All Saints' Sermon (Matt. 5:1-12)
Dear saints of God, you’re old enough now, having heard this so faithfulfully so long, having attended to it, studied it, learning to live from it daily – you are old enough to understand how all of this can be heard as condemnation, as the Law, and how it can be heard as great joy, sheer Gospel. But NONE of it can be heard, not properly at least, as hanging even a little of God’s salvation on sinners like us!
It is the strangest thing, hardest of all to believe and understand, when God speaks opposite of how things seem. It is also the greatest of blessings! We believe we are blessed when we are something else than poor, even if it is poor IN SPIRIT. No one wants to be poor like that. Everybody wants to claim something, to boast in their love or their faith. To stand up to God and protest, “But we are children of Abraham as much as you are!” Poor in spirit? That is the last thing sinners want to be. Blessed are you, dear Christian, who have nothing else to admit to but this: “I have nothing to offer you, God, but my sins. I have no hope at all of your blessing, but Jesus!”
Do you see how our Lord’s Beatitudes are good news for us this morning? They are good news in the way that this is good news: Jesus said, “Those who are healthy have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick.” And, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Oh, that is good news for sure! It is good news when we have our eyes on Him Who comes for those who have no hope unless He does; for those who are poor and destitute without Him; for those who cannot charm the heart of God with their good deeds, their good intentions, or a heart that people want to think is not blackened by sin.
“Blessed are the poor” means Jesus came for SINNERS! “Blessed are the poor in spirit” means Jesus came for you and me, for people whose only hope is that the God of all the Universe has given us His Son, Who emptied out Himself and took up looking like a beggar, like one of us. They beat Him and stripped Him, and He had no one to speak in His defense. They nailed Him to a cross, and even God forsook Him. Blessed, indeed, are the poor, since the Son of God assumed our poverty, our forsakenness, our sin and death beneath the wrath of God.
Dear sinners, take your refuge in that. Shut yourselves up in the wounds of Jesus, in His dying in your place. Hide yourself there until the wrath of God is passed. That is being poor in spirit, being humble and contrite and having no hope but that God has punished His Son in your place. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these, who can only take refuge in Jesus. Those who think they can take refuge anywhere else are far too rich for God’s kingdom. Jesus only came for the poor in spirit.
All eyes on such a Jesus makes His beatitudes good news. To those with nothing, God hands out His kingdom, on account of His Son.
To those who mourn their sin, who mourn their mortal state, who look around and mourn the evil in this world and how much they have added to it, to those who can do nothing but look in the mirror and cry, He says: “Peace be with you. I forgive you all your sins!”
It is the same with the meek, who dare not raise their eyes to heaven or lift their voice in opposition to the Lord, who can only beg God for His mercy, for the sake of Christ Jesus. They inherit the earth!
And you who hunger and thirst after righteousness. You who cannot stay away from this Table, this Water, this Word, lest you die in your sins! You who have nothing if God doesn’t feed you. Here! Here is all that you need. All you could ask for! All that He gives!
It is easy to run this all in the way of the Gospel. And we should, dear Christian. We SHOULD! When the focus is JESUS, and what He gives to poor sinners, to the mourning, the meek and the hungry. But when eyes turn to us, then we start to hear Law! For men don’t want to be poor before God. We don’t want to be meek and lowly. We challenge what God has said clearly. Like the Jews who had believed in Him last Sunday, we do not take Him at His Word, or remain in what He says. We hunger only for the things that do not last a moment, and ignore the Word that remains forever!
If we never learn repentance from that, we will surely be damned. If we go on in our richness, thinking that our hearts must have the right stuff God is looking for . . . If we go on in indifference toward our sin and God’s eternal judgment which we so rightfully deserve . . . If we never learn humility and hunger for the righteousness of Jesus, given to us freely in His Word and Sacraments, we’re lost!
But, dear Christian, that is LAW, and no one will be saved by keeping the Law. So, don’t think, for a moment, that you must work up more of what God is looking for to be saved – more poverty of spirit, more sorrow over sin, more meekness in the face of God, more eagerness to eat and drink what God has given.
