they really are, rather than the distortions we are used to.

Because the simple truth is this.  Oftentimes, in this fallen world, we sinful human beings wouldn’t recognize a blessing from God if it smacked us in the face.  When we think of blessings, we think with our stomachs, with our pocketbooks, with our egos – wanting more and more and more of stuff now.  No, listen to Christ telling us what reality truly is.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  So, you who are worn down, are poor in spirit, who look around your life and see… too many things just not the way you hoped they would be.  You are blessed.  What?  How?  How is that a blessing?  Again, at first blush when our sinful flesh hears these words of Christ we think they are insane!  But they are truth.  Why are we often poor in spirit?  Because we are sinners in a sinful, fallen world, where things don’t go right, and all the glitz and glamour of the world can’t change that truth.  And yet, even as we sit here in a fallen world, what happens?  God does not abandon us – and rather He sends His son, Christ Jesus, our God and King, to win us salvation.  And here is the truth: it is when we realize that we need more than just this world can offer, when the weight of the Law and death and decay come bearing down on us, that is when we are ready to hear the Gospel, and understand how blessed we are – for Christ Jesus had come to die and rise for the poor in Spirit – indeed, He pours out His Spirit upon us, and have promised us so much beyond this world.  Would that we always see this clearly!

          Or we have, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Again, something that makes no sense at first blush.  Why are mourners blessed – that wasn’t the blessing we wanted, we wanted the miraculous recovery, we wanted everything fixed, and it wasn’t, and there’s death, and we mourn.  How is that “blessed”?  It’s blessed because the truth is, in this sinful, fallen world, there is death.  Just is.  Even Jesus, when He came into this world died.  And by rights, that should be all she wrote – but Christ Jesus has been raised from the dead, and because He has risen, so to will we all.  Rather than just a temporary fix, rather than just a few more scant years and then on to nothingness, Christ Jesus has said, “I have come, and with my death and resurrection I have destroyed death – yes, you mourn now, and rightfully so – I even mourned when Lazarus died – but the Last Day is coming, the dead are all going to rise, and you will be comforted, comforted by the resurrection of the dead – and so you are blessed, even in the middle of all your mourning.”  Would that we always see this clearly!

          Jesus continues.  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  I myself, my own sinful flesh, I hate feeling meek.  I hate wanting to crawl away and hide, I hate my insecurities.  There are so many times I wish I was bold and took the bull by the horns and made this world what I wanted it to be.  How in the world are the meek blessed, the meek get stepped on by the proud and mighty?  But the thing is – all these dreams of earthly power – they are just lies, they are temporary and fleeting.  You can’t take it with you, and all the backbiting and control games and things like that – it wins you nothing.  And seeing this, Christ says to the meek, “Do you feel your own weakness, do you despair of your own strength?  Fear not, you are blessed – you may be weak and meek, but I am strong, and I am strong for you – and while this earth is falling apart around you, I have overcome the world, and there shall be new heavens and a new earth, and I give them to you – they are part of the Will and Testament you receive in My Blood.  Creation will be fixed, and it will be yours, not because of your strength, but because I give it to you – you in your meekness are blessed by me.”  We all learned this as children when we learned to sing Jesus Loves Me – would that we always see this clearly!

          And then Jesus continues on.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  How is it blessed to hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Well, what does this mean?  It means when you look at your own life and see that you aren’t righteous, when you see your sin, your lack, when you realize “I am not the person I ought to be, I am a sinner” – well, then you are blessed.  How?  How can I be blessed when I see nothing but sin and my lack?  Because Christ Jesus has come, and whereas you lack righteousness, He abounds in it, and He gives it to you, all the righteousness you could ever need.  You are His own, you are a child of God, you are a saint.  Right now, you are holy and righteous in God’s sight, forgiven and redeemed on account of Christ.  And it’s true, in this life, we don’t always see that, for we still sin and fall and fail – but because of Christ and His righteousness, you are righteous and holy as well.  The time is coming, in the life of the world to come, when you will see this clearly.

