All Saints’ Day – November 2nd, 2014 – Matthew 5:1-12
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Sometimes we as people can be very near sighted. And I’m not talking about the fact that I am wearing contact lenses that I’m basically blind without – I’m talking about our perspective. We can get so focused upon ourselves, our immediate surroundings, that we don’t see the big picture – we can miss the forest for the trees, as it were. All Saints’ Day is a day where we are brought back to the larger picture – where we are made to remember that Christ’s Church is more than just this place right now. The Church of God consists not just of we few who bothered to show up on a Sunday morning – but it is the full company of heaven, the countless throng from so many nations. It is not just us here – but the Church is full of countless millions of Christians all around the globe. It is not just us here – but the Church is made up of saints from all times, those who lived hundreds, thousands of years ago on earth yet live in the presence of God right now – and even those who are yet to be born and brought to faith before the Lord returns. Christ’s Church, His Body, spans all times and all places, and as we are united to Him, we are united together, bound up in His Holy Communion, in a way we so seldom pause to comprehend. All Saints’ Day is a day that we do this – where we remember all the saints – many times we will focus more so on those from our own congregation who have recently been given rest from their earthly labors and now see God face to face, but it is truly a day where we see just beyond the here and the now.
We must remember, dear friends, that the Church is not defined by us. The Church is not created by us, it is not made by us, it is not run by us. The Church is the Body of Christ – and yet, we can be so bogged down in the every day concerns of life, of bodies not in pews and bills to pay that we can forget this. We don’t define the Church. Rather, the Church is the Body of Christ, is those who are gathered around Christ’s Word, are washed into Christ’s Body by Baptism, who receive Christ’s Body for forgiveness and strength – and also those in eternity who are with Christ now, the Lamb of God, face to face. The Church is those who struggle now on earth, and those who have received heavenly joy. So, what does this look like – our Lord tells us.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Christians are going to be poor in Spirit. Christians in this world will see so much sin, and violence, and filth that our spirits must ache, must feel poor and lowly. Consider this past week. How much pain, how much disappointment did you see? How much wickedness and sin did you see? In a sinful world, this is what we see, and rather than delighting in this like the world does – it causes us sorrow. It caused Christ Jesus sorrow as well, and for this reason He came down from heaven to win salvation – He Himself bore up our infirmities – so that He might win for us by His death and resurrection –the kingdom of God. Because Christ came and was poor in spirit, those who are of the Church have the kingdom of God. The Saints who have gone before us, they see this now fully. We, we have this in part, but then we too shall have it full.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. There’s much to mourn in life – not just death as a whole, but all the little, bitty bits of death we experience before hand. How many of us have dying ears, dying eyes? How many of us have dying friends, dying relationships, dying hopes and dreams? There is much to mourn. And what does Christ Jesus do – He comes down from heaven, and He mourns, He encounters all the loss and suffering that we do – even tastes death. And why? So that He might rise, and that in rising He might bring us with Him, so that He might comfort us with heaven the resurrection and life everlasting. The Saints in heaven, they see, they receive the comfort of our crucified and risen Lord right now – they behold Him in His risen Body upon the Throne and they therefore know that on the Last Day they too shall rise.