If I could make you hunger and thirst more for what I have to give you, I would. In fact, I’m TRYING! But not because more hunger is what you need. Rather, you need more righteousness, that is, more Jesus. More God in the flesh for you, completely looking past your sins, the fact that you have nothing you can show to God to save you. You need, and I need, more and more of Jesus in our place, Jesus as the wall and rampart of salvation, Jesus as the open gate through which God pours out heaven, making sinners rich in grace and mercy, drying the tears of those who weep, comforting us with His forgiveness, making bold the meek to live in faith toward Him and fervent love toward one another.
Dear Blessed Ones, all eyes on Jesus makes His Beatitudes all Gospel! All eyes on us and our behavior, our failings, our inability to do what He requires, is Law. What then to do with what comes next? Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those whom people insult, persecute, and say all manner of evil against because of Jesus. Dear Christian, you know.
All eyes on us, and they are surely Law! How is it that you and I are just so cheap in handing out God’s mercy, when -- GOOD NEWS! -- He has made us RICH in Christ with His forgiveness? He has filled our ears with it this morning! He will even fill our mouths with it in just a few short moments, the Body and the Blood of Christ in bread and wine for our forgiveness! How is such Good News is not pouring out of us to others?
How is it that our hearts aren’t daily guarded by the Gifts of God, our Baptisms, His Holy Absolution, the preaching and the teaching of the Gospel, the Word of Jesus’ Institution? How is it that our days aren’t filled with praying as our Savior taught us? We have seen and heard our God this morning, living, active in His saving Word and Sacraments! How is it that we don’t remain within His Word all week, filling up our hearts and minds and voices with His Gospel purely taught, confessed, making peace with those around us, speaking like the sons of God we are?
And how is it that we get along so peachy with this world? How is it we are always wanting peace with what says something different than Christ Jesus, always wanting to fling wide the way to Jesus’ altar, and open it to every doctrine, as if it doesn’t matter what He says, but only how things SEEM?
Christ in His mercy, dear Christian, Christ in His handing out heaven to sinners, Christ in His Washing, Absolving and Feeding, does not speak the way things seem. He calls the poor rich. He calls the mournful happy. He calls the meek lords of all the earth, and then some! He calls the hungry fed! All eyes and ears on Jesus, and that will always cause division with those who want us looking to ourselves, to gauge what Jesus says by how things seem. Blessed are you when men, therefore, revile you, persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you – because of JESUS. When your whole life puts all eyes on Him Who died and rose again to save you!
That is what your peacemaking and mercy-speaking does, dear Christian. What good news to those around you! It says the opposite of man’s religion. It speaks as if it doesn’t matter how things SEEM, but all things hinge on Jesus, what he does and SAYS! All eyes on sinners will always be the Law; will always end with condemnation. All eyes on Jesus? That’s Gospel. That’s what goes into your ears this morning when I tell you God is merciful, even toward the likes of you and me. It is Gospel when I tell you, “Peace be with you,” even in the midst of all your worries. Even in the midst of all your sins.
Peace be with you, dear sons of God. That means, Jesus be with you, clothing your poverty, drying your tears, strengthening your feeble knees, feeding you more of what is full of His mercy, even replacing your words and your ways with His peace. Enough to pour from you to others. Enough to bring some happiness and joy to the other poor sinners in your life, filling your days with rejoicing, even when it drives the devil crazy. It will, you know, to be so confident that all you have is Christ to save you. All you have to confess, to plead before God is His Name. All you have to repeat, to say, is what you yourself have heard. That drives the devil mad. And so, they persecuted the prophets before you. So, they will also persecute you.
Blessed are you, anyway. That means, all eyes off everything about you and only on Jesus, who is your wealth, your comfort, your courage, and your peace. Will that even teach you your sin? Yes, it will, as quickly as your eyes revert to you. And when they do, Blessed are the poor, the meek, the ones who need righteousness. Blessed are those who only have Jesus. And you do, dear Baptized, Absolved, and Body and Blood fed. In Him, great is your reward in heaven, and happy is your life on earth, in His peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!