Sermon for All Saints' Day Service - November 1, 2018 "Matthew 5:1-12"
Blessed are you. I don’t know what that phrase means to you. With what you have been through. What you have lived through. Where you are now. I don’t know. What I do know is that Christ has said you are blessed and so you are.
That is the weird thing about the Beatitudes. I once heard a sermon from a man who called himself a preacher. He took each of these declarations of Jesus and turned them into Law. Into requirements for the Kingdom. It went well for him for a while. He called them the “To Be Attitudes.” Attitudes that we are supposed to have. Be poor in spirit, so be sad about yourself before God. Be comforted in mourning, so no sadness. Wait. What. Be sad but not? Be humble in order to take over the earth. Wait. How is that humble? Hunger to see justice be done and you will make it happen. But be merciful. Wait how does that work preacher? Be pure in heart and peacemakers. Ok. But wait there’s more. Be persecuted. Insulted. Falsely accused. Be a peacemaker, pursue justice, and yet accept persecution? What? Needless to say. Bad sermon.
However, if we take these words, apply them to you, and to your saints, you hear something glorious. Jesus declaring to you – You are blessed. Blessed when your soul is downtrodden. Blessed in your poverty of life. Blessed when you are in mourning. Blessed when you have been humbled. Blessed when you are begging for righteousness because you don’t have it. Blessed in showing mercy. Blessed with a heart that is pure. Blessed as those who pursue peace. Blessed in your sufferings and persecution. Why? Because Jesus has said it. It is done. It exists for you. Blessing being something given from someone else to you. Jesus doing it. The one who spoke the world into being, as Hebrews says. The one who said he would die and rise. Who said it is finished. He declares to you in this sermon of his, “I don’t care who you think you are, or where you think blessings come from, or what you even think blessings are. Right now, I tell you, You are blessed.” Blessed in the darkness because he is your light. Blessed in the good times and bad because in all those things, his word to you never leaves. Blessed even in your sufferings and death. You are blessed because God has said it to you, given it to you in Jesus. Jesus being for you when life seems against you. Cling to that.
Lutherans should have this one down. It should come easy to you. We entered this evening with some similar words. Words we begin most funerals with. Words of Gospel saying to you - You will die, but you are blessed, because you already died. You have what it is others try and work for. A gift. God himself given to you in Baptism, saying he is pleased with you because…Jesus.
So, we come to this day and night of sadness, gloom and mourning. A day that many of our Catholic brothers and sisters will often spend in prayer for the souls of the departed, those that might still be in purgatory suffering to purge themselves of their sins and begging their entry into paradise. But here, on this night, we have the words of Christ. Of blessing. We have the words of Isaiah – On this mountain the Lord will prepare a feast of choice meat and fine wines. On this mountain he will destroy the burial shroud forever. Isaiah speaking of soon to come reality. Something that will be true for who? For all people. That means you. Where? At Calvary. At Golgotha. The new Zion. The place where Christ suffered and died for the forgiveness of sin, placed in a nearby tomb, only to break the shackles of death and destroy that shroud forever. That is this message for us. For you. For your saints.
I was at ministerium this morning and we were discussing the services at our elder-care facilities. I felt frustrated as though the services were an inconvenience to some. We used to have them on Sunday afternoons which worked for me. "Church day" and all. We switched them to Thursday morning which seems not to be the favorite of many of the residents because it is not "church". I even am convicted because I rarely sign-up now because Thursdays are a day a set aside for other things.
I remarked to my wife this frustration when I got home and recalled that many of the residents have said I am one of the few who actually preaches when I come to do services. Meaning very few of my colleagues do. I thought about it, how many of our churches are pastored by preachers who only talk about life change, about service, about doing more for Jesus or allegiance to an institution like a church or denomination. Many of them have no clue what to say to 101 year old Eleanor. Not thinking that saying, "You are going to die, but...there is One who already did for you," might be enough.
Now in all of this talk of Christ giving life to all peoples, you may say, “Well pastor, you didn’t know my husband. He was a real rat bastard.” Well, you are right. I didn’t. But, I am thankful that in the mercy of almighty God Jesus Christ was given to die for rat bastards everywhere. The strange thing that we cling to as sinners is that Heaven will be full of rat bastard sinners forgiven in Jesus. Just like Hell will have its share of perfectly good forgiven sinners who say unto Christ, “No thanks, I’m good.”
In this is the mercy we need. We need a Jesus who’s blessings pierce through the hardness of any heart. The disease of any sin. The frailty of every will.
The word we hold as true is the one we hold from Christ. He is what we have tonight. Mercy coming as blessing to you, even in your worst day or best. In your heartache or joy. You are blessed on account of Christ, and nothing, not even death can destroy that. Thanks be to God. Amen.