          “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  This is always the point of transition when reading through the beatitudes. The ones before this – oh yeah, they describe me as a sinful fallen man.  But here, we get a shift.  Oh, it’s true, the world disdains mercy, views it as a sign of weakness.  If you show someone mercy, they probably will take advantage of you – give someone poor a little cash and they might blow it on booze or cigarettes, help someone out and they were probably just lazy and using you.  The world disdains mercy – and so often, so do we.  So often we are not merciful – but rather we are judgmental and harsh and cold and full of condemnation.  And when we see this, when we realize it, when we see our lack of mercy, we cry out with all the poor faithful sinners “God be merciful to me a sinner.”  And the temptation we can have, the despair that can come is to suddenly make this about our works – or our lack there of.  I don’t show mercy, I am lost.  No – for Christ is merciful, and with His Law He focuses your eyes upon mercy, and He gives you mercy.  He shifts and shapes and focuses your eyes upon mercy, so that you remember that mercy and forgiveness is how we live, how we endure in this world, and indeed, how God makes others to live through the mercy and forgiveness that He shows to them through us.  Our lives are always centered around mercy – would that we would see this clearly!

          “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  Pure in heart – hardly!  I see my sin, I see my lack, I see anything but purity when I look at my heart.  But again, we must remember something – think on Isaiah, chapter 6, when Isaiah is in the temple and He sees God, and he knows that he will die for he is a man of unclean lips – for the thoughts of the heart spring forth from the lips.  And the Angel brings the burning coal and says, “this has touched your lips, your sin is atoned for.”  Do you not realize that when God forgives you, He is making your heart pure?  Over and against sin, His Word of life comes to you, creates in you a clean heart – and why?  For you will see God.  Life is not just this time of fear and isolation and separation we see in this world – No – God will not be separated from man, will not be separated from you, will not sit and let you be cast from His presence, so He has sent His Son to forgive you, to purify your heart, so that you will be with God for all eternity.  In Christ, you are the pure in heart, and you will see God.  Would that we would see this clearly!

          Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  And again, it all drives back to forgiveness.  That’s what peace is – it is the forgiveness of sin.  It is seeing anger and pain and sorrow, and saying enough of it – I forgive you all of your sins.  And that is what Christ has done for you – that is what the Son of God came to do – to speak peace to you, to forgive you your sins, and indeed, to remind you of this forgiveness, to make you His agent of peace – for you too are baptized, you too proclaim God’s forgiveness for you are God’s child.  And the thing is, your sinful flesh keeps wanting to make you forget that, forget who you are: the forgiven forgivers of God.  And so once again, Christ bursts into your life and says “You are forgiven, peace be with you.  Indeed, peace will be with you, all of your days, and you will have a place in My Father’s house, not as a slave, but as My brother, My sister.”  Would that we see this clearly!

          Two more, and they are tied together.  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  And who are these ones who are persecuted?  You are.  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account.”  It’s the last gasp of the world, the last attempt of Satan to distract you away from Christ Jesus and His righteousness.  Hatred.  Contempt.  Disdain.  These will be heaped upon you.  Just the way things are going to work in this world, because this sinful dying world hates anyone who has life in Christ.  And you will be kicked in the teeth.  What does that mean, what does the disdain of the world really mean?  “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Rejoice and be glad – for heaven is yours.  Others before you have been there and done that – the prophets, the Apostles, the saints who have gone on before us, [Derald, Jeanette, Ruth/ Georgia, Mona, Dorothy], all the other ones we shared the faith together with – they dwell with God now, and so by His grace shall you.  Rejoice and be glad, for the terrors of this world’s ranting must pass away and yield to God and His salvation.  Would that we see this clearly!

          Our lives as Christians in a fallen world are often ones that are confusing and sad and full of sorrow.  But we are not like those with no nope – our Lord has given us ears to hear and eyes to see.  We know that while sin and death and Satan fight against us, Christ Jesus is strong for us, and He gives us the salvation, He focuses our eyes upon Himself again and again, so that we might see that we are truly blessed with real and lasting blessings in Him.  God grant that our eyes be ever more fixed upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith – In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen.

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