Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Sunday (Proper 29), Series B

Sermon on Mark 13:24-37
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 25, 2012 (Last Sunday of the Church Year)

Compared to the upheaval and the destruction which will be seen on Judgment Day, even the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Fukushima earthquakes put together, the destruction of “frankenstorm” Sandy, and all the other disasters on this earth, will seem quite minor.  On Judgment Day, the very fabric of creation itself with unravel, and the universe itself will come undone.  Even the havoc and destruction caused by a thermonuclear explosion is not comparable to what that day will be like.  According to our Lord, even the stars in heaven will fall, and the sun and moon will be affected.  Even though mankind’s ability to destroy things with technology is frighteningly sophisticated, we cannot produce that level of destruction, in which the universe itself and all the natural laws which govern it will fall apart and cease to exist.  Compared to that, any natural or manmade disaster we’ve ever seen will look like child’s play.

But this tremendous destruction is not the end of the story.  Christ says that “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of heaven.”  The massive destruction and dissolution of the universe which will happen on the last day is really only a prelude to this event, when Jesus Christ our Lord will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.  And while the many destructions and disasters which happen in our world almost universally cause fear and sorrow in the hearts of those who witness them and are caught up in them, this event will cause two different reactions on the part of the people of the world.  In some, the unbelievers, it will cause fear and terror like nothing anyone has ever seen.  In us, however, who have been baptized into Christ and who have believed in Him and have persevered despite the sufferings and the temptations of this world, it will be an occasion for great joy.

Those who have not believed in Christ will be in terror at these events, not only because of what will be happening to the world around them, but primarily because their Judge is coming.  To those who do not have faith in Christ, the Judge is a figure who condemns them and sentences them to an eternity of punishment.  And this is not only true of those who have led manifestly sinful lives, such as murderers or drug dealers or prostitutes or adulterers, but also of those who have led outwardly righteous lives.  The fact of the matter is, Christ does not simply demand that people lead relatively decent lives, but that they live perfect lives, and there is no one on this earth who has done that, except for Jesus Christ Himself.  For those whose sins are not covered over by Christ’s righteousness, even if they have been pretty good people by the world’s standards, they have not been good enough.   Even death is no escape.  On the day when Christ comes again they will be raised to life again in order to face the punishment they deserve.  The coming of Christ means that the punishment they have deserved by their sins is now going to come upon them.  An eternity in hell, separated from the life-giving presence of their Creator, is far, far worse than being involved in any disaster that takes place on this earth.

For those of us whose sins are covered by Christ’s righteousness, however, seeing Christ come again will be a joyful occasion.  For us, it will mean that the suffering, the trials, the temptations, the struggles we have with the sin that remains in us, will be over.  The reason why the universe itself will be falling apart is that God will be making way for a new heavens and a new earth to take its place, where we will live forever, perfect and holy.  Even those Christians who will have passed away before He comes again will be resurrected so that we can see that day.  And whether we are still alive or whether we are raised up from our graves for the event, we will be changed.  The sin which corrupts our hearts will be gone, and the effects of living in a sin-filled world, such as disease, deformity, blindness, the weakness of old age, and whatever else ails us, will also be gone.  We will be perfect, and Christ’s coming again will mean the beginning of a new, eternal life for us, in which Christ will be constantly with us to provide us with our every need, in which there will be no sorrow or pain or struggles with sin, but only perfect joy and peace, where no disasters will ever threaten us again, but we will live safe and secure.

Of course, this comparison between what it will be like for the believers and the unbelievers when Christ comes again raises some pretty serious and important questions in our minds.  Since the difference is so great between the believers and the unbelievers on judgment day, it causes us to ask ourselves, how do I know which category I will be in on that day?  Even if I am in the faith now, how do I know that I won’t fall away from the faith before that day?  Am I even a believer right now?  All of these are questions with which many Christians have struggled over the centuries, and so if you’re struggling with them, you’re not alone.  And yet, the answer to them is easy.  Those who are gathered into heaven by the angels in our text are referred to as the “elect” or the “chosen ones.”  In other words, God planned to save you, and He keeps you in the faith and prevents you from falling away.  But He does this through His Means of Grace.  Through the water of Holy Baptism, through the spoken Word of Holy Absolution and of Preaching, and through Christ’s Body and Blood, we are preserved in the faith.  A person who does not come to receive these Means has no promise that God will preserve his faith in any other way.  It is therefore vital that we are here in Church to receive His Word and Sacrament frequently.

