Blessings (All Saints Day)
October 31st & November 1st, 2009
We are in that “Blessing time of year”. That time of year when the harvest comes in (granted a bit later than usual), and Thanksgiving is around the corner. In this upcoming month practically all of us will encounter exhortations to be thankful for the blessings of living in this country, for family, food, shelter, and the like. On this All Saints Day we honor those faithful in Christ who now rest from their labors, there is also a profound sense of thanksgiving that God has blessed us with people this side of heaven who can and do make our journey home much better. Even if we are not as aware as we could be of our blessings, I truly think we know what it is to be blessed. Leave it to Jesus to expand, and even turn upside down and inside out what it looks like to be blessed. In the first four beatitudes, a word which by the way means blessing, we see that blessing pour forth for his followers in the middle of those things that empty us, those things that humble us and reveal our bankruptness before God and others. Included in this are being poor in spirit, mourning, meek, along with hungering and thirsting or righteousness.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. While our ears and eyes focus on the words “poor in spirit”, the ultimate focus is “the kingdom of heaven”. Please note that he is not saying get yourself poor in spirit, as if he is talking about somehow getting us into a “poor in spirit” state of mind. Rather he is speaking of a reality, a condition that we all face. Certainly there are those here today, who could raise your hand to an understanding of being poor in spirit. You got out of bed this morning, it was everything to get yourself here and be pleasant. It is not that you are innately lazy or wanted to sleep in, its just that you didn’t have it in you. Whether it’s the weather, the job, the difficult relative, or maybe even the dog who looked at you’re the wrong way, you are now in ways some people know and others do not know poor in Spirit. Here is a promise Jesus says “remember yours is the kingdom of heaven. Notice, here he doesn’t say will be, but it’s yours right now. In a very real way, God’s kingdom is right here, right now. Jesus is here in his forgiveness, in his gift of the spirit, in the Lord’s Supper, the fellowship of fellow believers. However, even if you aren’t in the “depressed” category or maybe you are just bored in spirit. The truth is we are all poor in Spirit. That is, whether we recognize it or not, we all have to get spiritual help from another source. All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Yet, y ours is the kingdom of heaven. You have access and place in Christ’s plan and in his life.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Often in grief, the less said the better. Here in just 10 words, we have some of the most comforting words said by our death destroying Savior. For many here today, you know very well what mourning is all about because it is right there, ever present, in the lostness you so deeply feel. You may be like a driver who has made a wrong turn, and in your attempt to get back on track your just sort of wondering, directionless. You’ve lost your compass, your companion, and your don’t even have to say a thing, the watery eyes say it all. Yet, even if this type of mourning becomes more and more of a memory, a life of “loss” will characterize our life and our life with Jesus. This isn’t said to be downer, but merely to reflect the reality which Jesus so wondrously hits upon. It may not be the loss of a loved one, but the loss of a time period of life, a job, ones health, our youthfulness, our hair (ha, ha), and the list goes on and on. Yet, Jesus promises you shall be comforted. In Isaiah 61 it speaks of Jesus being the one who comforts. He would be one who “has been sent to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…. To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. THESE ARE NOT JUST WORDS, THESE ARE PROMISES OF A SAVIOR WHO is bound and determined to comfort his people. Remember yours is the kingdom of heaven, you shall be comforted. He will use many means including others who have also been comforted by the Saviors promises to assure, and renew your spirit, weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning.
We know we are poor in spirit, but also have the kingdom of heaven. We mourn, but we shall be comforted. There is hope and even blessings for the followers of Jesus. Now that there is hope for our condition we seek things to be made right by God in our lives and the lives of others. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we know who this God is and how he acts. We live in this reality, and we partake of his goodness toward us unworthy recipients. Yet, we live our lives in a world, in a church, where this “rightness” of God is always experienced or seen. Our own desires for a better life to often squandered by sin, and our sincere desire to see others connected to Jesus are not always met. His promise is This seeking, this seemingly unfulfilled longing, will be satisfied. His righteousness is here, but we want it to come quicker, to make things right. When our life, even a life of prayer, seems like it is two steps forward and three steps back, remember You will be satisfied. I remember a professor of religion in college, who was discussing the Christian life with one of his members in his parish. This young man came to him, and said boy I wish I had that same passion, that same zeal for the Lord I had some years back, to which the professor said “join the crowd”. Now mind you this was someone I looked up to, one who could speak the word like no other, but even he longed for and hungered for something different than his present. Blessed are those of hunger for they shall be satisfied. The Christian life is a life of faith, faith that better things are to come, faith that Christ’s work on calvary is enough to see us through our lacks and the lacks of others.
If it is true that God’s promises…His real, but sometimes hard to see promises are there for us in the midst of a life that is characterized by a poor spirit, mourning, meekness, and hunger for more, then we are truly Blessed. Amen.