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All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Matthew 5
November 5, 2023 (repreached)

What a marvelous thing to consider, that loved ones, friends, believers in our Lord as savior and God, saints who have gone before us, are now with the angels and archangels, with the whole company of heaven? St John, in his vision describes a place where countless saints from every corner of the earth, who are wearing white robes and washed in the blood of the Lamb, shout in full acclaim, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb.”

These are the saints who struggle no more. These are the saints who no longer feel the pain of sin, the pressure of a sinful world, who no longer dream of eternal life, but live it. They will never again experience death.

We so long and yearn to be with these saints in heaven. We consider them, not lost, but blessed, fortunate; they no longer have to struggle in this life because the struggle is over.

But for you and me, we who are the baptized children of God, we must yet struggle a little longer. While it is certainly true that we are saints in every sense of the word and will one day be with our Lord in heaven, now we feebly struggle on, fighting temptation, experiencing the works of an evil, sinister devil, and seeing the effects of sin in the world around us. We struggle on.

But fellow saints, Blessed are you! Blessed are you!

Early in Jesus’ ministry after choosing and calling His disciples, he goes to a hill near the Sea of Galilee and begins to teach. As rabbi, master, teacher along with student, disciple, learner, Jesus begins to do what so many other teachers had done, only Jesus begins to teach the basics of Christianity, a Christianity 101 class if you will, and not only does He teach His disciples, but now teaches you and I in this regard. And every one of these “Blessed Be’s” is a strong word of Law and a soothing word of Gospel. So climb on board and let’s ride through them…

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. And he’s right. Our spirits, our souls, our very nature is poor, empty of any good. We think we’re rich by our material possessions, and we think we become richer by hording up for ourselves wealth, and we allow such things to define who we are. Yet we can have all the wealth and riches in the world and still be bankrupt regarding what matters most. And it is that very poverty which takes heaven away.

But blessed are you because Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth and takes your impoverished soul into Himself. What does Paul write in 2 Corinthians? “that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you, by His poverty, might become rich.” See your spirit is now wealthy. You are rich with Christ, and your soul is filled with His Holy Spirit, and the Kingdom of heaven is yours. You are no longer defined by the world’s standards of wealth or worth, but you are defined by Christ in you, filling you with forgiveness and eternal life.

Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted. Luther described the Christian faith as simul justus et pecattor – same time saint and sinner. That’s us! 100% fully holy and sanctified saints – I pretty much said the same word three different ways. Baptism didn’t just wash a little bit of our sin away – it washed it ALL away.

Yet we still mourn because we see and experience the fallenness of this world. We see and experience the death of a loved one, and we mourn. Two funerals last week…I haven’t done two funerals in one week in quite a few years. Our home is destroyed by fire, and we mourn. We see the worldwide atrocities on account of sin – the beheadings of our own brothers and sisters in Christ, murder, theft, hatred, and we mourn.

But what does Isaiah write? “Comfort, comfort ye my people.” We struggle on this earth, but we at the same time rejoice in Jesus Christ the crucified and risen, because we know by faith that our sins are forgiven. We mourn on account of so many things on this earth, but still, we rejoice on account of the Easter reality of Christ our Lord and because of the promise of our own resurrections. Our baptisms mean a WHOLE lot more than just some picturesque symbol, that’s for sure.

Blessed are you who are meek, for you shall inherit the earth. Meekness? Humility? That is NOT the human nature. Our human nature seeks pride, glory in the now, honor and position among the people of the world, and even our attempts at BEING humble, “look at me, I’m humble…” do not deserve the kingdom of earth, but only the kingdom of hell.

But blessed are you because Jesus takes your sinful pride into Himself and gives you His humility. Here’s a verse for you: “And being found in human form, Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” that’s Philippians. Humility is seen and understood with every drop of blood from the cross. Jesus knew your conceit and your unwillingness and inability to be truly humble, but it didn’t stop Him from dying for you. It didn’t stop Him from giving you and clothing you in His humility, His righteousness, His meekness.

See some people think they ‘deserve’ eternal life, ‘deserve’ the great inheritance of heaven, but no one truly does, except the one who comes from heaven – Jesus Christ. And here’s the point: You HAVE eternal life, you HAVE heaven because God has GIVEN it to you, on account of Jesus’ obedience, humility, death, and resurrection. The new Eden is yours, thanks be to God. This is something God had to do because you never could – we take no credit for salvation but give glory only to God.

Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness for you will be satisfied. As Jesus spoke to these 12, these new disciples who would follow him and learn from him, I think it safe to conclude on account of what the Scripture teaches us, that these men were NOT hungering, not thirsting for righteousness. One disciple hungered and thirsted for taking people’s money through tax, another hungered and thirsted for justice through military action, another hungered for reason and evidence as a doubter of Jesus’ words, and another sought self-glory by refusing Jesus’ desire to wash his feet. Others hungered and thirsted to find their identity, not in Christ, but in traditions, rules and laws.

And what it is that YOU hunger for? We who are sinful hunger for that which our flesh desires. We hunger to be fulfilled with the things of earth; we hunger for importance, acceptance, creature comforts; we hunger to satisfy our bodies and our feelings and our carnal lusts, and yet of such hungering we are never satisfied, but we become parched, starving, and separated from God.

But while Jesus suffered agony on the cross, while he was disjointed and disfigured, he cried out “I thirst.” And what did He thirst for? The righteousness of His Father; the one thing that could ease the pain and bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation was faith – the righteousness of God being shed for all, being shed upon all, so that our unrighteousness could be covered and washed away.

At Christ’s death, blood and water flowed from His side by the soldier’s spear. Each Sunday as we come to hear and receive the righteousness of Christ, water continues to flow through the font. One of these days I will open that font and have it filled with water all the time, so as to remind you of who you are in Christ and what His righteousness has done for you. Each Sunday as we come to hear and receive, the blood of Christ flows from the cross and into our mouths, to satisfy our hunger and our thirst with the righteousness of Christ.

The Advent Midweek Services are going to be based on a book written by an LCMS pastor called, “The Battle for the Soul,” and we will be looking at the matters of vice and virtue according to the Scripture and how Luther himself returns these terms to a Scriptural matter. We will learn what it means to die daily to sin and unrighteousness and to instead seek to live as God’s righteous, holy children. So, I hope you’re able to attend.

Blessed are you who are merciful for you shall receive mercy. You’re beginning to see a pattern here, aren’t you? We are not naturally merciful. In fact, we can be quite cruel and conniving…even in church. Look at your helpless, needful neighbor, look at the widow, at the unborn, the orphan, the sick, the hungry, how merciful are we, really? How eager are we to support the ministry of this church by generously and mercifully giving all that we are able and also by giving of ourselves, our time and our talents in a sacrificial, merciful way, rather than only giving if we ‘like’ or ‘agree’ with what’s going on, or only giving if we have the time, or only giving and supporting if we “like the pastor” or “like the worship.”

And then we STILL want God to be merciful to us. We STILL want Him to look at us with kindness, to spare us, to like us, to help us when we’re in need, to rescue us when we’re in trouble, to comfort us when we’re hurting. “Help us, Lord, be kind to us, spare us…but don’t expect us to help our neighbor, to serve and support our church (unless the church does what we want) or show kindness to a stranger (unless he’s dressed well) or like someone who makes us mad.” The sinful nature that each of us has is just….disgusting, isn’t it? We can be such hypocrites, why? Because we defend our lack of mercy and compassion and kindness toward others while still pleadfully expecting it from God.

Blessed are you because God does not treat you as you deserve. Instead, God treats you with unmerited, unending mercy. When we sing or pray the “Kyrie” as we did a little bit ago, we cry out “Lord, have mercy.” And as Luther says, God’s mercy comes whether we cry for it or not, but we pray it that it might come to us also, that it might also make us to be merciful toward others.

God is merciful toward the sinner, that is toward you and I. Hebrews 2 says, “Therefore Jesus had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God to make amends for the sins of the people.” Christ becomes like one of us, one without mercy so that His mercy is showered upon us. You the saints of God are called and made alive to be merciful people.

Blessed are you who are pure in heart for you will see God. Psalm 42 says, “as with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” Our enemies, this world, and even our own struggles, may cause us to say, “yeah, where is God?” Our hearts reveal themselves to be impure, weak, cluttered, and we get fooled into the wrong thinking that if we can’t see God, can’t experience God, can’t feel him dancing the jig in our hearts, can’t hear God that it must be because we are not worthy of God, that we’ve done something to deserve His distance from us, or that He’s not here; He’s more attracted to the churches that have lights and smoke machines and rock bands.

But it is from our sordid hearts that such thoughts flow, thoughts that are evil, filled with doubt and fear, and filled with lusts for sin and carnal desires. This is why we repent, why we confess our sins. If it were only us, and if it all were up to us, we would NEVER see, hear, or experience God in any way except for on the Day of Judgment when He says, “depart from me workers of evil.”

But blessed are you for God has created in you a clean heart and renewed a right spirit within you. Jesus’ is a gentle Lord and lowly in heart. His lowly heart was revealed to you by his willingness to die on the cross for you. As a result, your heart is filled with His Spirit, it is purified by His Word, and you no longer seek after the evil, sinful, lustful desires of the impure old heart. Worship, confession, baptism, communion, all of this is FOR YOU, to cleanse your heart and fill you with His presence.

Blessed are you the peacemakers for you will be called Sons of God. Jesus, telling us that we’re peacemakers and sons of God? Yet…we seem to LOVE conflict. We love to get into people’s faces and tell them how it is; fix their mistakes; lord our authority over them, control them, give them the ‘evil eye’, and poke our finger into their brain and subtly create conflict where there need not be. We certainly don’t like to admit when we’re wrong, but we LOVE to accuse and point out everyone else’s mistakes. Such is not the way of a peacemaker but the way of the troublemaker.

Modern information and social media create a platform for troublemakers where even some of the most prestigious of men can lord over another and point the accusing finger, yet without having to face the consequence of the other person speaking back. Church is a wonderfully horrible place for troublemakers and antagonists, people who willfully create conflict because their hearts are far from God. They spend one hour a week in church, and then spend the entire WEEK out talking and gossiping and stirring up trouble and conflict. Families come pre-loaded with trouble and conflict. We are a warmongering people; we destroy relationships; this tongue in our mouths does not know how to shut up; we do not reflect the image of Christ, but in our old nature, we reflect the image of the devil.

But we must keep things in proper context. Being peacemakers doesn’t mean compromise. Being peacemakers doesn’t mean affirming everyone’s life choices or never preaching or speaking the Law of God. It doesn’t mean living in a fantasy world where we don’t care whether people sin or not. When, for the sake of “keeping the peace” or “keeping people happy” we take repentance out of the conversation and only talk about forgiveness, well then forgiveness is a useless gift. If a person doesn’t know his need for a cure because no one told him he was dying of poison, well he’s still going to die but we’re also to blame for not saying, “Hey, you’ve been poisoned and you’re going to die!” So, for the sake of true peace, we still need to speak and preach the Law and call people to repentance. Otherwise, they don’t know they have something to be forgiven of and they will die not really knowing the peace that comes from God.

Blessed are you because Christ has come to give you peace. For God to give you peace, he went to war with the devil. And how did He fight the devil? Was He like a blow-up air dancer that stores and circuses like to put out in front of the entrance to attract people in, a Jesus with a permanent smile and a thumb’s up attitude? Give me a break.

Jesus went to war with sin and death by calling sinners to repentance, by showing sinners God’s steep and unchanging requirements and that no one can be saved by the Law because everyone constantly breaks it.

He fought the devil on the devil’s ground, among sinners and where death reigned, and God won by dying on the cross, the ultimate price for our sin. When the pastor says, “the peace of the Lord be with you,” he’s not just saying some nice little liturgical thing that needs to be said, no, but he is proclaiming the Gospel, that in Christ, peace with God has been achieved, and that God is truly at peace with you, so that you can be at peace with, not only the pastor, but with one another. And if peace is not what you want; if conflict is what gives you meaning and purpose in the church, then church is probably not the place for you.

Finally, blessed are you who are persecuted and reviled and spoken against, for yours is the joy and the kingdom of heaven. The price of being a disciple in the kingdom of God is persecution. The sinful, fallen world is an enemy of God and by extension this world is your enemy too, and you should treat it as your enemy. You will struggle, you will endure agony, pain, suffering; you endure the anger and hatred of this world; quite literally, Satan is out to get you, to break you, to destroy your faith. Christians have historically been the most persecuted, most martyred people to exist and it’s only a matter of time before we the American Christians begin to face the brunt force of the devil; to be sure it’s already started. I think the biggest attack from the devil in our age is making ourselves too busy for church and too distracted for daily repentance, prayer, and being in the Word, making Christ just a part of our life rather than – our life and building career and family and vacations and everything on top of Him.

Blessed are you: St Peter writes, “Brothers, do not be surprised at the fiery trial, when it comes upon you to test you…but rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” The glory of heaven is near, brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, we struggle because of our own sins; yes, we struggle on account of the fallen world; yes, we struggle on account of others, both outside AND inside the church. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, our future glory is worth the struggle now.

I know you struggle, just as I struggle. Yet we are saints, we are holy, we are set apart. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have received the kingdom, the comfort, the peace, and the glory, and God claims us as His own children, right here, right now. This 3000-word sermon can be summed up in just three words: Blessed Are You. Amen.