All Saints Day – Pr. Anderson sermon
St. Matthew 5:1-12 “Blessed are those who Mourn, for they shall be Comforted”
November 5, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church
In Nomine Iesu
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O almighty and everlasting God, through Your only-begotten and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, You will sanctify all Your elect and beloved: Give us grace to follow their faith, hope, and love, that we together with all Your saints may obtain eternal life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, by Veit Dietrich, p. 165-166)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)
The sermon text for today is taken from the 5th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:
And He [being Jesus] opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)
In Christ Jesus, who comforts you in all times of trial and tribulation, who will call you out of the church militant into the church triumphant, dear fellow redeemed:
I have an image that I would like you to think about this morning. Imagine that you are on your death bed right now. That your time in this world is almost over. Now in those final moments, you take a good look at everything that has happened in your life. As your life had its ups and downs, do you see how your life has been blessed? For some this might look easy. Maybe you can see the long life that you lived, the kids, grand kids, and great grand kids that you have raised. Those look like some good blessings. For others it might be hard to see any blessings. Life has been mostly full of downs. You have been fighting a chronic illness, and now on top of it all, this is just the end. Another down in life is to die. Maybe as you come here to celebrate All Saints Day, you look with sadness on the day as if your loved ones were taken too soon.
When it comes to blessings in this life or what we might think as a lack there of, the devil will use our blessings against us. He will take what is good and with the help of our sinful nature, he can make our blessing look nonexistent. Our text for today is a great text but with just the wrong way to look at it, and we can easily have this text be used against us. It is through Jesus that we can look at this text and see the blessings that He has truly given us with Heaven in mind. If we look at this day in the church year with sadness because of those who have left us, Jesus tells us “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Looking at the world, it seems like there are no blessings to be found. Does God really bless us? This is an age-old question, that gets asked by every generation. Everyone always says and wonders, “Can it get any worse?” The same problems happened in Jesus’ day. The problems never changed. Jesus arrives on the scene and the people are like us, wondering where those blessings are. Jesus sees how lost they are. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus in His great compassion takes control of the scene. He springs into action because this is what He was born to do. Jesus gathers those sheep, and He reminds them of the blessings they have.
However, these blessings have been buried. The chief priests and Teachers of the Law have been teaching the people to work and obtain the law. They want these blessings to be obtainable. The devil also wants everyone to believe this. The people do their best to follow the example of the religious leaders. They ran into a brick wall. The law that the religious leaders do well, is too hard for the people. For some of them, according to the teachers, they are just too sinful to even manage. We see that in Jesus’ ministry He is continually helping those who are broken. He heals those that have terrible infirmities. He helps those who have demons trying to get them to take their own lives. He also reveals His power as true God when He goes to those who have lost loved ones, and He raises them from the dead. As the disciples witnessed all these things, they are going to be tasked with preaching and teaching about them. In these blessings Jesus reveals that this will not be easy and when the time of persecution comes at Jesus arrest, this persecution is very hard for the disciples.
Persecution is hard for us. Jesus warns us that to follow Him, we will have a target on our back. As sinful human beings, we will do anything in our power to get out of this. There are some Christians who think they can get all the blessings without dealing with the persecution that comes with it. This is a trap that the devil will work so hard to get us to fall into. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We can take every one of these blessings and determine for ourselves that this is all happening to us right now. So, we deserve all of these blessings right?
We can make ourselves feel deserving of these blessings, but Jesus teaches us that these blessings are not what we deserve, but what we should be, just like the Ten Commandments. These blessings are only the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The more we look at these blessings, the more we realize how much we fail at these tasks. Are we poor, realizing that we are totally dependent on God, or do we try to do it ourselves and only ask God to help when we feel we need it. Do we mourn the sins that we commit and mourn about how sinful we are, or do we try to ignore the guilt we have for our sins? Do we even want to repent of some of them? Are we humble with seeking God’s righteousness, seeking to obey God fully, or are we seeking for selfish gains to look better than others. Are we peacemakers or do we like to stir the pot? The list goes on and it is easy to see that we aren’t worthy of these blessings on our own and we flat out don’t deserve them.
As these blessings can be hard to come by in our sinful nature, Jesus directs the last two at His disciples. He tells them, “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.” Jesus is assuring His disciples that even though their lives were going to get harder, they were going to be blessed. That is exactly what happened. As Jesus is arrested, tried, and crucified, the disciples would leave Jesus. They would run away, and Peter would deny Him. This wasn’t the end. They would soon understand that everything Jesus taught them came to fulfillment. Jesus is the Christ! He died taking away the sins of the world and He would destroy even death with His glorious resurrection. What Jesus says is true. The disciples can rest assured and rejoice because great is their reward in heaven!
It is because of Christ’s death and resurrection that these blessings now make sense to the disciples. Christ’s death and resurrection didn’t make their lives easier. Our theme for today, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” is all too familiar for the disciples. Today we celebrate All Saints Day remembering those who are now dwelling as saints triumphant in heaven. The disciples found their reward in heaven and according to tradition, they all were killed for the preaching and teaching of the true faith in Christ Jesus. We can mourn those who have died in the faith, and Jesus comforts us with blessings, reminding us that because of His suffering, great is their reward in heaven.
How do you get that great reward in heaven? It is not because of your works. Your failures are apparent and that is where Jesus comes in. He became poor in spirit, perfectly, depending on God for His earthly life, following God’s will of salvation for you. He mourned for you, taking on your sins, comforting you that He has taken them away. He became meek and lowly, becoming a man for you. He perfectly hungered and thirsted to obey the will of His Father knowing that He was going to die. He had a pure heart, had mercy on your souls, and He has brought you heavenly peace. These blessings that the world wants to hold onto, they are yours through the perfect life of Jesus bestowed upon you through His death and resurrection. You will experience these blessings when you are called to your heavenly home. This is the comfort and hope that you have. You will mourn no more.
When we mourn for our sins in this life, Jesus forgives us with the shedding of His blood. There are times when the Law is more noticeable. We notice the Law at funerals. It is too hard to block out the image of the casket and the urn in front of the church. The Law can’t speak any louder than what it does there. Thankfully we have the blessings of Christ. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We are comforted because we know their body is only sleeping and we will see them again. As we remember those who have died this year, we do mourn. Yet we find comfort from our Savior. We receive that comfort today in the worship of the divine service. After the sermon we celebrate holy communion. We celebrate the heavenly feast of the lamb! Though we only get a foretaste here in the land of the living, the liturgy tells us that our loved ones are on the other side of the rail. When the pastor exclaims, “therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven,”(ELH, p. 51) you are singing the song of heaven with your loved ones and you meet your Savior who takes away your sins with His body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.
Jesus blesses us with the Means of Grace. We hear our Savior speak to us and we see His blessings at the font and altar. The blessings from our text come to us through Jesus who came down from heaven, lived out His perfect life to the will of His Father, died on the cross and rose from the dead all for us. It is because of all this that we can read the blessings and see ourselves blessed. These blessings point us to our heavenly home, where we will experience them in full. As we mourn for our loved ones, Jesus promises we are comforted. And until we are reunited with the saints that have been called before us, we continue to be comforted by joining them on this side of heaven as “we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” (ELH p. 51-52). Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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