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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blessed - November 6, 2011 - Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost /All Saints’ Day Observed - Text: Matthew 5:1-12

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day. This does not mean that we give undue credit or glory to those faithful family members and friends who have fallen asleep in faith, but it does mean that we place their lives before us as an example of how we are to live the Christian faith. As we remember the saints who have gone on before us we remember that they too were at the same time sinner and saint, just like us. We also take the time to be reminded that by faith in Jesus Christ we are all saints. As we go around the room we might call each other by our sainted name, Saint Shirley, Saint Pat, Saint Jon, Saint (place your name here) and that would continue for each one of us. As saints, then, heaven is not just something we look forward to, it is a present reality. By faith in Jesus and His work on the cross we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Heaven is ours now, it is just that we will wait until we fall asleep in faith from this life until we will awaken in our heavenly home.

This morning our text is what we call the Beatitudes, or the statements of blessing from Jesus. Before we get to these statements of Jesus let us take a few minutes to remind ourselves what is the world’s idea of being blessed. We have talked about these various items from time to time. Being blessed according to the standards of this world means having riches. Wealth and money is a worldly sign of success. The more money one has, the more successful they appear to be, at least in the eyes of the world.

Another indicator of success in our world is power. Power is a sign of worldly success. The more powerful one is, or the more powerful they seem to the world, the more successful they appear to be, again, at least in they eyes of the world.

A third indicator of success in our world is fame. Being famous is a sign of worldly success. The more famous one is, the more successful they appear to be, again, at least in the eyes of the world.

Yet, as we have been reminded time and again, these worldly signs of success are not necessarily indicative that a person is successful, because, as we know, as we have heard stated and read about, some of the most wealthy, most powerful and most famous people are also some of the most depressed. Jesus has a different idea and understanding of being successful and that is where we now turn our attention.

Beginning at verse three, Jesus’ idea of being blessed begins with admitting our weak faith. In His own words Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3). Jesus is not talking about simply being poor in spirit, or weak in faith, but admitting that we are in a constant need of having our faith strengthened. Here we might remind ourselves that confirmation was not graduation and that there is always more that we do not know about God than we do know about Him and so we have a constant need to be in His Word, to read our Bible, to be not only in divine service, but also in Bible Class so that we might be strengthened in our faith.

Continuing on at verse four, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes being ashamed of and mourning our weak faith. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (v. 4). Jesus is not talking simply about some outward speaking of our weak faith, you know the line, “I know I should be in Bible Class, I know I should read my Bible every day, I know I should be in church every Sunday,” and so forth. No, Jesus is talking about a yearning which comes from the heart, a yearning so deep that it moves us to do something about our weak faith. In other words, we simply cannot help but be where the gifts are given and distributed.

In verse five, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes meekly acknowledging one’s part in Jesus’ crucifixion. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (v. 5). Blessed are those who are not arrogant, but who bow their heads in grief because of their sin and their part in Jesus’ death, that Jesus had to die for their sins. This means that each one of us confesses, for ourselves, that it was because of my sins that Jesus had to shed His blood and die on the cross. For if we cannot and do not acknowledge our part in Jesus’ death on the cross, then we have no part in Jesus’ resurrection and eternal life. It is this acknowledgment, when it is a faithful and true acknowledgment which gains for us an inheritance in heaven and which leads us into action as we read in verse six.

In verse six, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes craving, hungering and thirsting after doing the right thing. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (v. 6). Those who are blessed are those who hunger and thirst after the Word of God, those who truly hunger and thirst after the Lord’s righteousness, and those who strive, with the Lord’s help, for an eternal righteousness and a piety of life. Again, this is something that is so powerful we simply cannot help but want to be where God’s gifts are distributed and given out.