But ultimately whether or not we will be among the saved on that day depends on God’s faithfulness to us, and not on our faithfulness to Him.  God is the one who provides us with the Means of Grace for our salvation, and through them He is the one who will preserve us in His fellowship until that day.  He doesn’t do it as a reward for our goodness or our faithfulness, or even as a reward for our frequent Church attendance.  It’s just that it is through what we receive here that God has chosen to work on us.  It is His own promises to us which bind Him.  His own Word of promise stands sure, despite the destruction and the hurt that goes along with life in a dying world.  The world will pass away, but Christ’s Word will not pass away.  And His word promises us eternal life.  He will keep His promise.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving

Sermon on Luke 17:11-19
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 22, 2012 (Day of National Thanksgiving)

An enemy.  That’s what the man who came back to give thanks was, an enemy.  The Samaritans were considered the enemies of the Jews, because they claimed to worship the true God, but they worshiped Him in a different place than He had commanded, and in a different way, and their beliefs were different.  But it was a Samaritan who came back to thank Jesus for healing him of his leprosy.  The other nine, whom we can presume were Jews, did not return to thank Jesus.  And it wasn’t just that they had to go and show themselves to the priests, either.  After all, Jesus had commanded them to do that.  They could have come back after the priests had pronounced them clean and thanked Jesus.  But they didn’t.  Only this Samaritan, this enemy of the Jewish people, this foreigner, came back to thank Jesus for what had been done for Him.

We see the same thing happen in our own day.  Often you can tell whether a person was raised a Christian or whether he became a Christian as an adult by observing how he acts.  Those who have been converted as adults find it much easier to show their gratitude for what God has done for them in their everyday lives, while those of us who have always been Christians have grown up with the idea and so we are not so likely to become emotional or excited about God’s gifts the way that those who are new to the faith are.  It is hard to become emotional or excited about something you have always taken for granted, unless some experience teaches you anew the value of what you have been given.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we, along with the rest of the world, have been given many blessings by God over the course of our lives.  We owe our very existence to His continued vigilance in sustaining our lives and keeping us safe.  If He took His eyes off us for even a moment we would simply cease to exist.  He sustains us in so many ways.  In response to the question, “What is meant by daily bread?” Luther gives us this a rather long list: “Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”  And of course this is only a partial list.  In our modern age we could add to this electricity, automobiles, computers and other forms of modern technology, and many other things which support our lives in this world.  And of course we who are Christians have the highest gift of all to thank God for, the gift of His son Jesus, our Savior, along with the Means of Grace by which our faith is sustained and nourished, and through which we receive the eternal life which Christ has won for us.

But these are things that it is too easy to take for granted.  The sun shines both on the just and the unjust, and so it is easy to forget that it is God who gives it.  Those of us who have been Christians for a very long time may take for granted the salvation which is ours through Christ, forgetting how infinitely great was His sacrifice in humiliating Himself, even to the point of death, so that we might have eternal life.  It is easy to take God’s blessings to us for granted, and it is especially easy to do so because of the fact that we are sinners.  The old sinful Adam in us doesn’t want to acknowledge God as the giver of all these good gifts.  Our pride will not allow us to admit that we are dependent upon God, or upon anyone else for that matter, for our survival or our well-being.  And ultimately that is the root cause of the unthankful attitude into which we so often fall: pride.  How can I thank someone for doing something for me if my pride gets in the way and says that I should have been able to do it myself?  We become like little children who, instead of thanking their parents for helping them with some task, start kicking and screaming and saying, “No!  I wanna do it myself!”  Our Old Adam, in his sinful pride, keeps us from being thankful to our Lord for His many gifts to us.

