Sunday, November 11, 2007

Last Week's All Saint's Sermon

Better Nate than Lever. . .

All Saints’ Day – November 4th, 2007 – Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

When you look at the world, what do you see? Do you see the end all, be all of life? Do you see money to be made, people to be influenced? Do you see all your hopes and dreams and desires there in the world? Christ Jesus our Lord, when He is brought before Pilate, says, “My kingdom is not of this world. Christ sees a fallen world with fallen people who must be redeemed. Christ looks forward to a new heavens and a new earth – for He sees through the glittering lights of this life and sees the hurt, the pain, the sin that infests this world. So on this All Saints’ Day, on this day where we give thanks for those of our congregation who have successfully endured the trials of this life, we are right to, with Christ, remember the challenges we will face on this earth, and also look forward to the joys which we shall receive. We shall do this today by looking at what our Lord teaches us in the Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. What do you see when you look at the world? Do you see a world that is everything that it should be, or a place that is lacking? Indeed, when we as Christians look at the world, we see a place that can be cold and cruel, and where the love of God is altogether lacking. Indeed, we even see this in ourselves, for we know that the same sin which infests the world infests us – that we are miserable sinners. We know that we are poor in Spirit – that we sin and are not as we ought to be – that in this life we will struggle – that it won’t just be those bad, bad people out there who do us harm, but often our own sin will do us harm. By faith, we see that we are poor in Spirit, and we lament it, we cry out to God “Renew a right Spirit within me.” Yours, oh repentant sinner, is the kingdom of God – yours now, seen dimly – but soon seen face to face, soon seen face to face with all the saints. This is what we look forward to – seeing fully what we have now – joining in the eternal and everlasting feast in the Kingdom of God of which we have a taste of in the Supper. Rejoice, oh repentant sinner, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. What do you see when you look at the world? When I wake in the morning, I look at the news on my computer, and I am confronted with new death tolls every day. Indeed, when you get your paper, how many of you turn to the obituary, just to see if someone you know is dead? In this world we are surrounded not only by sin, but by its wages as well – and we humans, whom the Holy Spirit was breathed into at Creation, by sin have lost that life and chosen the way of death. You, dear friends who know what death is and what it means, you shall be comforted. No, not by vain comforts, but by death undone – for Christ Jesus our Lord strode into death and burst its chains on the third day, rising from the tomb – and so on the last day shall all – and on that day, when all of God’s saints are gathered together before Him in their resurrected and perfected body, there shall be no more mourning, for the Lord will have wiped away every tear from our eyes. Rejoice, you who have life in Christ, for you shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. What do you see when you look at the world? A dog-eat dog place, where the poor are stepped upon by the powerful, where you must struggle to be the early bird to get your daily worm, where you must fight and strive for everything, no matter who you step upon. That is the way of the world – and it is wrong. We are told that in this world we are to look out for number 1 – look out for ourselves. Christ tells us to love our neighbor – and so, as Christians, we are meek. We do not rush to the prize ourselves, we do not fight and tear at one another as others do – or when we slip and fail and fall into the fray, we feel guilty about it, and repent it, for we know we are not to be like that. You, who the world views as meek and weak, you shall inherit the earth. No, not this sinful, torn one. This is no promise for wealth for a Christian business plan – but you shall, shall, receive the new heavens and the new earth, that our Lord is preparing – that indeed, in His kingdom we will see truly and fully that His gifts are given to us out of His goodness, not wrested from our neighbor – not pulled from the earth by the sweat of our brow as in this sinful world. Rejoice, you who forgo the baubles of this world for the love of your neighbor – for yours is a mansion prepared by Christ.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. What do you see when you look at the world? One injustice after another? Innocents slaughtered while wicked men prosper? Murder and theft unpunished? This indeed, but also, what of yourself? Do you see your own lack of righteousness, do you at night think of the unkind words you have said during the day, see the lack of righteousness in what you have done and what you have left undone? Do you see you own life and say, “I ought to be a better Christian, I know better”? You, who hungers for a righteousness that you know you don’t have, you shall be satisfied. This is what Christ gives you, for He is righteous, and He is righteous in abundance. Ponder this, my friends – all that we see Christ do, all His righteous and mighty works – these He does for you, that He might stand before the Father and say, “Behold, while they lack righteousness, I am righteous enough for every man, woman, and child here.” And He gives that righteousness to you. The Host arrayed in White – those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb, who have been cleansed from sin and given Christ’s righteousness. In heaven, we see this in full – here a down-payment given at your Baptism. It is the custom in many places, indeed, most of the world, for a child to be baptize while wearing a white gown, a white robe – for in the Waters of Holy Baptism Christ’s own righteousness, the righteousness you wear and live in – is given to you – and although the trials and sins of this life obscure it, this is what you will see perfectly in heaven. Rejoice, you who hunger to be righteous, for Christ will see you perfected in heaven.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. What do you see when you look at the world? A world full of wrongs, a world full of times when you are wronged? You only have to show mercy when someone does you wrong, you only need to be merciful when someone hurts you. In this world – we are told to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful. And so, we struggle and strive to show mercy, to look past the wrongs done us – for we remember the wrongs we have done – we remember that we too have cried out for mercy. You who recognize the need for mercy and forgiveness in this life, you shall receive mercy. God comes to us not as the angry judge seeking to condemn, but the Lord of life who seeks pardon and peace for the penitent guilty, the God who redeems, buys back His children. God’s mercy is limitless – there is no sin too large for Him – nothing that is done by man is larger or more powerful than when Christ Jesus, True God and True Man goes to the Cross and thereupon shouts to heaven, “Father, forgive them!” And so there is mercy enough for you. Rejoice, you who strive to show God’s mercy, for He indeed shows it to you.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. What do you see when you look at the world? Have you ever seen a pure heart, someone without mixed motives? We don’t see pure hearts – rather, we know that out of the heart proceeds all sorts of wickedness. And we not only see this in our neighbor, but we see it in ourselves. And so, we cry out to God, create in me a clean heart, a pure heart, one that is what it should be and not this rotten, sin infested thing I have now. You, who desire a clean, pure heart, you shall see God. When God deals with “purity”, making things pure – He does so to bring them into His presence. As God is pure, so too He makes His children whom He loves to be pure by purging them of their sin, by washing it away. That’s why He forgives us over and over, why His Word of forgiveness is always to be preached here – and why when we leave this sinful body behind we know that we will see Him face to face, that we shall be in His presence always – and indeed, at the resurrection of the dead on the last day we will literally have a pure heart. Rejoice, you who desire God’s pureness for your heart, for you shall be before the throne of God forever.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. What do you see when you look at the world? Do you see peace? We see wars and rumors of war – we see cease-fires where people take a brief respite from their combat, we see families not speaking to each other and thinking that’s at least better than shouting at one another. We see hurt feelings and angry acceptance of lousy situations. But this is not peace. No, for what peace is, we look to John 20 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you – receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven. That is what we know peace to be – not a pause in the battle, not just all getting along, but forgiveness. Forgiveness makes peace. You, who forgive each other as God has forgiven you, you shall be called sons of God. A child grows, a child learns and matures – and in this life we are always growing, growing to be more like God. And so we are always, as His children, learning to be more like Him, learning to forgive more and more. In this life, in this world, we will always be learning more. Now hear again John from his first epistle – Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He [that is, Jesus] appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies Himself as He is pure. Rejoice, you who love forgiveness, for just as Christ is raised from the dead and holy, you shall be like Him, and indeed called one of God’s sons as well.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. What do you see when you look at the world? Do you see the wagging tongues, the people who hate, who revile, who prophesy your downfall and doom? Do you see the people who despise you because you cling to Christ? Jesus knows this – it is no surprise to Him. The prophets were hounded to death. Our Lord was crucified. The apostles slaughtered. Persecutions occur all the time – some only amounting to social pressure and disdain, like what we face here, and in some places leading to death. Rejoice and be glad – because if the world hates you it is only because it knows that like Christ Jesus, this isn’t your kingdom, this isn’t your hope. Your hope is in heaven – your desire is to endure through this life and join in with the Watchers and the Holy Ones, to join all the saints at rest in heaven who wear the crown of life given them by Christ. This is what Christ has promised you – for He has won the battle so that He might give it to you, that He might claim you as His own for all eternity.

Blessed are you, dear friends, for Christ Jesus is your God, your light and your life, indeed, He is your righteousness and salvation – both in this life where you struggle against sin, and in the next life when all this chaff and waste of sinfulness has been done away with, and we simply see Him face to face, and do nothing other than rejoice in His love for eternity. Amen.

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