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Sermon for January 29, 2017

Matthew 5:1-12 (Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany—Series A)

“Changing Our Status”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

January 29, 2017

 

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

Our text is Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 5:

Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] 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.

 

          On social media sites like Facebook, many people post what are called “status updates.” Users share what they are doing, how they are feeling, what they are eating, and the things they are thinking. People share all kinds of things, including things that are really more information than I want to know. As much good as social media can be there is also much that is unhelpful. There is much that is stated that is hurtful, demeaning, vulgar, and hateful. There are many things that people share indiscriminately without checking the truth of the facts. Some post outright lies, which are currently being called “alternative facts.” Folks would do well to remember the counsel which Thumper the rabbit’s father gave to him in the movie Bambi. As he was made to remember it by his mother, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” We would do well to heed this advice.

          A simple scan of social media “status updates,” however, does reveal the truth about people. In fact, if God were to post a status for His fallen creation, it would no doubt reflect what we read in social media. Humanity’s status by nature is one where God would post words like “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” “the meek or the lowly,” “those hungering and thirsting” for things that are right.

This is truly our status apart from Jesus Christ. It is our condition. If you want to see examples of that condition look at some of what is posted on social media. It is an incredible illustration of sinners doing what sinners do best. Not even Christians are immune from acting on our sinful inclinations. We, too, fall into temptation and, as Luther says, we daily sin much. We sin with our words and our actions. We sin with our thoughts and our desires. Every day we “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) as we do the very things His Word forbids us to do and fail to do the very things His Word commands us to do. We do not always fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We don’t always show love and mercy to other people. Check your status updates—what did you write about so-and-so? What did you say about this person or that idea? Did your words reflect love and mercy or hatred and sin?

There are no “alternative facts” here. By nature, you and I and all people are “poor in spirit.” It is our status, our objective condition. Without true fear and love of God, we are “spiritually destitute, without resource, without what one needs in the spiritual realm.”[1] Sin and evil in our world, in our lives, in ourselves, causes us grief and mourning. We and all people are oppressed by the devil, the world, and our own sinful natures, making us so meek and lowly that not one of us can save himself or herself from any wickedness. Like all people, we long for something better, for something more out of life. We hunger and thirst for spiritual things that are beyond our ability to attain—righteousness, peace, forgiveness, salvation, and rescue from the hurt and the guilt.

Many folks on social media stay logged-in for easy access. Sometimes a friend or a family member with open access changes the status update for the person, usually with something funny or out of the ordinary for the person. Let’s use that idea as a way of explaining what God the Father has done for all people in Jesus Christ. Your status and mine read “sinner, condemned, poor in spirit, guilty, oppressed, powerless.” Then Christ came into our sinful world as true God and true Man bringing the reign of heaven to us. To those who have no spiritual resources, to the lost, to the sinners, the Lord Jesus came down from heaven so that the Father might change our status to “Blessed!” This is so much more than a simple change of words on a computer or cell phone screen. It is a complete change in our actual condition!

“Blessed” in Matthew’s Gospel is almost the equivalent of “saved” or “redeemed.”[2] Jesus changes the status of every sinner to “blessed,” to “saved.” He changes us from sinners to saints by the gift of salvation that He won for us with His cross and resurrection. Jesus brings the reign of heaven to you in the Gospel of His sacrificial death in your place on the cross and His triumphant resurrection from the dead guaranteeing your resurrection life in Him. In Christ, you receive the gift of saving faith through the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). That faith receives the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life which Jesus purchased and won for you with His shed blood and with His innocent suffering and death. You are “blessed” in Christ because Jesus has come to reign over you in grace and mercy.

In Christ, you are no longer the “hateful” but the “merciful.” The transforming power of Christ through the Holy Spirit changes you. You are a new creation with a new status as a Child of God (2 Cor 5:17). You are able to show mercy to others as you love the unlovable, as you help the helpless, as you serve those who have needs among us.

As a child of God in Christ, you also receive the new status of “pure in heart.” We who are by nature sinful and unclean have been washed clean by the blood of Christ (1 Jn. 1:7). By the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are given pure hearts because we are blessed to receive the mercy and grace of the Son of God (Ps. 51). As the Lord promised, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek. 36:26-27). This He has done for us in and through His Word and Holy Baptism.

In Christ, you also become “peacemakers” as you bring the love and mercy of God shown to you in Christ into the lives of others through your words, attitudes, and actions. Jesus said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35) The Holy Spirit enables you to demonstrate through your peacemaking, loving actions in Christ, that you are sons and daughters of God the Father.

Most certainly this includes what you post on social media, what you text or email, and how you speak to people. You are blessed by Jesus Christ with the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. You are changed from the inside out with a new heart by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Word and the Sacraments of Christ. Your status is now, as we will hear next Sunday, that of “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” Your calling, your station in life, which is blessed in Christ is one that reflects your status of a blessed child of God to others so that “they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16b).

One commentator wrote about Jesus’ words, “Blessed! intoned again and again, sounds like bells of heaven, ringing down into this unblessed world from the cathedral spires of the kingdom inviting all [people] to enter” (Lenski, 183). Be that sounding bell of the blessings of Christ to this world in your lives as His disciples. You are blessed because the reign of heaven is yours in Christ. Your sins are forgiven and you have a new life and a new status in Jesus. Share that status with the world so that they too might come to know Jesus Christ through you! Amen.

[1] Jeffrey Gibbs, Matthew 1:1-11, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia 2006), 240.

[2] Jeffrey Gibbs, Matthew 1:1-11, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia 2006), 239.


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