Here is the sermon I gave last Sunday at St Peter’s Lutheran Church Brownstown, IN in observance of All Saints Day:
Year after year on this Sunday those beautiful words of the hymn “For All the Saints” speak about the scope and breadth of the journey of faith that saints in the church from years past have taken. Listen again to the first verse:
1 For all the saints who from their labors rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Those Saints of the past did not earn their status as saints. No person can earn sainthood through their actions. No person can tip the balance scale toward sainthood by sheer magnitude of good deeds. On our own we are all of course in bondage to sin. Only Jesus qualifies as someone whose life merits a recognition of holiness.
Instead what makes us saints as, you can read in the introduction in our bulletin, is that we have been made righteous and holy in Christ. We are saints because in faith we confess Jesus before the world.
A significant part of life as Saints, is that we live lives full of God’s Blessings. In trusting in Christ the blessings we experience and give to others transcends the definitions of what this world would define as blessing. Blessing is not only about material goods and prosperity, but about our eternal inheritance in Christ. Listen now to the seventh verse of the hymn which describes the greatest blessing of all in our lives, our being raised with Christ on the last day:
But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day; The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way. Alleluia! Alleluia!
The seventh verse of the hymn captures the unspeakable inexplicable blessings of God’s kingdom. Just when we think we have blessings, there is always more. There is more because of God’s plan for us. If you think it can’t get any better than your wedding day, or the birth of your first child, or perhaps the closing on your first home, there is always more.
Even reaching that milestone at work, or if you were thrilled to see the Cubs win the world series last Wednesday, there is so much more that awaits us than the temporary joys we find in this fallen world. How much greater will be our joy when we are cheering as Jesus passes on his way before us in our perfected bodies! The promised resurrection on the last day is evidence that there is so much more than what we see and experience right now.
From Philippians chapter 3: “But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject even all things to himself.
Jesus teaches in our gospel lesson how there is so much more- the teachings the church has named the beatitudes, in which we sang earlier. Jesus teaches us that there is so much more than we can see through the statement: “Blessed are you”
Where the world would classify spiritual poverty, persecution, and other simplicities of life as negatives, Jesus turns the view upside down and calls such humble estates blessed.
Jesus speaks these words early on in his ministry when his disciples were just beginning to learn about the truth that Jesus is the coming of God’s kingdom among them. They were new in their faith, so Jesus is teaching them the basics. The disciples, as new Christians were faced with the same limitations in life as we do. As Jesus spoke to them he also speaks to us:
One basic of faith Jesus teaches is what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’ and ‘rich in Christ.’ “Blessed are you who are poor in Spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” We are poor in spirit to be sure. By nature we have nothing in our spirit that commends us before God. So with respect to our sinful human nature, we are poor. With respect to the material things we have in life, we know that they do not make us rich in spirit. Unbelievers may think the possessions and wealth they have makes them rich, but in God’s eyes all the treasures in the world without Jesus makes someone completely bankrupt.
Despite the poverty in Spirit that we carry with us, we are blessed because Jesus has taken our bankrupt soul into his own flesh. St. Paul writes in the second letter to the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Through the power of Christ, being poor in spirit means great riches. More than you can imagine.
In Christ you are rich beyond what you ever would dream of in life. No longer do you need to think of your worth as defined by the wealth you accumulate in this world. Instead you are defined by the wealth Christ accumulated for you, as he filled you up with the riches of forgiveness and eternal life. In these riches there is always more, as we continue to learn and study God’s Word.
We all know what it is like to have a bank account that we can look at and keep track of how much we have month after month. But do we ever think about what it means to track from month to month how our life of discipleship leads us to be rich in Christ? I know that is something I find easy to take for granted or to lose sight of. Yet it’s value is priceless!
Jesus teaches another basic of the faith: “Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.” Martin Luther described our identity of Christians in this side of eternity, in this life, as both saint and sinner. With respect to our fallen human nature we are 100% sinful and unclean. Yet we are also saints. With respect to our faith in Christ and the washing clean of baptism we have been made 100% righteous and holy. It is because of this mix that we have reason to mourn.
We mourn our own sinful nature. When we grow in spiritual maturity we may have an even greater awareness of how your sin can cause hurt to others. We mourn how that even as we trust Jesus as our Savior we still cause hurt in our relationships with others as we play out our identity as 100% sinners in different ways and forms throughout life. And we mourn the inevitability that those who are closest to us are the ones we have the most potential to cause hurt to.
We mourn because of the damages to this world that our fallen human nature brings about. It could be something close to home such as the illness or death of a family member or the loss of a job or home that causes us to mourn.
These losses wound us deeply, we feel a piece of our own life is missing. But we are comforted in our mourning through the promise of the resurrection. With our God, there is always more. We will see those loved ones of ours who have died in the Lord. We shall see Jesus with our own eyes as we gather around him in the ceaseless worship and service to God in heaven.
In the midst of all of this mourning Jesus says blessed are you. He comforts us with the promise that He has entered our death to give us resurrection and eternal life.
As verse four of the Hymn for All the Saints says: “We feebly struggle” on this earth, yet on this earth we already rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus who raises us up with these words: You are forgiven!
Even as you mourn on this earth, you are comforted with the Easter triumph of Jesus who raises you and comforts you everyday, saying you are mine, I have purchased you with my own blood.
One more basic that Jesus teaches: Blessed are you who are pure in heart, for you will see God.
The writer of Psalm 42 expresses that we might cry out in distress “As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” As we feebly struggle on earth we struggle with the taunts of others who would have us believe that we cannot see God in our lives, that we must depend on ourselves, on the goodness of our own heart to get us through.
Yet Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder and adultery, sexual immorality, theft false witness, slander.” It seems that with our own hearts we cannot see God.
However Jesus tells us: Blessed are you, God has created in you a clean heart and a renewed spirit within you. Jesus says to us: “I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” In Christ we are given a new clean heart that seeks kindness for our neighbor and leads us to righteousness and purity in our most important relationships, within our family and within the body of Christ.
With a pure heart we are able to see God in His Word, We are able to see God in the waters of the baptismal font and the meal of the Lord’s Supper. He cleans our hearts through His Word so that our hearts give the world a picture of Jesus.
We may feebly struggle in comparison to the saints in heaven, but we are still blessed beyond our imagination. God has blessed his people from the start as we see in the scripture: God blesses Abram in Genesis chapter 12: “I will make for you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” God promises Abram land many descendants and that he will be a blessing to the nations.
God fulfills this blessing first given to Abraham through Jesus, who gives us the land of new Jerusalem by making the Church the descendants who are blessed through Abraham.
God blessed Israel through Aaron in Numbers chapter 6, “You shall bless the people of Israel, so shall you say to them, “The Lord Bless you and keep you…. (the words we hear at the end of each worship service) “So shall they put my name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”
In the same way through Jesus, God has placed his name upon us through the waters of Holy Baptism and blesses us each day in Christ. What all these blessings in the scripture have in common is that they are given to us through Christ. And with Christ, there is always more glory than we can imagine. Amen.