In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
All Saints Day is the annual day to remember our calling to faith in Christ Jesus, by which we are called and named saints. Holy Ones. And our Gospel reading today is the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12), that strange list of blessed ones: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the peacemakers—the people not the guns—etc., with their uniquely paired blessing. Now average people reading those, giving them any thought, try to figure out what they are about and how they can get such blessings. Is this some sort of tit-for-tat thing, where if you find yourself in this horrible situation—to be mourning, for instance—and the Lord says you will be comforted? Or, if you are a peacemaker you will be given the title “Son of God”? Or if you purify your heart enough you will be able to see God? It’s an odd list with odd blessings. But the Church in her wisdom has assigned these words of Christ our Lord to this day. Which gives us some clue what it is about. This is about the blessings of the saints. In other words, these are not merely the blessings of anyone who finds themselves in this particular situation, but rather the blessings of those called to be the saints of God. These are the blessings you have, by your calling to faith. So that these are the circumstances of all believers at all times.
So let’s look at these blessings Lord grants to the ones He calls to faith and declares holy. Firstly, the poor ones in spirit (Matt. 5:3), who are poor, miserable, sinners, those who recognize they are sinful in thought, word, and deed. They are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of heaven! For when in faith you are drawn to recognize your miserable, poor estate as a sinner the blessing Jesus pours out on you—not because of your virtue, but because of His grace—is that you inherit His kingdom. Heaven is a kingdom of sinners. Blessed sinners. Who have been brought to realize that they are beggars before the throne of God. A God who in His Son is overflowing in generosity. Giving no good, dirty scoundrels the title of saints. Blessed ones.
And if you are poor in spirit you grieve and mourn over your sin. (Matt. 5:4) It bothers you. We call this “contrition”—that realization that your sin is terrible and awful. Contrition is that pang of conscience you get when the Holy Spirit through the word of God’s Law shows you your sin. It points it out, rubs your face in it. And you are grieved. This dear Christians is a blessed thing for you shall be comforted. Which does not mean that God will hold your hand and say, “There, there. Don’t worry. It’ll all be alright." That’s what comfort means in our day. But God does not such empty comfort. No God nails His Son to the cross that you might be comforted by the holy blood of God which was shed for the forgiveness of your sins. So that the Holy Spirit might always point you to Jesus’ cross, and you might truly be comforted when your conscience is stricken. For who is the Comforter? The Holy Spirit (John 14:16) whose job is to convict you of the righteousness of God which is ours by faith in Christ Jesus. (John 16:7-8, 10) That is your comfort, for though you are not a great sinner, Christ is a greater saviour. That’s how the Holy Spirit comforts you.
Blessed are the gentle, the meek. (Matt. 5:5) That’s the word that described Jesus when He rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in Matthew 21:5—humble and riding on a donkey. The humble ones will inherit the earth. Why? Because when God the Father raised THE Humble One from the dead He seated Him at His right hand and made Him ruler over all the universe. (Eph. 1:20-23) And He promises that through our calling to faith in Christ Jesus in Holy Baptism you will be seated on His throne with Him. (Eph. 2:6) You will inherit the earth! And such a calling when you are poor in spirit and know and name yourself to be a dirty, rotten scoundrel is humbling. It causes you to say, “I am not worthy.” It keeps you humble and thankful. Thus, to be humbled by your calling into the holiness of Christ Jesus is blessed.
And as humble ones who mourn our sin we crave righteousness. (Matt. 5:6) And we shall be satisfied, satiated, filled to overflowing. You will have to undo the top button of your pants, you’ll be so stuffed full of God’s righteousness. And that word righteousness is the word for Justification—for God’s declaring you to be righteous. So that through your calling to be a saint you are first declared holy, righteous. And next you are brought into the holiness of Christ, who has prepared in advance good works for you to walk in. (Eph. 2:8-10) But first of all, and foundationally, it is not your own righteousness that fills you but the declared, imputed righteousness that overflows to you. Christ’s righteousness which is yours by faith which means that the saints of God can’t help but be merciful. (Matt. 5:7) For we love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We mercy others, because we have been so greatly mercied. And its like a feedback loop. Once you are mercied by the declaration that you are righteous in Christ, it melts your heart of stone. It surgically removes it. (Ezek. 36:25-27) It gives you a heart of flesh which is overflowing in mercy. And what goes around comes around doesn’t it? The more you mercy others, the more they mercy you. You will be mercied all the more by God who mercies you.
And such mercy purifies your heart. (Matt. 5:8) For being stuffed to the brim full of Christ’s righteousness feeds the new man, the new heart within you. It starves out & kills the old zombie sinner you who wants to come back again and again. Being fed on the body and blood of Christ, and the word of forgiveness in Him (Matt. 26:27-28), not only cleanses you on the outside, covering over your sin, but it purifies you on the inside, by feeding the new man. And Christ Jesus brings forth a new you by the power of His word. So that we who walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) “see” by faith God at work in this world, forgiving us our sins, drawing us and others to faith in Him. But moreover on Last Day when we shall stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, we shall see Him and not be ashamed, for what we are now by faith will be revealed to all in the sight of all. (1 John 3:2) And we shall see our saviour face to face.
Seeing God by faith you have peace with God. Forgiven in Christ you know God is not against you. Armed with this faith you no longer interpret God’s intention toward you through the events of life. In our natural state we humans can’t see beyond our own navels, thinking that God is happy with you and rewards you when things are good, but that He must be angry with you when they aren’t. But by faith you know that God’s warfare against your sin was settled on the Cross (John 19:30) and all suffering in this world shall not only pass but shall be used by your Saviour to bless you and those around you. For your sufferings become a reason to turn to the Lord in prayer and confess your hope in Jesus. So that by hearing of the peace which you have with God others are drawn to faith. So that in the midst of suffering you become a peacemaker as your kids, spouse, family members, and friends are drawn to Christ and His peace which passes understanding by your. (Matt. 5:9) Such peace makers can only be the Sons of God, the inheritors of all His kingdom.
But before that Day when you shall come into His kingdom forever, you are often persecuted. (Matt. 5:10-11) Put to flight. Intimidated. Threatened for this faith you have in the free forgiveness of sins of the wicked. You see, no one wants to hear that the wicked are forgiven for free. We all want justice. We want those whom we call “bad” to pay for their sins. We don’t want them to “get away with it.” We hate that. It seems so unjust. Unfair. That person who really hurt me or my loved ones, they must pay. But those who know there is no paying for their own sins, that despite their great wickedness have been declared righteous in Christ Jesus, they can’t help but cling to Him in faith. Telling others. And the world calls that righteousness by faith apart from works EVIL. They persecute it and try to silence any mention of it. That’s why that Reformation thing happened 500 years ago. And that message of the forgiveness of sins is still being persecuted, threatened, silenced to this day. But don’t you worry. Such opposition you suffer is merely a sign the blessed hope which is yours in Christ. For when they speak evil of you on account of Jesus, when they reject you for clinging to His Word and its truths over and against world and what it says, the world is confirming your blessedness. For your place is not the kingdoms of earth, but the kingdom of heaven. They did it to prophets and the apostles. They killed Jesus. But by His death He overcame world and has declared you blessed in Him.
A blessed all saints day to you His saints, by faith.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock