All Saints' Observed – November 4th and 5th, 2017 – Matthew 5:1-12
In the Name of Christ Jesus +
In the Name of Christ Jesus +
What does it mean to be blessed? If we are to understand the words of our Lord Jesus Christ this day, if we are to understand what He preaches to us today, we're going to have to focus, we're going top have to understand that word a bit. As He opens the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus uses that word “blessed” 9 times – but here's the thing. At first glance, none of these 9 situations, none of these 9 occasions where Jesus says that we are blessed seem to be any good at all. The reason why is we really don't understand, my friends, what the real and greatest blessings God gives us are. We don't understand that these true and eternal blessings in Christ can never be taken away.
Consider what our Lord says: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.” The poor in Spirit. The people who are beat down in this world, who understand just how lousy things can get. You've been there – those times when you see the wickedness of the world, see your own wickedness and guilt in spades. That's not something we look forward to. I bet not a one of use woke up today and said, “Boy, I hope I get to become poor in Spirit today.” “Wouldn't it be great if today I got a bold reminder of how lousy life in this world can be!” And yet, what does Jesus say? “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Do you see the movement, the contrast? Okay – let us assume a lousy day where you are kicked in the teeth, either by what people have done to you and what you have done yourself. Does that change, even one bit, the fact that Christ Jesus has won you salvation and gives you heaven and eternal life in Himself? Nope – being poor in Spirit can't change that one bit. In Christ, yours is the Kingdom of heaven. Even when you are poor in spirit, in Christ you are blessed.
Then Jesus ratchets things up. Okay, let's not just talk about having a bad day. Let's talk about death. “Blessed are those who mourn.” Wow, that's a bold, blunt statement. Blessed are the people who look up and see death. Again, I don't think most of us have said, “I hope I get to go into mourning this week.” Death is a nasty, horrible thing. Here on All Saints' Day, we remember the folks who have died this past year – we certainly aren't cheering that fact. And yet, what does Christ Jesus our Lord say? “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Again, do you see the movement? Let us say that you see death. Does that change, even one bit, the fact that Christ Jesus Himself died and rose from the dead precisely so as to raise His blessed saints from the dead? In fact, this word for “comforted” is a Holy Spirit word – it's what Jesus calls the Holy Spirit in John 16 – I will send you the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, the Paraclete. Does death change the fact that Christ Jesus has promised to raise all the dead, to breath one again the breath of life in to us? Nope. Death can't stop the resurrection that Christ brings. In Christ, you will comforted because nothing stops the Holy Spirit. Even when you mourn, the Holy Spirit still will pour out the life and salvation that Christ Jesus has won.
Do you see the point, my friends? The thing that Jesus is doing? So often when we think of blessings, we think first and foremost of temporal, earthly blessings in our life. If someone says, “I am blessed” they are probably talking about their family, their job, their money, their house. Maybe health or healing. These are all good things – these are all things that we pray for in the 4th Petition of the Lord's prayer. These are daily bread – think on the Catechism. “What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body...” and then the long list of things. These are all good things, but when Jesus taught us His prayer, He summed up all these things as “daily bread” for a reason. They are daily. They are temporary and for a time. They are here today, and often gone tomorrow. Here in this sinful, fallen world, things fade. Moth and rust destroy. Because we live in a world impacted by sin, so many of these earthly blessings fade away.
And this terrifies us. This freaks us out. And we react poorly. Sometimes we live in denial. We pretend everything is fine, when we know it's not. Sometimes we become stingy and horde the blessings we have, fighting so hard not to lose them that we never even really enjoy them. Sometimes we lust and crave more and more – thinking that if we just spent more, ate more, “lived it up” more that then, then these good things wouldn't go away, and we just burn through them all the more quickly. Sometimes we close up in on ourselves, curl up into a little ball to protect ourselves – so determined not to be hurt by losing anything else that we don't receive the things that God gives us. So many different ways we can react poorly. And then Satan really starts to attack us. The thoughts, the temptations come – see everyone else, see how blessed they are – they don't have your problems, they aren't treated this way by God; maybe you're just out of luck with the Lord. And so we put on a brave face, we tell everyone who asks we're fine, we post great and wonderful pictures on Snapchat or Facebook, hoping that no one knows how scared we are, wishing that we could be as happy as our friends are, so often not recognizing that they're just putting on the brave face too.