Are you seeing the pattern here? The beatitudes aren’t just pretty words – they describe the Church and Christ. The first part describes what we see here in this sinful world – the second part describes what all the saints who from their labors rest now see – and all of this, whether we are the Church militant here on earth or the Church triumphant is ours because of Christ – because He is the poor Man who inherits the kingdom of God, but makes it ours – because He is the One who mourns His fallen creation but is comforted by redeeming it. The Church has its existence in Christ. Let’s see more.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. As Christians, we are called to be meek. When wronged, we are not to wrong in return. We are not to focus upon ourselves, but our focus is to be upon our neighbor. And in this, we simply follow Christ. Christ Jesus is the Meek One, who went quietly and meekly to the Cross to win us forgiveness for those times when we are not meek, when we are brash and sinful. But our Lord was meek, and He has inherited the Earth, and He has promised this, and not only this, but a new heaven and a new earth to all His Saints.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Does this not describe us here? We hunger, we thirst for righteousness. We confessed our sin, we said we lack, we need righteousness, we need forgiveness, we don’t have enough of it on our own. Christ saw the world’s lack, and so He became Man, became our righteousness for us – lived perfectly in our stead and said to us, “Here, I long for you to be righteous, take My righteousness.” Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness – Our Lord says, “Take and eat, this is My Body – take and drink, this is My Blood.” And this is the same feast that the Saints in Heaven are celebrating eternally – they are most well and truly satisfied by our Lord.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. We do not show mercy like we ought – often we are mean and cruel and self-centered. But Christ our Lord is merciful, and He has called us unto Himself, has bound us to Himself in the waters of Holy Baptism, applied His Name to us, and He gladly gives us mercy for His Name’s sake. We see this now, the service itself focuses us upon mercy over and over – but we also often forget. We struggle with sin, we wander – our Lord must call us back over and over again. But consider the Saints of heaven – they see this mercy, they have received it in full, never to wander, never to stray. The Love of Christ has been made complete in them.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. In and of ourselves, our hearts are not pure. So what do we do? We cry out to God – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me! And Christ our Lord does – He gives us forgiveness over and over all our days, until our last day, and then what? The Saints see God face to face, they dwell with Him. God desires you to dwell with Him as well, and so He forgives you, makes your heart to be pure.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Christ Jesus is the true peacemaker – He made peace when He went to the Cross, when He suffered and died – when He cried out, “It is finished.” And it was finished – our war, our rebellion with God, begun by Adam and Eve in the garden – our Lord put an end to it – He made peace. That was 2000 years ago. But then, in the here and now, in our own lifetime, Christ took water and His Word, and He baptized you into His own death, made you to be a partaker in all that He has done – you share in Christ’s death, you share in His peace which He won for you, you speak this same peace out, and now God is your Father. The Saints see this clearly.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God. To be a Christian is to struggle, is to be reviled and thought poorly of, to be mocked by the world, indeed, in many places, to be a Christian is a death sentence, to mean the government, the angry mob, will come for you. Just as the world did to Christ, so too happens to Christians today. But what does our Lord teach us – yes, Christ suffered, but His in the Kingdom of God. Likewise, should we suffer – so be it – the Kingdom ours remaineth. We have this promise – the Saints in heaven see this promise in full now.
And finally, 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. You are part of the Church, and despite what we like to tell ourselves – the Church is never popular, we never live in a nice, clean world. This sinful, fallen place is always sinful and fallen, and if you strive to follow Christ, you will be mocked and reviled. For so the prophets were treated, for so was our Lord Himself treated. But what is the reality – the reality of eternity that stretches beyond the here and now, beyond our present suffering? That being united to Christ, we will face difficulties in this life, but Christ will see us through them until we too are brought unto the joys of heaven and life everlasting – joys far surpassing what we see here.
Do you see, dear Christian, the larger picture? Do you see from the Words of our Lord that you are part of something much greater than just your own little life? Your Lord Jesus Christ has had compassion upon you, beheld you in your sinfulness, in your struggles in this life, and He has had compassion to you. And He has gathered you by His Word, joined you to Himself through the gift of Holy Baptism, and He has said, “I will suffer all for your sake, so that you might have everything for My sake.” He has promised us new heavens and a new earth – told us that this fallen one shall pass away and we will get that which is better. Right now though, we are here on earth – we don’t see this fully. The Saints in heaven do, they behold Christ face to face right now. And our Lord knows that we left on earth don’t see this perfectly, that we only see dimly and in a mirror now, not yet face to face. So He calls us here to His Church, invites us to join in for a few moments with the song of Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven – gives us His own Body and Blood, so that we might be sustained until the day when we do get to see Him face to face. Christ Jesus blesses all His saints, and thanks be to God, by the power of His forgiving Word and the wonders of His blessed Sacraments – you are numbered with those saints. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +