Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
November 4-5, 2017
“We Have This Hope”
November 1, which was this past Wednesday, is always All-Saints’ Day in the life of the church. So today, we remember and celebrate the saints of this faith community and others we consider saints in our lives because of their lasting influence and impact on our lives.
Our scripture from the Gospel of Matthew is the beginning portion of what we call Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Gospel writer tells of Jesus going up a mountain away from the crowd where he began to teach his disciples. We know from other Bible stories that when someone goes up a mountain, this is a signal that this is a ‘pay attention moment’…that something important is going to happen or be said.
Leading up to this story, Jesus has been traveling and curing disease and sickness among the people. His popularity is spreading and great crowds were following him. Now, on the mountain, Jesus begins his teaching with words of blessing that we know as the Beatitudes.
(Read Matthew 5:1-12)
Jesus begins his teaching ministry in the Gospel of Matthew by going up a mountain and offering blessings to the people. He talked directly to them, saying, “Blessed are you” as he spoke to the poor in spirit, the grieving, the meek, the peacemakers, the justice seekers, and the persecuted. Jesus gave these blessings extravagantly to anyone who would receive them. Then once received, they are ours to share, to pass on to the next generation, and to bless the world, as extravagantly as Jesus did.
On this Sunday in which we celebrate All-Saints’ Day, it is a day we remember those who have gone before us in faith and we remember those who have passed the hope and blessing of faith on to us. All-Saints’ Day is a day when we pause to give thanks for that great cloud of witnesses in our lives.
On All-Saints’ Day we remember those who are or have been anchors of hope in our lives. We remember those saints who made an investment in this faith community because their hope was firmly and securely anchored to God. And we remember those who shine the light of hope for others to follow.
There is a story of a little boy who attended Church with his grandfather one Sunday. Grandpa’s church had beautiful stained-glass windows that seemed to come alive on a sunny day or at night when the lights were on in the sanctuary. Grandpa told his grandson that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and a whole lot of other saints. When he got home, the boy told his parents about the windows. His dad was curious about what his son had learned and asked, ‘What is a saint?’ The boy thought for a moment and then replied, ‘A saint is somebody the light shines through.’
I think that is a pretty good definition of a Saint…someone the light shines through. Who are your saints? Who are the people in your life who are beams of light that let the light of God shine through them as compassion and love and concern for God’s people? We are all called to let the light of God shine through us and when we do, we bless others in such a way that life is turned a bit for them…maybe even turned upside down.
Perhaps Jesus should have had his disciples and the crowds that followed him lie down on their backs and look up or stand on their heads as he proclaimed these Beatitudes of blessing. What he was doing was turning the world as they knew it, upside down.
Jesus’ Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew express reversals of the world’s value system, then and now. These blessings let us know that unlike the culture around us which blesses the beautiful, the wealthy, and the powerful, God chooses to bless the humble, the forgotten, the broken, the lost, the despised, the justice seekers, the peace makers, and those persecuted because of their witness for God. These Beatitudes show us the attitude of Jesus and point us to the promises of God.
In these Beatitudes, Jesus is giving us glimpses of what God’s kingdom looks like by blessing those whom the world does not typically bless. These Beatitudes are not so much something we are to do, but something we are to see…to see the world as God sees it.
I invite us to consider not what we ought to do with these Beatitudes, but what these Beatitudes do with us, the way they push us from where we are perched, viewing the world as the world loves to view itself, toward viewing the world as God sees us.
I was working with this scripture the other night in between my door bell ringing with trick-or-treaters. There was a time when I had a longer lull in the action, so I was slowly reading and re-reading these blessings from the Gospel of Matthew to absorb them and also to try and make a connection between the blessings and All-Saints’ Day.
When I got to, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” the doorbell rang again. I jumped up to hand out the candy and at my door were three tall, fairly burly young men carrying Halloween bags and pushing the wheelchairs of three young children in their Halloween costumes.
The next blessing immediately came to mind and I almost said out loud, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
I silently asked God’s blessing upon not only those children that experience life from a wheelchair, but for the mercy-filled, peace-making saints that pushed them door to door in their Halloween costumes so they could experience the joy of the evening.
The hearts of God’s people follow the hope of God…and Scripture tells us that “we have this hope,” which is “a firm and secure anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).
Like so many that have come before us, God has blessed us and invested hope in each of us. So, yes, we have this hope…that is a firm and secure anchor of blessing as we remember the saints and as we share in ministry together.
May it be so for each of us.
Thanks be to God.