The crowd that stood there and listened to Jesus that day in Matthew was no different. Didn't have the same technology, but they had the same trials, the same temptations. The same devil was hounding them. And this is why Jesus starts off the Sermon on the Mount this way. Let's talk about blessing, about being blessed. Your blessings are not centered, are not based in these temporal things. They are temporary; why be surprised when they don't last? No, my friends, know where true blessing lies – it lies in God giving you forgiveness and salvation and everlasting life in Christ Jesus. Because Jesus Christ isn't temporary, He isn't here today but gone tomorrow – He is eternal. And you are in Him, so you have not just the stuff we normally think of as blessings, but you have everlasting blessings. Being poor in spirit, not even mourning death can stop these blessings of God to you in Christ Jesus. See the big picture in Christ!
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Alright, so you aren't the big, bold, and brash folks, the high and mighty making deals and power-plays. So what – in Christ you will inherit eternal life in a new heavens and a new earth. Christ gives you this as a gift.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Alright, so you see wickedness and injustice – indeed you see your own sin and you wish it weren't there. Guess what – in Christ you will be satisfied for He takes away your sin and pours His own righteousness into you in Holy Baptism – He calls you to His table and feeds you with His own righteousness.
These are things promised to you by Christ Jesus. These are the realities of who you are in Christ Jesus – you right now are a new creation. You are a new being, a holy child of God. Even in this sinful world, Christ has forgiven you now, called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, joined you to Himself in Baptism, and even fills you with His own love. Even over and against your sin, He has given you His Holy Spirit to work in you His life and salvation.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Jesus makes you to be merciful. He makes you to be focused upon His mercy and love. By His Word and Spirit He moves you beyond just the 4th petition, the daily bread concerns, and He takes you to the 5th petition – and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. You do realize that this isn't a demand upon you, but rather a gift that Jesus gives you. He makes you a forgiver, because He is the great Forgiver who wants to forgive you. He makes you merciful, because He is the merciful God who wants to mercy you.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Do you see where this is going? Jesus makes you to be pure in heart by His Word of forgiveness, because He wants to see you, to have you be with Him for all eternity. This pureness of heart, it isn't something you do. This is one of the eternal and everlasting blessings that Christ Jesus has won for you with His death and resurrection. His death upon the Cross was to purify your heart – His heart stopped and spilled forth in water and blood so that even come the day when you heart stops, Jesus would look at you and say, “Wait a second, this one is pure in me. Rise, get up – you're going to be seeing me forever.” That's why we do give thanks for those who have died in the faith – in Christ they are pure in heart, and they see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Jesus is the great Son of God, He is the great peacemaker – He is the One who appeared to the disciples in the upper room on Easter night and showed them His hands and side and said, “Peace be with you.” He's the One who comes and gives us His Body and Blood for forgiveness and life – The peace of the Lord be with you always. Jesus is the One who makes you to be peacemakers, to be forgivers. Of course you are – for you are sons of God in Christ, and all that is Christ's is yours – yours to give out. And He will use you to forgive, to make peace, to pour out His love, to give out His eternal and everlasting blessings – because that is simply who you are in Him.
We don't remember this all the time. There are times our own sinful flesh looms large. There are times when the world around us raves. Doesn't change anything. You are in Christ – therefore, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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 went before you.” You are in Christ, so of course your reward is great – your reward isn't what you've earned but everything that Jesus has earned for you with His life, death, and resurrection. And the world will rant and rave – of course it does. It knows it's temporary, it's fading, it's bound to be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth. But you, my friends, you are not just blessed by God for a brief time, for a day or for a few decades – you are blessed in Christ with all the eternal blessings that He has won for you. You are part of His Church, His own Body – part of the people of God from all times and in all places. And now, we're going to close the sermon, and we'll pray, and then we'll join in our voices with the angels and archangels, with those we love who are now with the Lord – and we'll celebrate the Supper knowing that nothing can ever take away these eternal blessings of Christ. Blessed are you – for you are in Christ Jesus. In the Name of Christ Jesus – Amen.