But the amazing thing is that God continues to give.  He continues to give “clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home,” and so forth even to the vast majority in this world who never thank Him for it, or who are thankful to their own false gods for the things that the true God has given to them.  He continues to give us the Means of Grace even though so often we receive them with a ho-hum sort of attitude that shows no appreciation for Christ’s great sacrifice.  In fact, that always has been the remarkable thing about God’s generosity.  Not only does He continue to give to those who do not appreciate it, but in fact He has been working with us this way for a long, long time.  “God showed His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  And in fact, God gives us the ability to be thankful.  Through His Law He crushes our prideful hearts which don’t want to acknowledge that He is the giver of all our blessings, and most importantly through the Gospel He makes us new.  He creates in us clean hearts and renews a right spirit within us.  It is only because of the faith that He has given us, the new heart, the new spirit, created through Word and Sacrament, that we are able to thank Him rightly for the many blessings He has given us.  The fact that we are able to give thanks to God is itself something to be thankful for!

God has given us everything that we are and everything that we have.  Our natural response to His generosity is to ignore Him and to pretend that we are independent, self-sufficient creatures who don’t depend upon Him for anything.  This was the response of the nine Jewish lepers who were healed by Jesus.  But one of those lepers was different.  The Samaritan, of all of them, had been healed in his heart as well as his body, and he came back to thank Jesus for what He had done for him.  We have been healed in our souls just like that Samaritan.  We, like him, return here week after week, as well as on other occasions such as today, to thank Him for His generosity toward us, and to show our gratitude by continuing to receive His highest blessings, namely fellowship with Him through Word and Sacrament, and life everlasting.  God gives us everything we are and everything we have, not only for this life, but for the life to come.  The faith He has given us through the Means of Grace has healed us.  Therefore it is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places thank and praise, serve and obey Him.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pentecost 25 (Proper 28), Series B

Sermon on Mark 13:1-13
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 18, 2012 (Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost)

As we look around us, we see many of the things that Jesus describes taking place.  There are wars and rumors of wars going on constantly.  Earthquakes?  What about the one that ravaged Japan and caused a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima last year?  People in other nations have experienced hunger on a scale we cannot even imagine.  Aside from famines caused by natural events such as a lack of rain, in many countries the infrastructure or the economy has broken down to such an extent that people cannot get the food that is there for them.  Hostility to the Gospel is on the rise, not just in places like the Middle East or China, but here in the United States as well.  Those who have been observing the course of our society suspect that the time may not be far off when we too will be arrested and put on trial for being Christians.  Certainly, the requirement that employers (via the insurance companies they contract with to provide benefit plans) pay for medications which cause abortions, is a direct attack on those of us who believe that life begins at conception.  To all appearances, it seems that the end of the world is very near, and getting nearer all the time.

One Lutheran pastor has had this to say about the nearness of the end of the world:  “Since the Gospel is so despised, I suppose that Judgment Day is not far away, not over a hundred years.  God’s Word will decline and fall; and, because of a lack of upright and faithful servants of the Word, a great darkness will come.  Then the whole world will turn wild and epicurean and will live wild and abandoned lives in all security.  But then the Voice will come and ring out: ‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh’; for God will not be able to put up with conditions any longer.”  That sounds like it could have been written yesterday.  But the pastor who wrote it lived 500 years ago.  His name was Martin Luther.  The fact of the matter is, we don’t know for sure when the Lord will come.  All of the things described in this Gospel lesson have been going on since Christ ascended into heaven.  Sometimes things get better for Christians in God’s providence; sometimes things get worse.  It may in fact be true that Judgment Day is not that far off.  But we don’t know that for sure.

What we do know for sure is that as long as the world continues to exist, we will have these signs of the end times going on around us.  Although things like famines, wars, and earthquakes are useless in terms of trying to figure out exactly when Judgment Day will happen, they do serve as a warning for us.  We are living in the end times, and that means that Judgment Day could come at any time.  We are to be ready, not only because we wouldn’t want Christ to come and find us sleeping, but also because just living as Christians in the end times is a struggle.  Christ describes some of this when he tells the disciples that they will be arrested and put on trial for being Christians, and that they will be given the words to speak on that occasion, and they will be hated by everyone for the sake of Christ.  It’s not easy being a Christian in the end times.  It never has been, and never will be.