So far Jesus has been pointing to us as individuals. We are blessed when we confess and grieve our sins, confess our need to be in His Word, and when hunger and thirst for His word and righteousness. Our confession brings forgiveness, but even more. Here we are reminded that our faith does, or at least should, make a difference in our lives, the way we live, how we speak, what we do and so forth. There is more to our Christian lives than just showing up for church and Bible Class on Sunday morning.

In verse seven our attention focuses on our outlook toward others. Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes showing mercy to others even if that mercy is not show back. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (v. 7). Blessed are those who have a deep and sincere concern for the temporal and spiritual needs of their neighbor. Here we might be reminded of the opportunities which the Lord gives to us to be merciful to others, specifically to our guest who come to divine service with us and also to the families of our mother’s day out, and especially those who have no home church.

In verse eight, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes being pure in heart, thinking pure thoughts. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (v. 8). This is the opposite of hypocrisy which is acting like a Christian, but not believing. Are our thoughts on ourselves or on those who have not yet heard the message of Jesus and salvation? Are our thoughts continually on this world and our lives in this world, or on the world to come and our being ready for the world to come and getting others ready?

In verse nine, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes seeking to bring peace among ourselves and others. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (v. 9). This is not a peace which comes from compromising one’s faith and beliefs, but a peace which has at its center Jesus Christ. Maybe you have seen the sign or the bumper sticker, “No (N-O) Jesus, No (N-O)Peace, Know (K-N-O-W) Jesus, Know (K-N-O-W) Peace.” Apart from Jesus and apart from faith in Him we cannot know or have true peace. Remember, true peace comes only from sins forgiven so without Jesus there is no forgiveness and no true peace.

In verse ten, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes suffering persecution because of our faith. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 10). It is our spiritual righteousness, our moral character, our exclusive claim that there is one way and only one way to eternal life, which makes us Christians stand out and “look” aloof to the world and thus that is why we are hated by the world. When we make the Lord’s righteousness ours and when we adopt our Lord’s intolerant attitude toward sin then we can no longer be accepted by our unrighteous and, ironically enough by our, so called, tolerant society. Do you want to know if you are really a Christian or not? Check to see if you are loved or hated by the world.

Finally in verse eleven, Jesus’ idea of being blessed includes suffering, being insulted, falsely accused and spoken against. In His own words Jesus say, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (v. 11). Here Jesus names a few forms of hatred which will be bestowed on “practicing” Christians. It is our honor and distinction to suffer in His interest and because of His name. As Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (v. 12). As Christians we still have an irrepressible joy, because no matter how much the world might hate us, no matter how much the world might persecute us, this is nothing compared to the glory which is ours in heaven.

This morning we see a stark difference in our focus and in the focus of the world. The world’s focus is on the here and now. For those who are in the world and of the world, this is all there is and so life must be lived for the here and now. “You have to grab for all the gusto you can.”

Whereas God’s focus is on the now and the not yet, the future, eternity. Our life on this earth is short, from conception and birth to a hundred years or so and then it is over, compared to our life in heaven which is forever and ever and ever. As Christians our focus is not so much on the here and now as on the now and the hereafter. That is why we see the importance of confessing our sins and being given forgiveness, that we confess our weak faith, that we hunger and thirst after the Word of the Lord and His righteousness, that we show mercy and seek ways to share the love of Jesus and His Gospel message with others, so they too might be a part of His kingdom.

As we celebrate All Saints Day we celebrate that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, we are a part of God’s Kingdom and that we have a hope and a certainty for now and for the future. We celebrate the example of all the saints who have gone on before us because they showed their faith in Jesus alone for their salvation, because they hungered and thirsted after righteousness and because their lives are an example to us to be about the business of Jesus in spreading His love and Gospel message to all the world.

I like the words of one of the songs we used to sing when I was serving with a group that did weekends for church youth groups while in college, it went, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace, I want to see my Savior’s face, heaven is a wonderful place, I want to go there.” I pray that this is your song as well so that when our last hour on this earth has come we might all together with all the saints stand before the Lord’s throne and proclaim, “to Him be the glory,” for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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