Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Saints Sermon 2008

All Saints’ Day (Observed) – November 2nd, 2008 – Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of Christ Jesus our Coming Lord +
How do you see this life? When you look out, when you consider the events of your life, your interactions with people, your pains, your joys – how do you view them? Do you view them as the world does – simply by flocking to what feels good and avoiding what feels bad? Or do you view them as one of God’s saints, view them with eyes shaped by Christ? Today we are observing All Saints’ Day, a day where we remember those who have died in the faith in the past year – but not only them – but all Saints – including you and me today. What we struggle to see because of sin, because of fear, because of concerns in this world – they now see face to face. Today, as we remember those who are now with our Lord in heaven – we look at a text from Matthew – a text that they perfectly understand – a text that described their life in Christ – a text which describes our life in Christ. Let us begin.

And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is describing here what your life, your life as a Christian is like. You are poor in spirit. Are there not times, O Christian, when this world seems ready to overwhelm you, when you are worn, when the trials of this life seem too much? Of course it does – it’s a sinful world, and you are a sinner in it – and when you see that, when you feel that – look what Christ directs you to. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He comes into this world, this sinful world, to save people exactly like you, indeed, to save you – and to give you the gift of heaven. When you are pressed down – remember what is yours. Heaven is yours.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. You mourn in this life. Contrary to what some would have us believe – not everything in this life is happy and joyous. In this life – things go wrong, terribly wrong – and we mourn, whether it is literal death that we mourn, or the death of friendships, the death of hopes and dreams. In this world – we mourn. And so what does Christ do. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Remember, O Christian, what your comfort is. We pass through this world of mourning, we pass through the valley of the Shadow of death into the glories of heaven where no shadow falls, where we are eternally comforted. This is God’s promise to us – it is ours now. Would that we saw it – would that we always remembered God’s comfort alongside any sorrow in our life.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Oh, doesn’t this fly in the face of what the world teaches us? If you want to get ahead, you must strive, you must fight, you must claw your way ahead of the competition. It’s an election season – and everyone knows you have to smear your opponent. That’s the way things work in this world, right? No – not for you, O Christian. You remember your Father’s command to love your neighbor as yourself, to put them head of yourself. To be meek. And sometimes. . . don’t you get dumped on for that? Sometimes, don’t people take advantage of you, hurt you – even people in this very room? Listen to where Christ points you. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth – it shall be given to you. Does not Christ Jesus provide you with all that you need in this life – does not our heavenly Father provide you with daily bread. Be meek, be humble – and be at peace, for God will care for you. Your life ought not be a constant struggle for more and more – rather, be meek, be loving – receive the blessings God gives in this life – and be prepared for the New Heavens and the New Earth which are coming at the end of time.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. We desire righteousness. What does that mean – what is righteousness? Well, it would be doing that which is right, doing that which is proper, that which is meet, right, and salutary. As Christians, we strive to do what is right. We strive to love God, we strive to love neighbor. And we fail. We never satisfy righteousness, we fall short. Our deeds taste like ashes on our mouth, our works are sour like vinegar. Yet what does Christ point us to? He is righteous, and because Christ is righteous, because Jesus does what is good and proper – He goes to the Cross to win forgiveness. Because Jesus does that which is meet, right, and salutary, He gives you His own Body and Blood in His Supper not only to forgive your sins, but to strengthen you and make you righteous, give you strength to continue on in your struggles in this life – until He calls you home and you are finally, fully righteous, and satisfied in His presence.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Ponder this. Is not growing as a Christian, is not maturing simply learning to be merciful? To love the neighbor even though he is cruel to you? To care for those in need even though there is no way for them to repay? To be more like Christ? You, O Christian, desire to be like Christ – that is who you strive to be like. And Christ will teach you to be merciful – but the student who is learning, who is being taught, never quite gets it right all the time. There are mistakes. Are there not times when you falter in your showing mercy? Fear not – Christ our Lord teaches you true mercy by being merciful to you. And more over, when the time to show mercy comes, and when it is hard to show mercy, when Satan whispers calls for vengeance in your ears – look to Christ and remember the mercy He has shown you, the mercy He has given you – and show it forth.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Oh, we are not pure in heart, not completely, not yet. There’s not a one of us here who is – there’s not one of us who wouldn’t just love to slap someone upside the head, or see someone else get their comeuppance. But know, dear friends – this is what God is doing to you. God is making you pure in heart. What will we sing after this sermon is done? “Create in me a. . . clean heart” – a pure heart. We sin – God forgives and cleanses us, He purifies our heart. And why? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. So that one day we shall see Him face to face in Heaven. The purpose of forgiveness isn’t simply to make you feel better here – it is preparation for heaven. When we go to the Supper – it’s preparation for heaven. That’s what our liturgy is saying – with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven – and then we sing along. Know this – God is preparing you, making you ready to be with Him for all eternity – and He does this by forgiveness, by continually purifying your heart in this world.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. We in this world have a messed up view of what it means to make peace. We can call a revolver in the old west a “Peacemaker”. Not what Christ is talking about – He’s not talking about our notions of peace where people are forced to play nice because of fear. Rather this. When you forgive your neighbor, when you take that forgiveness that Christ has given you and give it out, you make peace. When Christ talks about peace, peace be with you – that’s always about forgiveness – about the fact that you are no longer at war with God, but rather you are forgiven by God. And this is the life to which God called you when He made you His child in the waters of Holy Baptism. In this life, O Christian, you are to be an agent of God – speaking His Word of mercy and forgiveness to those you come across in your life. The peace of the Lord be with you always – and as it is with you, let it be through you as well, and on to your neighbor.

It seems a lot, doesn’t it? A high standard that Christ sets for us in this world. And it is. And we don’t see it in ourselves often, do we. And in this life – we will see it briefly, we will see it on occasion, there will be times when we forgive gladly, when we show mercy gladly – but there are times when. . . it seems hard. Christ knows your life here will be hard, will be a struggle. And He knows that it’s not only against your sinful flesh that you will struggle against. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God. 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 understands. He knows what you struggle against. He’s seen it throughout all ages. All the saints who have come before us – this is how they struggled. Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, even on to the New Testament, Peter, Paul, John – all of them – not only did they have to fight their own sinfulness, but they were reviled and spoken against and persecuted. So, what are we to take from this?

Remember and know, O Christian – that God is well prepared to see you through the struggles of this life. In fact, in the face of all struggles, whether they are struggles you bring upon yourself by your sin, or struggles your neighbors thrust upon you – look to Christ, look to Christ, remember His love and His promises to you – these very promises of the beatitudes.

And that’s how it will be – this will be the message that is proclaimed from this pulpit, from every Christian pulpit as long as the world endures. Look to Christ and see His salvation. And every day we draw breath in this sinful world, in this vale of tears, it will be what we need to hear. In this world where our sinful flesh and Satan and the world itself constantly tries to distract us and smother us – our eyes need to continually be placed upon Christ. But ponder this – the day is coming when you will not need to have your eyes refocused upon Christ, when you will not need to be told, “Know the Lord, Know His promises to you” – for you will behold them yourself, you will see. Ponder this and rejoice with me – for our brothers and sisters who have passed away now behold their Lord beyond doubts, beyond fear, beyond pain. Frail Daisy is stronger in the faith now than any of us – Vernon is not tied to any oxygen machine, but tied to Christ – and Mildred now sings clearly and purely the songs of heaven. That is what they have now – that is what we too shall have in Christ. This is God’s promise to you, sealed by the blood of Christ Jesus upon the Cross. God preserve us and make us blessed all the days of our life until we see His blessings face to face and are as He is. Amen.

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