The temptation for us living in these end times may be to go along with what the world is doing, to keep quiet about your faith.  It’s easy to keep your mouth shut when someone says something negative about Christianity or criticizes what is right.  It is hard to speak up, and to keep yourself pure from the sins which are so prevalent in our society.  It is so hard that many even among Christians give in to these temptations when they arise.  We have all kept our mouth shut when we had the opportunity to confess the truth.  It is not easy living in the end times.

Christ has promised, however, to see us through these times.  He has promised in our text that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak even when we ourselves know not what to say in answer to those who would question us about our Christianity.  He has promised to see us safely through to the end, and to give us salvation.  Because of the trouble and hardship and temptation we must endure in this world, the fact that the end is coming is good news.  It means that our time of suffering and pain in this world will come to an end and we will be saved and live eternally with Christ.

He bases this promise on His own death and resurrection.  It is interesting to notice the similarity between Christ’s description of the end times and what happened at His own crucifixion.  When Christ died, the skies were darkened.  The earth shook.  The veil of the temple was torn in two, and many who had died were resurrected.  This sounds almost exactly like what Christ describes Judgment Day as being like.  There’s a good reason for that.  For Christ, and for Christians baptized into Christ, Judgment Day is already past.  It all happened on Good Friday for us.  Christ, who had taken the guilt of our sin upon Himself, was judged and punished for that sin on that day.  Christ endured the judgment we deserved, and that’s why His death caused things to happen on this earth that resemble what will happen when He comes again as Judge.  Christ has been judged in our stead and so we need not fear the judgment, even though we have fallen many times from our Christian life, He has still brought us back to salvation and will continue to keep us in His grace until the end.

Because the judgment is already past for us, and our citizenship is already in heaven, we in fact do not need to fear anything the world can dish out at us.  As we see the sufferings of those around us, and as we suffer the persecution that the world gives us for being Christians, and as the world seems to be at the very brink of collapse, we need not fear.  We walk among all these things as if we were walking through the Garden of Eden, as if we were walking through Paradise itself.  Why is this?  Because Christ is with us.  He covers us and protects us from whatever and whoever would harm us.  The worst this world can do is kill the bodies of God’s saints.  It cannot hurt our souls, and even our bodies will be raised up on the last day, just as Jesus was raised up on Easter Sunday.  Since we have this promise, and since Christ is with us, we really can walk as if we are already in heaven itself, even while we live here on earth.  We are already with Christ, and where Christ is, there is forgiveness.  Where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation.  Everything that will be ours in eternal life is already ours here and now, even though we cannot see or feel it yet.  Even the eternal feast of victory, and the eternal songs of praise which we will raise in heaven are already here and now in the liturgy of Word and Sacrament, as we feed on Christ’s body and blood and join in the hymns of the angels in thanksgiving and praise to Him.  This is why we can live among this world’s troubles and sufferings and not let them get to us and make us despair.  There is an aspect of our existence that the world cannot touch.  The new life in us which was born in Holy Baptism is hidden with Christ in the bosom of God the Father.  And nothing the world can do will be able to touch or change that.

When we look around us, we sometimes think that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and when we think that, we’re not entirely wrong.  But Christ has overcome the world, and he protects us and allows us to live as His people, serving Him until He comes again.  In fact, He does His work in this world through us.  In our text, he mentions that the Gospel must be preached everywhere.  It is Christ who does that preaching, but of course He does it in the power of the Holy Spirit through the Church, as His pastors proclaim from the pulpit and reach out into the community, as His laymen tell their friends and neighbors about the forgiveness of sins that is theirs because of Christ.  It is Christ and the Holy Spirit who are really speaking when God’s people are called upon to testify publicly to their faith and perhaps face martyrdom or other kinds of suffering for the sake of Christ.  He uses our mouths and our hands to do His work, and he protects and keeps us safe until He shall come again.  He that shall endure to the end shall be saved.  By God’s power we shall endure to the end.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pentecost 24 (Proper 27), Series B

Sermon on Mark 12:38-44
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 11, 2012 (Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost)

This poor widow put in more than everyone else did, when measured as a percentage of her income, or even of her savings.  She put in all that she had.  Her offering probably wasn’t even noticeable in the context of all the money that had been put in by others that day.  But it was everything she had.  And God, who looks at the heart, saw it that way.  To Him, it’s not about the amount of money or what it can buy.  After all, everything is His, whether specifically given to the place where His people worship Him or not.  He made all of it, and all of it belongs to Him already.  To Him, it’s about the faith in Him that she is confessing by her actions.  It’s about what is in her heart rather than in the results of her actions.

