All Saints’ Day
November 4, 2018
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
About 6 months ago I had my regular cleaning at my dentist’s office. As they do, they bring you into a room and it is a while before you actually see anyone. That day they put me in my chair and instead of watching all the advertisements about how to make my teeth perfect, they had my chart up on the screen. It said who I had seen, what day and what was done.
I started to follow all my visits to that place. And then I read what the hygienist, the one I came to see that day, had written. As I read the report it seemed to be in bold letters, “Patient Practices Poor Oral Health.” What? I brush at least once a week. I check to see that no spinach is stuck between my teeth. Practices poor oral health? I didn’t like those words. I decided that now I didn’t like her. When she arrived that screen was quickly changed. But as I would see later her words were actually good and blessed ones.
I saw some folks these past few weeks who have had it with the world. Everything, I mean everything, is going wrong. The cumulative effect of their own problems and then everything that was happening in the world was just too much. Some crazy person was sending bombs to people, then another sick person kills 11 in a synagogue and then the receiving of constant hate mail in the form of political advertisements got to them. They could only ask – “Is anything right with the world?”
Today, the day we celebrate All Saint’s, we read the great words of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. 9 times Jesus says, “Blessed”. We know what blessed is, right? When everything goes right in life we are blessed. When we have enough money to go on that trip or buy that one thing we’ve been thinking about forever we are blessed. When our health is good and when peace is within our four walls we are blessed. On Wednesday everyone here will be blessed. The elections will be over!! Nothing better than that, right?
But I don’t think we know what blessed is. Jesus looks at blessed in a much deeper way than us. “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 you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad…” (Matthew 5:3-6, 11-12a)
Blessed? How can that be blessed? I know what blessed is. You know what blessed is. Blessed are those who know all the answers. Blessed are the confident, the powerful, the wealthy, the people who get what they want. Blessed is that person on the Western Slope of Colorado who has his $149,000,000 bungalow up for sale which includes the helicopter pad and the bison herd at no additional cost. That’s really blessed!! But Jesus speaks about the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the lowly (meek) and those who are persecuted or insulted, as being blessed. If ever an Old Testament verse makes the New Testament clear, it is today. Isaiah 55: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Verses 8-9)
So, what makes the hard moments the good moments? God. When we acknowledge that we are spiritually poor and empty, that we have no answer for our troubles and our sin and guilt, then we are in a good place. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Something had to happen between the poverty of having no answers to having God’s reign and rule, His grace, in our life. It is God. Having God, trusting in Him, resting in Him is what makes such poverty in things of soul so blessed.
Last Sunday, the day of great music and kettle drums, Reformation Sunday, was a day of Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in the time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Verses 1-3) When the impossible happens – mountains fall into the sea – when everything goes wrong – we don’t fear. God is with us. God is our refuge. We find ourselves still, at peace, because God is present. We are blessed.
When we mourn we are blessed. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” We mourn over our sin. It bothers up. We are consumed with our weakness. We mourn that our world has chosen ways that are so far from ways of righteousness, goodness and grace. It is good that we mourn and are filled with grief – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17). But it isn’t in the grief that we find a blessedness. It is in the word of grace that God speaks that we find new life. In another psalm of David these blessed words are announced, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)
Do you remember Paul speaking about his time of mourning? He battled something, constantly. Maybe it was physical. Maybe spiritual, maybe emotional, maybe in a relationship with another and God gave him His blessing. “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (II Corinthians 12:7b-9a)
He was blessed and so are we. 9 times Jesus talks about how blessed we are now. We are blessed when we are destitute in our soul, God will come with His new reign. We are blessed when we are filled with sorrow, the only one who has the answer, Jesus Christ, will speak and act and do His work. Blessed are you when you are lowly, God will lift you up. And when you hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness you’ll receive God’s overwhelming provision in Jesus.
Today isn’t just your day, it is their day. It is the day for all those who have come before us in faith. How blessed are they!! “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes’, says the Spirit, ‘that they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them.’” (Revelation 14:13)
We can’t even comprehend how blessed our relatives, our friends, our fellow members of this church and those in the Body of Christ are, all who have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith!! But someday we will. Their day will be our day. Revelation 7, “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple and he who sits on their throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, not any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’” (Verses 15-17)
Sometimes in our life we live with envy and jealousy of those who have life better than us. We don’t consider our lives blessed. But Jesus describes all of His, including us, as blessed.
When I read that screen describing me as one who practices poor oral health I didn’t think it was fair. But then the hygienist took the measurements around my teeth and there were 4’s and 5’s, showing deep pockets where bacteria could get in. At one time, when I was doing what I was supposed to do, those numbers were 2’s and 3’s. She was right. I wasn’t caring for my teeth.
I wasn’t too happy finding her words on that screen, but I didn’t say anything to her. Though I am not the sharpest tool in the shed I have learned that you don’t start a debate with a person who has just said, “Open your mouth” and has a number of sharp objects in her hand!! Her words were the right words. They were blessed words.
Jesus speaks the most blessed words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in 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.” Rejoice and be glad; yours is the kingdom of God!!
Blessed? Yes. Today we are blessed here. Someday we will be blessed at the side of Jesus. Blessed? Fully!! Now and then. Amen!!