All Saints, 2013 (November 3)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Matthew 5:1–12, 1 John 3:2)
TITLE: â€œLike Himâ€
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter five, as well as the following verse from 1 John, â€œBeloved, we are Godâ€™s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.â€ (1John 3:2 ESV)
All Saints Day is a day when we remember and rejoice with all of those who have fought the good fight of faith and who now rest from their labors. It is, if you will, the beginning of the end of the church year. Today we think about and remember those who have gone before us in Christ. In the weeks to come we will hear and learn about what will happen at the end.
There are a lot of questions about death. I know, profound, right? I don’t mean this to be flippant. We don’t know what it will be like when we die. We don’t know exactly what it will mean to experience God face to face, like we hear in Revelation seven. We don’t know.
Now despite the saying ignorance is bless, ignorance also for us can mean fear. We fear what we don’t know or understand. Prejudice and hatred really begin with fear of the unknown. We fear ignorance, especially when it comes to our own futures. So when we run across things in the bible that have to do with death, it can be scary.
Take, for instance, our Gospel text for today, called the Beatitudes, or blesseds. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers. You begin to wonder after hearing about these things for a bit, who is Jesus talking about? Is He talking about you and me? Is He talking about some other class of Christians, super-saints like Peter or Paul? You have to admit that the picture painted here is a pretty strange one. It is a picture of someone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, who desires nothing more than to do His will in every way imaginable.
By all accounts that I can understand, He isn’t talking about me or you. If that’s what it takes to get into heaven, then we are all in trouble.
So maybe He’s talking about the saints who have gone before us? Is He talking about Chrsitians who have died in the faith? Is this a picture of what we will be like in heaven? Is this a picture of what our loved ones are like today? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time imagining anyone fitting Jesus’ description. Not even the greatest saint among us is always meek and humble, always working for peace, always caring and loving. Jesus a little later on in the Sermon on the Mount says that you are to be perfect, just as your father who is in heaven is perfect.
If that’s the criteria for getting into heaven, we are all in trouble, and so are the saints who have gone before us in Christ.
No, Jesus isn’t giving us marching orders, expecting us to buck up and be good little perfect angels, who will suffer all things for His sake. Well, He expects it but He knows that you can’t do it. So what Jesus is doing here is describing Himself. He is poor in spirit. He is the one who mourns. He is meek and humble. He hungers and thirsts for your righteousness. He is merciful and pure. He is the peacemaker who lays His life down for the sake of those He loves. And he is persecuted and reviled above all others. That is who He is for you. He is blessed beyond all measure through His death and resurrection.
And here’s the crazy, wonderful part of the whole thing. He is describing Himself, and because of that, He is describing you, and the saints who have gone before us and those who will follow after us. For you are in Him and He in you.
Crazy, right? It’s crazy to think that God’s mercy is so deep and full and rich that He would give all of this to you, just as He has given to the saints who have gone before us. So when we gather in this place with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we gather together, literally we congregate, as the Holy Ones, as the Blessed ones who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.
But we don’t gather just as the Holy Ones from today. It’s way better than that. We are gathered here with the whole company of heaven. The angels and archangels. The saints who have gone before us and who have died in Christ are here. This is especially true at the Sacrament of the Altar. There we receive Christ’s body and blood. And where Christ’s body is, He is all there.
Hear again those words from the apostle John, â€œBeloved, we are Godâ€™s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.â€ (1John 3:2 ESV)
We don’t know all the answers. We don’t know how all of this stuff works. What we know is that we are God’s children. And as God’s children, we will become as He is now. Our loved ones who have died in the faith are already there. We don’t know all the details or have all the answers. But we know that they are like Him, just as we will be.
This season as you begin the time of remembrance, when we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, don’t be afraid of what we don’t know. Just remember that Christ our Lord has gone the path before us. We only follow in His steps.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.