Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Saints' Day

All Saints’ Day (Observed)
November 2, 2008
Text: Matt. 5:1-12

Beloved in the Lord, you are God’s children now. You have been made God’s children now in the water and Word of Holy Baptism. Our Lord Jesus Christ has bought you with His own blood to be God’s own dear child. And what you will be in the future, in your resurrection glory, when Christ returns to call you forth from the grave, that has yet to be revealed. But we know that when our Lord Jesus appears, all who are in Christ will be like Him. You will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is (cf. 1 John 3:2). To know that you will be like Him, that is enough for you. That is enough to sustain you in this world with all of its trials and tribulations. For even though you are God’s children now, appearances would indicate otherwise. Even though divine sonship is your reality now, you appear to be poor. You mourn. You hunger and thirst for righteousness. You are reviled and persecuted and all kinds of evil things are uttered against you falsely because of Jesus Christ. And that is the “already/not yet” of the Christian baptismal life. You are already blessed, saints of God, co-heirs with Christ, kings and queens in His Kingdom. But this is not yet manifest. In this world, you are like the apostle Paul, “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:8-11; ESV).

So it is that Jesus describes His saints, describes you in the Beatitudes this morning. Jesus begins His famous sermon on the mount with these words, describing all who find their life in Him, as blessed in spite of all earthly appearances. Our Lord opens His mouth and pronounces the reality: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Now don’t misunderstand Jesus the way He is so often misunderstood when it comes to the Beatitudes. Jesus is not commanding you to be poor in spirit. This is not an “if/then” conditional statement. This is simply an announcement of the reality of those who are in Christ Jesus. Those who are poor in spirit are blessed. Why? Because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So who are the poor in spirit? The poor in spirit are those who recognize their slavery to sin, recognize that they have no righteousness of their own, recognize that they are helpless and unable to save themselves from their sinful predicament. To be poor in spirit is to realize that you need the help and salvation of Another, namely, of Jesus Christ, who alone can save you by His perfect keeping of the Law in your place, by His sin-atoning death in your place, by His conquering of death in His glorious resurrection, that you, too, might finally rise from the dead. To recognize that you bring nothing to the table in matters of salvation, except for sin and death, and that Jesus brings everything to the table in matters of salvation, including the forgiveness of sins and eternal life… to recognize this and trust that it is for you, that your Lord Jesus brings all of this for you, that is to be poor in spirit. And in so being poor, you are blessed. You are blessed, for Jesus gives you the very kingdom of heaven. It is all His free gift, given without any merit or worthiness in you, purchased for you not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death.

So you who are poor in spirit are really blessed. You are blessed in the Lord. But in this life, as a result of your sinful condition, you mourn. You mourn over all that sin has wrought in this fallen world, all the pain and affliction that sin has caused. You mourn over broken relationships. You mourn over sickness and disease. You mourn over broken promises. You mourn over the lack of justice in this world and over a government that fails no matter who is in control, fails to protect life, fails to uphold marriage, fails to be the servant God has called it to be. You mourn over your own sin. For the good you want to do, you do not do. The evil you do not want to do, this you keep on doing. You mourn over death, the deaths of loved ones, and your own looming death. You mourn, but you are blessed. You are blessed, for you shall be comforted, comforted by our Lord Jesus Christ who has come to save you from sin, save you from death, and make right all that has gone wrong in this fallen creation.

All that is good comes from God, not from yourself. So you are meek, lowly. There is no place for boasting, save in the cross of Christ Jesus, our Lord. You know you have no righteousness of your own. Your righteousness comes from Jesus. And His righteousness is sufficient. You hunger and thirst after true righteousness in this life. What you do not find in yourself, what you do not find in presidential candidates, what you do not find in any other human being, you find in Jesus Christ. He alone is righteous. And you are blessed, for He gives you His righteousness. When you hunger and thirst, He fills you. He satisfies you. For He alone is able to satisfy. And as a result of all that you have received from your Lord Jesus, something begins to happen in you. The Holy Spirit has His way with you, to sanctify you. As one bought by the blood of Christ, washed clean in Holy Baptism, fed and nourished by the Word and the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, you begin to look like Jesus. You become merciful, as He is merciful, not perfectly by any means, not in this life anyway. But you make a beginning of mercy. And you are blessed, for you are shown mercy. You become pure in heart, as He is pure in heart, a worshiper of the one true God, not perfectly by any means, not in this life anyway. But you make a beginning of being pure in heart. And you are blessed, for you shall see God. You become a peacemaker. As He has made peace for you with God, so now you make peace between your neighbors living in this fallen world, certainly not perfectly, not in this life. But you make a beginning of peace. And you are blessed, for you shall be called sons of God.

And in each of these Beatitudes, you see that these are a true description of you who are in Christ because they are first a true description of Christ Himself. He is THE poor man. He who is very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, He became man and emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant, and humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. Oh how He mourned for fallen humanity, seeking to gather all men together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but men would not. Oh how He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and when He found none among men, He Himself became the righteousness of all men in His suffering and death. Oh how merciful and pure in heart is our Lord Jesus, and since we have been justified by faith in Him, we have peace with God through our ultimate peacemaker, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). The reality Jesus describes for His saints is a reality that first of all describes Himself. And it describes us because we are baptized into Him. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).

But so also there is another reality for the one baptized into Christ. Jesus describes it this morning in our text. As they persecuted Jesus, they will persecute you. No one wants to be persecuted. And certainly you should not seek persecution. But persecution will seek you. Be it more subtle, as it is here in the United States, or more explicit, as it is in many places throughout the world, particularly in Islamic countries, and especially in India over the past few weeks, persecution will find Christians. But when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for Jesus’ sake, you are blessed. For yours is the kingdom of heaven. You are blessed when others revile you and persecute you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely. Jesus even tells you to rejoice and be glad in that day. For you are receiving a Christian’s reward. So they did to the prophets who were before you. So they did to the apostles. So they did to the martyrs of the Christian Church throughout the ages. Rejoice and be glad. For here you have no abiding city. Your citizenship is in heaven. Therefore you are blessed. You are blessed in Christ to be numbered among His saints, and counted worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake. You may have to suffer here, now, for a little while. But there is an end to suffering. Your reward is in heaven, kept there for you to be enjoyed eternally on the day God calls you out of this vale of tears to Himself.

On this All Saints’ Day we are encouraged as we live in the “already/not yet” of this world. For the saints who have gone before us… Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, Peter, James, and John, St. Paul, St. Mary, Augustine, Luther, Walther, Lissy VanderBaan, Bob Pueschel… the saints who have gone before us likewise suffered, likewise were poor in spirit, mourned, were meek, hungered and thirsted for righteousness, were persecuted for the Name of Jesus Christ, but they endured, they persevered, and now their rest is won. They are in heaven with Jesus, awaiting the resurrection from the dead. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ‘Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Rev. 7:14-17). Beloved in the Lord, the reality of the saints in heaven is also the reality of every saint on earth, every member of the Body of Christ who is poor in spirit. This is your reality in Christ. You are blessed. What is not yet manifest is already yours in Christ, to be believed until it is seen. God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. For on that Day there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. Therefore comfort one another with these words. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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