Now, should we be emulating her example?  Well, yes and no.  Yes in the sense that we do need to recognize that since He made us and everything we have, we and our money and possessions belong to Him already anyway.  Even our own bodies and souls are His property, ultimately, as He is our creator.  And therefore it’s not to our credit when we give our money or possessions away, either to a religious organization or to charity, as we only give to Him what was already His anyway.  Rather, everything we are and everything we have are always to be in His service.  We are, in fact, to give it all to Him all the time.  When we serve our neighbor in love (including especially those neighbors who are members of your own household including your spouse and children), we are giving it to Him.  At our jobs, when we use our time and energy to serve the neighbor we call our customer, we are serving God by doing so, whether our job happens to be making a good product, making sure store shelves are well-stocked, driving products from place to place, making sure children are well-taught, making sure records are well-kept, or whatever else it may be.  Everything we do in life, as long as it is in accord with the Ten Commandments and our particular place in life, is done in service to God, and therefore the resources we use are given to Him.  Whatever is not done for Him, is sin against the First Commandment if not one or more of the others.

The sense in which we are not to follow this woman’s example, of course, is that she gave all that she had to the house of worship.  Now, I’m not saying it was wrong for her to do so, simply that our circumstances are not hers.  After all, she was a widow who lived alone, as far as we can tell.  She didn’t have to support anyone besides herself.  The tiny amount of money she had, could best serve God by being put toward the upkeep and improvement of God’s house, where He had caused His name to dwell.  The fact is, however, that most of us have a vocation, a calling, a responsibility, to others in our lives whom God has given to us.  If we were to give 100% of our possessions and income to the church, we would be unable to fulfill our other callings in life, serving our neighbor in the home, workplace, and community.  These other callings are also God-given and God-pleasing, and therefore also ways in which His people serve Him and give back to Him what is already His.  To give it all to the Church would be to deny the God-given duties that He has placed upon us to our neighbors in this life.  Again, I’m not saying the poor widow in today’s Gospel lesson did wrong in her circumstances, merely that in our own circumstances we have many different ways in which God has asked us to serve Him through our neighbor, and devoting it all to God’s house would not allow us to serve Him in those many other ways He has placed before us.

But there is another way in which this woman is a picture for us.  Not as an example of what we are to do and how we are to look at the many blessings God has given us, but as a picture for us of what our God did for us.  You see, He gave up everything so that we could be reunited with Him.  He gave up even His very life so that we could have life.  His few possessions, which by the time of His trial amounted to His clothing and virtually nothing more, became something for the soldiers to divide amongst themselves.  Even life itself was given up so that we could have life eternally.  That’s what our God did for us.  He gave up everything so that we could have everything, forever, with Him.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Feast of All Saints (Transferred)

Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 4, 2012 (The Feast of All Saints - Transferred)

The first section of the Sermon on the Mount, commonly known as “the beatitudes,” is a description of all of God’s saints.  And that means that it’s a description of you.  You are a saint, if you are a Christian.  God’s people are holy.  He makes them that way.  And that’s what the word “saint” means.  Holy one.  Hallowed one.  All Hallows Day, or all Saints Day, is technically supposed to be on November 1st, which, by the way, is why All Saints Eve, or All Hallows Eve, or Hallows’ evening, or Hallowe’en, falls on October 31st.  But recently the custom in many Lutheran congregations has been to transfer this festival to the first Sunday in November.  All God’s people are Holy.  He makes them that way.  He takes their unholiness, their impurity, into His own body and nails it to His own cross.  He declares us to be righteous and holy.  And we are.  We become holy, because He says we are, just as at the beginning of Creation the light shone forth because God said it did.  We are sanctified.  We are saint-ified.  We become saints.  The Beatitudes are a description of what we, God’s saints, are.

