Sermon for November 3, 2013

Matthew 5:1-12 (All Saints’ Sunday)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 3, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson for All Saints’ Sunday, the Beatitudes:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

            Can what you already have enable you to live now in light of what is to come?  That’s the question that really seems to get at the heart of Jesus’ Beatitudes, His nine statements of “Blessed” which begin the Sermon on the Mount.  Can what you already have enable you to live now in light of what is to come? 

            To answer this question it makes the most sense to figure out what it is that we already have.  Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  What we already have now is the kingdom of heaven.  Sounds great, but what does it actually mean to be in possession of the kingdom of heaven?  To have the kingdom of heaven is to be in the status or condition of being blessed in Jesus with the things that He and His kingdom delivers.  For the disciples in our text, this blessing would include forgiveness, healing, and the faith to understand who Jesus is and what His reign is like.  For us the blessing of Jesus with the things of His kingdom include forgiveness of sins, our Baptism into Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit for faith and obedience to the Word of God, the nourishment of the Lord’s Supper, and fellowship with one another in Christ’s Church. 

            To be “blessed” is to be saved because of the kingdom of heaven and its reign which comes to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ with His gifts, His blessings of forgiveness and life.  These are already ours as gifts because we are the “poor in spirit,” the spiritually poor.  We are those who have been given the blessing of recognizing our need to have our spiritual needs provided by someone else, namely God.  As sinners, we are by our very nature spiritually destitute, without what we need to have life and salvation in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus’ opening blessing tells us who we are as sinners (spiritually poor and destitute) who need what Christ brings in His kingdom (forgiveness, life, salvation, faith, strength, peace.) 

            All these blessings, these gifts that are present in the kingdom of heaven through Christ’s reign, belong to us who have nothing in ourselves because of the gift of the Gospel.  “There is nothing other than the Gospel in the reign of heaven, complete Good News, offered with no conditions, no specifications, no limitations. . . . The first Beatitude from Jesus’ mouth, then, is a word of complete and utter promise and grace.  The reign of heaven belongs to those who have no spiritual resources of their own, to the lost, to the sinners.” (Gibbs, Matthew 1:1-11:1, 241) 

            You and I are blessed by the Gospel with all the gifts from God in Christ.  Because Jesus endured the cross, suffering and dying for our sins, the kingdom of heaven is ours as His free gift.  Jesus died and rose again so that you and I would have God’s total forgiveness and life forever in the glories of heaven.  He has taken us spiritually poor and destitute sinners and filled us up with the good things of His grace and mercy.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. . . . Beloved, we are God’s children now” we heard in our Epistle lesson from 1 John 3.  We are God’s children, forgiven, saved from death and the devil through Christ’s victory won at the cross and at the empty tomb.  So, can what you and I already have enable us to live now in light of what is to come?

            We know that we have the kingdom, the reign of God in Christ and all the gifts of Christ that go with it—forgiveness, life, salvation, faith, and so on.  Christ has filled us with these gifts through the Holy Spirit by means of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.  Yet, what we have now is not the final comfort, the final inheritance, the final satisfying with God’s saving righteousness, the final mercy, or the perfect vision of God face to face.  We do not yet have what is yet to come.  But what we do have does enable us to live now looking forward to that which we will receive in full only on the Last Day. 

            You see, we are stuck in the middle.  We live with the present reality of God’s gifts to us in Jesus Christ.  We are now, today, blessed, saved because the reign of heaven with its gifts belongs to us by grace through faith in Jesus who died and rose again as our Savior.  But, we are not yet with Christ.  We are not yet in the new heavens and the new earth, the home of righteousness.  Again from 1 John 3, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” 

So we find ourselves poor in spirit, however, also blessed in Christ.  But we also are in mourning over evil and sin and its effects and consequences.  We are oppressed by all kinds of situations and people, not to mention Satan, and our own sins.  Yet, Jesus promises us that we will be comforted and we will inherit the earth.  This blessing is yet to come, on the Last Day.  Those who have suffered oppression at the hands of wicked forces and wicked people will receive the blessings of God’s great reversal on that day.  And yet, the light of that future horizon is beginning to shine—the kingdom of heaven has already drawn near to us in Christ.  We who mourn and are lowly are already blessed, saved, looking to our future with Him!

