Saturday, November 1, 2014

Blessed is Christ in You

Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 2, 2014 (All Saints’ Day, 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, so that it actually gets celebrated.  Reformation Day usually gets transferred to the last Sunday in October for the same reason.  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.  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 +

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