Those who have gone on before us are saints too.  In the medieval church, saints were thought to be those who went straight to heaven when they died instead of spending time in purgatory.  Certain noteworthy individuals were recognized by the pope as having lived remarkable lives, and given the title of saints.  While we certainly do want to honor the great things that God has done through His people of all times and places, especially those saints whose lives and ministries are recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures such as the twelve apostles and others who were associated with our Lord, we don’t believe that there is such a thing as purgatory, so we refer to all Christians as saints, because all true Christians will go straight to heaven when they die.

Of course, when you examine yourself, you can’t see the saint in you, at least, if you’re being honest with yourself.  All you see inside yourself is sin and death, from which you cannot set yourself free.  You see envy, you see self-centeredness, you see gossip, you see lust, you see pride, you see greed, you see self-pity, you see failure to keep promises, failure to love your neighbor, failure to be diligent in the use of God’s Word.  You may even remember vividly some pretty gross outbreaks of these things in your life in this world as well.  What you don’t see is what the beatitudes describe.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are those who mourn.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Blessed are the merciful.  Blessed are the pure in heart.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  If you think you see these things inside yourself, you’re probably not looking at yourself realistically.

But God looks at you differently than you look at yourself.  You see yourself as you exist in this old world.  You see the self that is part of this old life, the old Adam in you who was fatally drowned in the Baptismal water but who still clings to life as long as your life in this old world continues.  That’s why you can’t see the things that Jesus says about you in the Beatitudes.  When God looks at you, he sees His own Son, whose righteousness covers your unrighteousness.  He sees the only One who ever fulfilled the descriptions found in the Beatitudes perfectly.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who was poor in spirit, not considering being God himself as something to be bragged about, but made Himself nothing, subjected Himself to our fallen existence out of love for us.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who mourned over the unfaithfulness of the city where His own name had been established so that He could be with His people.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who was meek even when falsely accused and convicted of all sorts of crimes and crucified for the sins of others, for the sins of the whole world.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who so hungered and thirsted for the righteousness of the world that He took all of our unrighteousness upon Himself.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who had more mercy and charity and compassion on us poor lost sinners than we can ever imagine or hope to emulate.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who was the only human being ever to walk this earth to be truly pure in heart, to be truly free of selfishness or sin.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who made the ultimate peace, the peace between God and man.  When God looks at you, He sees the One who was persecuted and killed not just as a sinner, but as the ultimate sinner, and not just in spite of the fact that He was in fact not a sinner, but precisely because of His righteousness.  When God looks at you, He sees Jesus Christ.

And yet, as I said before, what God sees when He looks at us, and what He says about is, is not a lie.  His Word does what it says.  When He sees Christ’s righteousness and says that we are righteous, that Word actually comes to pass.  A clean heart is created in us and a right spirit is renewed within us.  The new you really is accurately described by the Beatitudes.  You can’t see that in yourself (and if you think you can see it in yourself, frankly that’s your old sinful pride talking and so it’s really more evidence of your sinfulness), but others can see it in you.  They see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  And of course, as I said before, God also sees you that way.  Because Christ is not only covering your sin, He’s living in you and working through you.

And so, the Beatitudes are descriptions of God’s holy ones, God’s saints.  They are descriptions of you and me according to our new selves.  Even though you can’t see it, God’s word tells you this.  And His word doesn’t lie, because it creates what it declares.  And that means that the blessings described by the Beatitudes are yours as well.  Yours is the kingdom of heaven.  You shall be given the ultimate comfort, eternal fellowship with your God and creator.  You shall inherit the whole new creation when Christ comes again to raise you up.  You shall be filled with righteousness, indeed, your hunger and thirst are already filled when you eat the body and drink the blood of Him who died so that these things can happen.  You shall obtain the ultimate mercy, the ultimate charity, eternal life itself, where all your needs will be met before you are even aware that the need exists.  You shall be called sons of God.  And, summing it all up, again it is said, yours is the kingdom of heaven.  That’s the inheritance of God’s saints.  That’s where you are already by faith, and where your loved ones who died in the faith are already in spirit.  That’s where you shall live forever, body and soul, into eternity.  Blessed are you.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +