Sermon for November 3, 2019, All Saints’ Sunday

Matthew 5:1-12 (All Saints’ Day—Observed)

“Living as Saints

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

November 3, 2019

 

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

Our text is the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:

1But when he had seen the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples approached him 2and he opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3”Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the reign of heaven is theirs. 4Blessed are those who are mourning, because they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be satisfied. 7Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God. 10Blessed are the ones who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, because the reign of heaven is theirs. 11Blessed are you whenever people insult you and persecute you and speak, by lying, all kinds of evil against you on account of me. 12Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven, for in this way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Dear Saints of God in Christ Jesus,

          Yes, I’m talking to you. . . . Well, yes, I did call all of you “saints” because that is who you are. It’s not just a nice term of respect; it’s your identity. This is All Saints’ Sunday and today is a day that we rejoice and give thanks for the “whole people of God in Christ Jesus” . . . for all the saints! Everyone who has been cleansed by the God the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism is a holy child of God. Everyone who trusts in the salvation from sin, Satan, and death that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, won for them is a saint of God. “Saint” means “a holy person.” Through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, by means of Holy Baptism, you are His saints, God’s holy people.

          You are holy because God has declared you to be so because Jesus has cleansed you from your sins with “His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death that [you] might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” (Small Catechism: 2nd Article). According to our natural birth, you and I and all people were conceived and born sinful and were under the wrath of God’s punishment and condemnation (Psalm 51). But our Father in heaven sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life in our place, a life without sin for which we get the credit as if we had lived it ourselves. This One-of-a-Kind Son of God then took upon Himself the punishment and condemnation for all our sins of thought, word, and deed. He suffered on a cross as He endured God’s eternal wrath and anger against the sins of the world. Jesus died our death. He suffered hell for us in our place. In doing so, He won forgiveness of sins and everlasting life for the whole world.

          The Lord gives you the gifts of faith, forgiveness, and eternal life in the Gospel and Baptism. According to this new birth, God counts you no longer as a sinner, but as His holy child—a saint. God the Holy Spirit has made you holy through the saving waters of Baptism. He has cleansed you from your sin by applying the blood of Jesus to you in this washing of repentance. Salvation from death, hell, and sin is yours as a free gift, received by grace alone through faith alone by the power of the Word alone. Pastor Martin Luther reminds us in his 1522 sermon on 1 Peter 1, “Thus Scripture calls us holy while we are still living here on earth, if we believe. . . . You must be holy. But you must be prepared not to think that you are holy of yourself or on the strength of your merit. No, you must be holy because you have the Word of God, because heaven is yours, and because you have become truly pious and holy through Christ. This you must avow if you want to be a Christian. . . . Hence you must believe and confess that you are holy, but by this blood and not by reason of your own piety. Therefore you must be willing to surrender life and all possessions for this and to face whatever may be your lot on this account.”[1]

          The Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson shows us what is our lot in this life as His saints. Jesus begins the “Sermon on the Mount” with a chorus of decrees: “You are blessed . . .” Pastor and Seminary Professor Jeff Gibbs understands the word “blessed” in Matthew’s Gospel to be virtually the equivalent of “saved” or “redeemed.” We might also toss in the term “saint.” Who does Jesus pronounce to be blessed, saved, and redeemed to be His saints because the reign of heaven with all its gifts of forgiveness and life already belongs to them? You! His disciples![2]

          You, then, live your life in this world as the baptized saints of the Lord—blessed, saved, and redeemed by the blood of Christ shed for you on the cross. You are blessed by faith in Jesus who died and rose to make you the holy people of God that you now are. So your “lot in life,” to borrow Luther’s words, is to live your life, in whatever calling the Lord has placed you, as holy people.

          Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the reign of heaven is theirs. God has indeed given to you all that you need to support this body and life. He has given you material goods and even greater spiritual treasures. You are blessed that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you do not attach your heart to the earthly blessings, but rather treasure the great, eternal possessions you have in heaven. You were once dead in your sins, spiritually broke! But Christ has changed that and given you saving faith, forgiveness, life everlasting—true spiritual wealth under His reign. In this earthly life, receive and use what God gives you. Be thankful for it and do not be greedy. Live by your daily work in faith, trusting in Him who provides daily bread to you now and an everlasting banquet in His heavenly kingdom.

Blessed are those who are mourning, because they will be comforted. Luther says that if you simply begin to be a Christian, you will soon find out what it means to mourn and be sorrowful.[3] You are not exempt from the sorrows of this earthly life—sickness, troubles, fears, and physical death. But you have the promise of Christ. You will be comforted. Although on this side of heaven you have to mourn and be sorrowful and every day see your heart troubled, hold fast in faith being strengthened by Word and Sacrament. Let these gifts to you satisfy and comfort you. Refresh yourself daily in the Gospel of your salvation. Eat and drink the Savior’s body and blood with the bread and wine. There is comfort for you who live now by faith. In the world, you will have trouble. But take heart, Christ has indeed overcome the world (John 16:33).

Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth. As the people of God with faith in Christ, the Spirit empowers your lives to be one of meekness or lowliness. This means that you don’t deal with others unreasonably, hatefully, or vengefully. You don’t take the law into your own hands. Rather, use the system that God has put in place for you to air disagreements. First try to work them out in love with the one with whom you are at odds. By grace, overlook the things which you are able. Act reasonably toward your neighbor. Love them sacrificially in humbleness as Christ first loved you (1 John 4:19).

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be satisfied. As you go through this life as God’s holy people in Christ, He supplies what you need by grace to move you through the times of mourning and weeping, to strengthen you to be humble and to serve others in love. God feeds you the hearty food of His Gospel. Eat and drink the Savior’s body and blood which strengthens your faith as well as delivers forgiveness and eternal life. In Christ’s Word and Sacrament, you find your ultimate satisfaction in His grace and mercy so that you can show mercy to your neighbors.

Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy. By the power of the Spirit, gladly forgive those who sin against you. Do good to others in Jesus’ name, to those who are outwardly poor and in need of any kind of help that we are able to offer according to your station in life.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God. Christians have been made pure in heart by the grace of God through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. His saving blood has cleansed us from our sins. The Holy Spirit has begun a good work in us so that we hunger and thirst for the Word and Sacraments. It is in the Word of God and by faith that we see Him as our gracious Father in heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, with pure hearts, we now desire to show mercy and love to our neighbors and to be peacemakers. This is what Christ, our Lord, has done for us by reconciling us to the Father, bringing us into His favor. We now, by faith in Christ in the power of the Spirit, do the same. We become reconcilers and mediators between our neighbors. We carry the best to both sides. We strive for peace.

Because you and I are blessed with faith in Christ, because we are declared blessed by Christ in the forgiveness of sins, you and I now produce the fruits of saving faith just as the apple tree produces apples. The Lord Christ is truly delighted in you. He promises you this wonderful reward: the reign and kingdom of heaven is yours. He calls you blessed, and so you are. And yet, it is under this blessing and under the name of “Christian” that you also take up your crosses daily and follow the Savior in suffering persecution and trouble from the world.

In your holy vocation as the Lord’s saints, there will be trouble, conflict, and persecution. But that does not change your status. You remain His holy people. You are blessed. God Himself through His Spirit empowers you by the Gospel to be ready at all times to take a stand to confess your Lord and to represent the Christian faith. With the Word of God, you are armed against the devil, the world, and whatever else may be lined up against you. The prophets endured and won the victory in Christ. The apostles endured and conquered by the blood of the Lamb. So will you. That is the Savior’s promise—Blessed are you!

Under the blessing of the Lord Christ, live out your calling as His people in this world. Feast upon the Savior’s Gospel and Sacraments. Be strengthened in your faith and in holy living. Love, serve, and help others. Be the meek, the peacemaker, the one who sacrifices for the needs of another. You are the pure in heart, the children of God, and your reward is great in heaven because Christ has won eternal life for you. He will see you through this life as His saints until He brings you to His nearer presence as His saints in glory where you will see God face to face. Amen.

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 7.

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

[3] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 21 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 20.

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