Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homily for The Feast of All Saints (observed)



Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7:2-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said: 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. And, blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

However, when Jesus said these words, He was not describing you. Neither was He giving you a new law commanding you to be poor, mourning, or meek, hungry, merciful, pure and peaceful, or persecuted. Don’t make Jesus out to be Moses. Your Jesus isn’t a new law-giver, but your Jesus is the Gospel incarnate. Your Jesus is the Good News of your reconciliation with God in human flesh. No, Jesus isn’t describing you in these Beatitudes, but He is describing Himself, and, thus, He is describing you when you submit yourself and are willing to die to yourself and to live to and in Him and He in you. For, while poverty, mourning, meekness, hunger, mercy, purity, peacefulness, and persecution do not earn you blessedness, or anything else for that matter, for blessedness can only be given, never, earned, merited, deserved, or taken, there is, nonetheless, blessedness in being poor, mourning, meek and hungering and thirsting for righteousness, there is blessedness in being merciful, pure and peaceful, and there is blessedness even in being persecuted for Jesus’ sake and reviled on account of Him.

That is what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to take up your cross daily – and, not a cross of your choosing, but the cross the Father has chosen for you – to be a Christian is to take up your cross daily and to follow in the path and footsteps of Jesus through poverty, mourning, hunger and thirst, being merciful to all and pure in heart, and peaceful even in the face of suffering, reviling, and persecution. To be a Christian is to die with Jesus to the desires and the passions of the flesh, to the values and the virtues and the idols of this world, to amass treasure in heaven, not on earth, to live in this world while not becoming a part of this world that Christ may be proclaimed in your words and your deeds and that all may know that you are His disciples, not because you are pious and perfect, not because you go to church a lot, not because you wear religious jewelry, not because you listen to Christian music, but because you love the unlovable and you forgive the unforgiveable and you show mercy to those who don’t deserve it just as you have been loved and forgiven and shown mercy by God the Father for the sake of Jesus Christ His Son.

No, dear Christian, the Beatitudes do not describe you. No, they are not a new law for you to obey. But, the Beatitudes describe Jesus, and, thus, the Beatitudes describe all disciples of Christ as they are baptized into Him. Thus, the Beatitudes describe most perfectly those who have died in Christ and are now with Him, the Saints and holy ones of the Lord that we commemorate this day. They are the ones who have come out of this life of great tribulation and are now before the throne of God and the Lamb. Like you, they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb in Holy Baptism. But, no longer are they poor and mourning, no longer do they hunger or thirst, no longer are they persecuted and reviled, but they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple. You are the saints and holy ones of the Lord who still walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but they, they are those who have passed through and out of this valley and they dwell in the Father’s house for evermore.

For, the saints in heaven are everything but dead. In fact, they are more alive than you or I! Jesus taught that whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Him will save it for eternity. The saints in heaven truly live because they died to this life and world. Even while they lived here on earth, they died to selfish desires and passions, they died to the values and virtues and idols of this world. And, because of this they suffered persecution and reviling in this world and were considered the very least of men. But now, they truly live and worship the Holy Trinity in His presence without fear, and they enjoy His favor and comfort and joy and peace that no one can take from them. No, the saints in heaven are not dead examples of piety and of how to live the Christian life, they are not dead examples of how to fulfill the law, but they are living examples of God’s promises kept and secured for you in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who died and who lives.

These living saints are in heaven, gathered around the throne of God and the Lamb. But you saints are still here on earth, gathered around the throne of God and the Lamb. For, indeed, there is but one place in this veil of tears and the valley of the shadow of death where the entire body of Christ is gathered as one, where heaven condescends to and penetrates this earthly sphere, and we, dear saints in Christ, are there now. For, called, gathered, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God through His Word and in and around His Holy Sacraments, we kneel at this semi-circular festal board in communion with those saints who, though we cannot see them, are surely present with us now, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, for they are with Jesus and Jesus is surely present with us now both in His divine spirit and in His true, resurrected, and glorified body and blood to forgive, renew, and strengthen our faith until we come out of this great tribulation into the fullness of God’s glory and life in heaven. And so, this day in which we commemorate the saints of God who are with Him in heaven, we celebrate, not merely the great example of faith and works they provide us, but we celebrate and give thanks and praise to God for the promises He has fulfilled for them and for us in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. To Him alone be all praise, honor, glory, and thanksgiving with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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