All Saints Day

James Tissot, The Beatitudes Sermon (1890)

All Saints Day 2020
Rev. Doug Floyd
Revelation 7:9–17, Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11–23, Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus talks briefly with the woman at the well and she is pierced to the heart. Suddenly, she runs to tell her village and leads a parade of people to encounter him. Jesus eats a meal with Zacchaeus. At the end of the meal, Zacchaeus leaps up and pledges to return four times the amount all that he has defrauded people. Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets for a great catch of fish. Peter reluctantly obeys and the nets are immediately bursting with fish. Peter falls on his knees and cries out to Jesus, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” When Jesus draws near, people are changed.

He is addressing each of us, calling us out of darkness and into His kingdom. He calls us into the splendor of His glorious light, to shine out like the stars in the heavens. As He calls us, His Spirit is drawing us, changing us, leading us into the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. We are moving from glory to glory.

On this All Saints Day, we celebrate this glorious grace of God revealed in His saints across the ages. This day reminds us of God’s faithful preservation and glorification in His Saints of old. He has walked with His people through persecution, famine, wars, economic collapse and more. He is also preserving us and leading us into the fullness of His life. We remember Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Our hope is hidden beyond the veil of this life even as we walk by the light of His Word and Spirit even now. He names us holy ones, the excellent ones, loved of God, the flock of God, the disciples, and of course saints, those consecrated to the Lord. We have been adopted by Christ into a new family. Thus, we are declared righteous in Christ even as we grow up into the righteousness. We are growing up into our name as saints, as holy ones. In Christ Jesus, we are holy, and we are becoming holy. We are becoming what Jesus has declared we are.

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls His disciples out from the struggles and difficulties of Palestine even as He is calling them out of slavery and into the life and freedom in the Spirit. Just as Moses led Israel to Mt. Sinai, Jesus leads these disciples up a mountain to hear the word of the kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven has come. Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Even as the disciples hear the instruction of Jesus, the crowds are listening below. Some will hear His call and respond. Even as the crowds are listening to Jesus, we are listening. May we heed His call and follow.

Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. We are easily blinded by the fire and fury of the ever-changing, ever-churning culture around us. The nation and the world sit on edge as the election looms. People both fear and fight over the virus impacting our world. Any day of the week and moment of the day, we can feel the pressure of a world in turmoil: we can step into the fear, into the anxiety, into the anger, into the soul starving violence of a world at war. We can also turn and behold the Lord, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

When Jesus and His disciples come down the mountain, the world will still be writhing in sin and rebellion. He will lead His disciples into the struggle with His light that overcomes darkness. After His resurrection, these same disciples will bear His light, His life, His word to a world desperate for the truth.

Let us pause from troubles and turn and hear the word the Lord. Let us attend.

Jesus opens His mouth and proclaims blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Again and again he will repeat the word, “Blessed.” The Latin text uses Beati (bee-a-tee) for blessed. The same word that gives us beatific vision. The saints are called by Christ into His blessing, into the holy vision of the Beautiful One. The Spanish translation of blessed is “Bienaventurados,” which literally means “good adventure.” Blessed are those who have heard the call and follow in the good and glorious journey of Jesus Christ.

Each of the beatitudes stir the hearts of the disciples, letting them know that the kingdom is already here in their midst. The blessing of Jesus speaks to the stirring in their heart even as it compels them to the blessed journey.

As we hear the beatitudes, we might think of them both as a reminder that the kingdom is present in the midst our current longings, our deep mourning. At the same time, each beatitude is also a call to grow up into fullness, to become what they describe.

These first four beatitudes speak of our neediness like a person struggling for air, a person grieving in pain, a person under authority and expectant of guidance, and finally a person longing to see true justice.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Yes Lord, may we realize how desperately needy we are for your life, your strength, your kingdom. Even in this very moment, we need the grace of God to open our ears, open our eyes to the reality of His life, His kingdom in our midst. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for even now, even now they begin to live in the reality of God’s kingdom. O Lord, even as we walk in the midst of this world so often filled with woe, we desperately need to awaken to your kingdom within us, around us. We long to long for you Oh Lord and to follow in your way.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Even as you Lord Jesus cried out for Jerusalem and wept for Lazarus, may we enter into the heart cry of a world in bondage to sin and death. There is anguish and fear and pain all around us. May we not be blind and deaf to those who hurt even in our midst this very morning. By your Spirit, may we cry out for those who are grieving, those whose are struggling, those who are lost, those who are dying. Even as we groan inwardly for the redemption of those near and far, may your Spirit lead more fully and deeply into the comfort of your kingdom.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Even as the five wise virgins looked with eager expectation for the coming of the Bridegroom, the meek realize their own neediness and look with hope for the coming of the Lord. They expect you to come, to reveal yourself and your provision even now. Just as Blind Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me,” we cry out “Lord make haste to help me.” We know that we are needy. We trust that the Lord is near. We look to you O Lord. May we have eyes to see your gracious gift all around us in the sun, in the air we breathe, in the food we eat.  In beholding, may we give thanks. In giving thanks, may we reveal your light and glory wherever we go and to whomever we speak.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The word righteousness involves a right ordering of relationships. It speaks of justice both here and now and in the age to come. As the disciples see the pain caused by broken relation with God and human turmoil, they long for God’s healing grace to be realized. Even as we behold the racial turmoil in our culture, the disparity between rich and poor, the epidemic of broken families and wounded children, we respond, “Come Lord Jesus” and “Here I am Lord send me.” May we become a healing presence in this world of division and unrest.  

Now there is a subtle shift. So far, the beatitudes have focused on our realization of the neediness within us and within our world. How do we as a people of God respond in wisdom to the troubles of our life and world? In mercy, through pure hearts, and by bearing God’s peace.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” We are often foolish and prone to fail. We need mercy. Jesus tells His disciples, Jesus tells us, “Show my mercy.” He says, “Forgive seventy times seven.” From the cross, Jesus cries out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He tells us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespasses against us.” Even now we are called to respond in mercy for offenses of this world. In our current culture struggles, there are plenty of opportunities for offense. Lord teach us your way of mercy for even as we long to grasp the mystery of mercy and judgment revealed in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Our wills are divided, our desires our often corrupted, our loves our disordered. We are not pure in heart. We cry out, “Have mercy upon us. Open our eyes that we might see you in your love, in your holiness. May we be holy even as you are holy. Heal us in worship and restore us as a people of set apart, wholly consecrated unto you. May we grow up as a people who are steadfast, ever turning to you, ever finding consolation in your Spirit, ever revealing your glory in what we say and do.”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” There is a sense in which the word peace, shalom speaks of restoring of all things. All creation and all humanity caught up in the true sabbath of God in Christ. We have been reconciled to God and have been given the ministry of reconciliation. May the peaceful kingdom take root in us as we have become a people at peace with God. Even as we make every effort to live at peace with all men, may we reveal the peace of Christ in a world where strive and anger divide and destroy.

The final two beatitudes focus on the world’s response to the saints God. Just as the world hated and turned against our Lord, it can turn against His followers as well. We turn our hearts and faces to the kingdom, we may at times feel the anger of our world or experience the mockery of those who do not understand. May we find our hope and peace and rest in Christ even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Instead of returning blow for blow, angry post for angry post, curse for curse, we rejoice Oh Lord for you are near. May the peace of God and the joy of the Lord surround us and brim over from us to those who oppose us at every turn.

As I think of the Spirit leading us to embody the truth of these beatitudes, I think of Psalm 84. The Psalmist prays,

      “Blessed are those whose strength is in you in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Ps 84:5.

It is through Christ that we travel the blessed journey to Zion. It is through Christ, that these precious fruits of the kingdom take shape in our prayers and in our lives. The saints of old followed Christ into the light of His kingdom. May we follow as well.

Come Lord Jesus, lead us into the kingdom of heaven that even now surrounds us. May we live as your saints, your lights in a land of woe, revealing your grace, your glory, your love.

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