All Saint's Sunday
November 3, 2002
The Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Sermon: "All Saint's Sunday"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
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 on 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."
All Saint's Sunday
All Saint's Sunday - November 3, 2002
We are all familiar with this particular portion of the scriptures. These twelve verses are more commonly called "The Beatitudes." Over the years I have seen people look at the beatitudes on an individual basis. What I mean is someone reads the scriptures and then tries to make themselves fit into one of the categories. On the other hand I have also seen someone look at these scriptures and say, “These don't apply so much to me. I'm not in mourning and I am not reviled or persecuted because I believe in Jesus.” This last one is particularly hard to grasp in the United States. We rarely, if ever, hear of someone being physically or mentally abused for saying they are a Christian.
If we look at the beatitudes in this manner, from an individual standpoint, we miss the point. The beatitudes are not aimed at discreet individuals. Jesus was addressing these statements to the community of God. Matthew wants us to know these beatitudes are addressed to the community in the way he writes the account of the story.
Just before the beatitudes begin Jesus has been teaching throughout Galilee. He was curing the people of illnesses and diseases, casting out demons, healing paralytics and epileptics. Everywhere he went he drew a crowd. When he sees the crowd he goes up the mountain. The disciples and the crowd follow him. Much earlier in scripture a prophet of Israel went up on a mountain. He spent forty days on that mountain. The prophet was Moses. He had heard the call of God. He responded and went to Egypt. Once there, he spoke for God to pharaoh and through God's word and deed the people of Israel were freed. They crossed the desert and came to the holy mountain. Moses goes up the mountain alone. The people wait at the base and when Moses returns he carries the word of God with him. He brings the word of God to the people in the Ten Commandments. Moses was the messenger of God to God's people. The people of Israel were the chosen community of God.
Matthew is trying to show us that Jesus is the Messiah. While he is of the lineage of David he is not like David. In fact his actions are more like Moses with some major similarities and differences. They are similar in that they are leaders of a crowd of people. They both lead the people to the mountain. They both bring God's Word to the people.
Yet they are very different. Jesus not only leads the crowd to the mountain; He leads the people up the mountain. Jesus brings the Word of God to the people, but not on stone tablets. Jesus brings them the Word of God in His own person, flesh and blood. Jesus, God Incarnate, the
Word of God, sits down with the people. God sits down with the community of God. The disciples, the community, gather in close. Then instead of giving them law, Jesus proclaims the people of God as blessed. The community of God is a community of blessed people. For we have a God that works through His creation. We have a God that works through the hands and feet, the eyes and ears, the hearts and soul, of the people of God. In these blessings to this community Jesus turns the world upside down.
The world view proclaims the rich as being blessed. We have all seen it and heard it. A person is very healthy or they are well off financially. What do we hear people say? “They must be living right.” Jesus does not proclaim the rich blessed. Jesus proclaims the poor blessed. The world tends to frown on those who are meek. People who are meek are believed to be weak according to the world view. People who are pure in heart are said not to have any fun. They don't know what fun is according to the world. Jesus blesses the meek and promises them the earth. The pure in heart are blessed as well. Jesus says they will see God. The world view has always been one of win and lose. The strong survive while the weak perish. The poor keep on getting poorer while the rich keep getting richer.
Yet, Jesus says that is not true in the kingdom of God. The community of God will be blessed. The people of God will be blessed. Not just as individuals but as the faithful gathering of God's Holy people. For within the community of God's people there are the poor. In the community of God's people there are those who mourn. Within the community of God's people we find the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful, the pure in heart. In the community of God's people we find those who are persecuted. For the community of God is larger than we can ever imagine.
The amazing aspect of this community is that it encompasses people of all types, male and female, young and old, and people past and present. For this community of God is an eternal community. The kingdom has not come in yet, we still wait for the fulfillment of God's kingdom to come. But we are still a part of that kingdom now. The community of God is timeless.
That is why we are here today. Today we celebrate All Saint's day. We celebrate the lives of the Saints both known and unknown. We celebrate the lives of the saints of our past, the lives of the saints among us now, and the lives of the saints yet to come. For all of us are saints to some degree. Oh, we may not be recognized by the church and be called a saint. But we are still saints to someone. As a matter of fact someone was a saint to us. We wouldn't be here tonight in this church if someone had not introduced us to Christ. We would not be a part of this incredible community of God if someone had not taught us about Jesus and the necessity of being connected to God's community.
We have the opportunity to share the wonder of Jesus and the community of Christ with someone today. A recent study says that every person today will have an impact, positive or negative on 1,000 people in their life time. A thousand people is an incredible number. I don't know how many people are here tonight, but just imagine what would happen if each of us impacted 1,000 people positively for the kingdom of God. Then each of those people impacted 1,000 for God's kingdom. The results would be staggering. Can it happen? We might simply shake our heads in disbelief. Yet, look at what Jesus did with twelve disciples.
We are a part of the glorious community of God. We are the meek, the poor, the peacemakers living in the world today. As the people of God we are called to share the love of God to everyone we meet. For we are the living saints called to do God's work today in the world. We are called to bring God's reconciling love to everyone we encounter. There is a song I learned a long time ago.
“I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true.
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green.
They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping to be one too.”