Living as we do in this world of sin and its effects, being poor in spirit, mourning over sin and evil, oppressed in this world by Satan and wickedness, we hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We long for God to bring the fullness of His salvation to us.  So Jesus promises that those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness now will be satisfied on the Last Day when He comes again in glory.  On that Day Jesus will answer the prayer of the Church, “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”  He will come with righteous deeds of salvation and put all things right.  And yet, the blessing and righteousness are already ours, because Jesus is already with us.  He has already give us His righteousness in exchange for our sins.  Still, we look forward to the completion of God’s future, complete, and final saving deeds.  This hope provides us the comfort we need now as we hunger and thirst for His righteousness. 

In our looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises and Jesus’ coming again we are blessed with the gifts of Christ in order to show His mercy to other people.  We who had nothing spiritually but sin and death received the mercy of Christ’s forgiveness and life.  Jesus who is perfect mercy, empowers us now to be merciful.  And He promises, “Those who are Mine, and who have begun to be merciful are blessed.  On the Last Day they will receive My mercy in all its fullness.”  We will enter into eternal life with Christ forever in the new creation because of His mercy and grace to us when He went to the cross and died, when He went to the grave and rose.  He will, on that Day, welcome us, saying, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34) 

And as we come at Christ’s invitation to Him and His Father, we will see God.  We will see God because we are given pure hearts.  We are pure in heart because Jesus has called us to faith by His Gospel through the Holy Spirit.  God has created in us new, clean hearts through the forgiveness of sins. (Ps. 51)  We have already come to know by grace the face of God in Jesus Christ.  (2 Cor. 4:6)  And on the Last Day, we have His promise: we will see God in body and soul.  As Job says with the confidence of faith, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

As we continue to live as children of God in this world of sin and evil, looking forward to the day we will see the Lord face to face, we are blessed to bring the Gospel message of Jesus into this very world.  Each of us serves as one of the Lord’s “peacemakers.”  The peace that people receive from us is the peace that comes from the message of Jesus crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins.  It’s the message of the Gospel that says to people who are spiritually poor, “Jesus died for you and rose for you.  Your sins are forgiven.  God is no longer angry with you because of your sins.  You have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  While we wait for Jesus to come again, God uses each one of us to bring the Good News message of Christ to others so that they have peace with God, just as you and I do.  And on the Last Day, we, Jesus’ peacemaking disciples, will be called “sons of God.”   

Yet, as sons of God in this life, we can expect to be persecuted, insulted, or to have evil spoken against because we belong to Christ.  When persecution comes, Jesus again promises blessing.  The kingdom of heaven is ours.  Its blessing already belongs to us in such times.  The Gospel of Christ and the future life with Him forever in eternity will sustain us through all persecutions and trials, all wickedness and evil in this world.  The Gospel enables us to look forward to the reward that is stored up for us—the great reward in heaven.  On the Last Day we will stand in line with God’s servants, his prophets and apostles, all His saints, to receive that which is ours as a gift through faith in Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who declares us blessed in Him. 

Can what you and I already have by grace through faith in Christ enable us to live now in light of the glorious future to come?  Can the forgiveness of sins, our Baptism into Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit for faith and obedience to the Word of God, the nourishment of the Lord’s Supper, and fellowship with one another in Christ’s Church sustain us until that day when Jesus comes to take us all to be with Him in the new heavens and the new earth where we will receive the fullness of God’s blessing?    The Beatitudes give us that answer—yes!  Yes, what we have been given in the blessings of the kingdom of heaven now will enable us to live with hope and confidence in Christ until the day of His Second Coming and the fulfillment of all His promises to us.  Amen. 

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