Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints' Day Sermon

All Saints' Day - November 1, 2015 - Matthew 5:1-12

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Today, as we observe All Saints’ Day, as we give thanks to God for the love He has shown to those who have died in the faith and now rest in His Presence in heaven, awaiting the resurrection to come on the Last Day, we must, hearing out Gospel lesson, as ourselves a question. What does it mean to be blessed? What does it mean to be bless’ed? Nine times our Lord uses this word – in fact, it is sort of the key word for this text. So then, what does it mean to be blessed – what is blessing for a Christian?

If I were to simply ask you what some of the blessings in your life are, you’d probably end up saying things like life, health, house and home, family and friends, having nice things. Now, these are blessings – in fact, the next few weeks in our Catechism lessons we will be going over a lot of these as we look at the First Article of the Creed. God has made me and all creatures – my body and soul. These are indeed blessings – but this physical stuff, this stuff for life here and now is not the summation of God’s blessings to you – nor are they really the highest. There are times when we Christians need to think beyond just this world, this stuff. As Christians we are to be in the world, but not of the world – we are to recognize these are temporal and temporary blessings, but understand that there is much more in store – that while we enjoy things here, we are in a fallen world, and these blessings will fade – but that this is fine and okay, for Christ gives us much, much more than these.

Listen to what our Lord says. “Blessed are the poor in the Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is one of the most profound things you will hear. Consider those who are poor in spirit – those who feel heartache and pain, those who know their mistakes, who see how they have hurt others and sorrow over it. The poor in Spirit are those who confess with us what we confessed in our confession – I a poor, miserable sinner. What does our Lord say to you? Poor, miserable sinners like you are blessed because Christ Jesus comes to you and gives you the Kingdom of heaven. Do you see how this is a spiritual truth, a spiritual blessing? Whenever you are sorrowful, whenever you repent of your sin, you are blessed, blessed because Christ Jesus is quick to bring you forgiveness. Even in your sorrow and suffering, when you are at your lowest, you are blessed with a blessing that lasts to all eternity. And this is a present reality – for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven. Right now, you are forgiven by God on account of Christ – and that is a blessing that will never fade.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Again, this idea of mourning is bigger than just sorrow over a specific death. It’s blessed are those who mourn, who are sorrowful, who look around in this world and see things just absolutely not as they should be – who see thing after thing falling apart, who see the rack and ruin of sin everywhere. To be a Christian is to mourn – because we know that this world is not what it should be, not what it was made to be – that we live in a fallen world where everything, where we, could have been and should have been so much more. You will be comforted – because you will see the new Heavens and the New Earth. Do you not think that our dearly departed brothers and sisters aren’t comforted now in Christ’s presence in heaven – do you not know that we will all rejoice in the New Heavens and the New Earth together? This is a true blessing that you have promised to you from God.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Meek here doesn’t mean shy, it doesn’t mean bashful. It means those who are lacking, who aren’t rich, who are lowly and meek and at the bottom of the rung, who get trampled on by those in power, who have no power or strength of theirs to fight or take anything in this life. The oppressed, the downtrodden – these are the meek – those who do not have earthly power, or who refuse to use their power for their own selfish gain, who refuse to play the dog eat dog game. This is what you as a Christian are. And you are blessed, for you shall inherit – what? We have “earth” here – but that doesn’t quite hit the point well. It’s Tein Gein in Greek, in Hebrew it would be “Ha Aratz” – the Land. . . the promised Land. Are you worn down here – are you treated as a despised stranger in this life, foreign and away from its power and might – you shall be part of the promised land – be a stranger here – heaven is your home. That’s the point here – when you see things here go against you – you are blessed, because you shall inherit the new heavens and the new earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” And here is the key, here is the center. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – blessed are those who look at their own life and say, “I am not righteous, I am not perfect, I am a miserable sinner.” Why is that a blessing? Because to you who know your sin, who know that you lack righteousness, Christ Jesus our Lord pours out His own perfect, complete, total righteousness upon you, washes you in it, even literally feeds it to you – so that you would be satisfied – that your lack would be done away with, so that you would have all that you need in Christ Jesus and in Him alone. Whenever you desire Christ, He always gives Himself to you, gives you His love and His forgiveness.

Now what comes next in the Beatitudes here is a shift – we have seen that we are blessed even when things look their worst, when we see pain and suffering and sin. Christ tells us we will be satisfied – that we will have His forgiveness and have it abundantly. And this makes us into new people, into a new creation. This is why Jesus then says, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Are you focused on forgiveness –then you have been made to be merciful – and this will not be taken away from you. There is not going to come a point where Christ decides to change His mind about His love for you, where He decides to revoke your forgiveness – He has filled you with mercy, and He shall always give you mercy as long as you desire it – His forgiveness to you makes you merciful, and He keeps giving mercy more and more.

We also hear, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” What do we sing in a few moments – create in me a clean heart, O God. And will God ever cast out of His presence those whose hearts He has cleansed, whose hearts He has purified by His Gospel? By no means – for you who are forgiven by Christ, whose hearts have been cleansed of sin shall see God. And this is the wonder of this day, of All Saints Day. Our loved ones who have died in the faith – this is them right now – their hearts are now pure, sin no longer touches them at all, and they see God this moment. This is an awe inspiring thing.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” This is one of my favorite verses – that word “peacemakers” – it is those who do, who make peace real. Those who give out Christ’s peace, who say, “Peace be with you”, who forgive sins, whether someone happens to forgive sins in public on Sunday morning or whether one forgives sins at home with the family, with their friends, with the neighbor, with the stranger. This is about forgiveness. And what do we hear? You shall be called sons of God. So let’s ponder this – you have Christ Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, go to the Cross to win salvation, who from the Cross cries out for forgiveness, who from the Cross proclaims that all the work of salvation is done, who rises and appears to the disciples and says, "Peace be with you" – He is the Peacemaker. And then what happens? He takes you, brings you to the font, baptizes you, joins you to God’s family, says, “You now too are a child of God, and you too now shall be a peacemaker – you shall give out the very same peace and forgiveness that you have received – you will be an agent of love and peace in this world that doesn’t know it – and I myself will work through you to bring eternal blessings to people.” This is a wondrous thing – and again, the highest blessing we have is never simply 1st article, never just about this life – but about forgiveness and salvation which gives us the life to come.

But of course, in this fallen world, the peacemakers, the sons of God will be rejected and despised. What happens to Christ will happen to you. “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.” When you focus on Christ’s righteousness and forgiveness, when you point to Christ alone, when you are determined to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified – the world won’t like it. People will rant and rave against you, they will lie about you, they will spread horrid rumors about you, they will mock you. They will think you are weird. They will see you as weak and try to take advantage of you. They will do everything in their power to make your life here miserable. Here in the US, that ends up being mere annoyances – in the lands of ISIS where they break into a church service and slaughter worshipers on Sunday morning – a little more direct. Doesn’t matter – you are blessed, indeed rejoice and be glad even in this – because yours is the Kingdom of God. How could it not be yours, for you are forgiven. You have been drawn to Christ, focused beyond the glitz and glamour of this world, and you shall have the joys of all eternity, the joys of perfection, the joys of the resurrection on the Last Day, the joy of you yourself being like Christ, seeing Him as He is. And this is a blessing no one can ever take away.

Do not forget, ever, my friends, just how blessed you are in Christ. The world will seek to wave baubles and trinkets, bling and swag before your eyes – but that is not your true blessing. Your true blessing is salvation, and life, and forgiveness, which you have abundantly in Christ. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

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