The Sunday after All Saints
November 5, 2006
The Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Sermon: "The Sunday after All Saints 2006"
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."
The Sunday after All Saints 2006
November 5, 2006
While I was in seminary I was introduced to a story about a company. The name of the company is not important, but the story of its life and vitality are. The company began as the dream of a couple. They were developing products from natural ingredients. They made soaps, toothpastes, deodorants and other items without the use of all the chemicals and preservatives. The company grew and the number of products grew. As you can imagine they needed to hire more people to handle the increase. Many of these people had ideas about how to help the company grow. Some of these different ideas followed the basic beliefs upon which the company was founded. Other ideas did not, and recommended cutting some comers.
The owners realized they were at a crossroads. They had to maintain the natural ingredient qualities of their product. They also had to respect their employees and involve them in the creative process. They valued the employees’ opinions and character too much to let them walk away upset.
So, they developed a method to involve everyone in the process of creativity, development, packaging, handling and shipping. They also created ways for employees needs to be met including medical plans, day care, leave time, sick time and many other aspects. Everyone was involved in some way in the company at several levels. Individuals used their gifts in ways that gave them great joy and contentment. In short, they developed a community in this company.
This company developed a method of doing business that no other company developed. In fact, some people said the model couldn't work. This model was different than any existing model of business. Having people so involved in every aspect of the company just couldn't work, but it did. This company is different than any other company out there. They are surviving and they are strong. They are strong because they use the best talents of everyone. Everyone is invested in all aspects of the business. They meet the needs of the community.
A community is just what we are reading about in the Gospel of Matthew today. Jesus is describing a community on that mountain. The community he is describing begins here on earth at that time. The fulfillment of this community will not occur until Christ comes again. However, the community is still real. It still exists and it is of ultimate importance in the world today.
How is the community real? The community being described is made up of people. These people are not royalty, CEO's, major political figures or wealthy. They are the average everyday person. This community does not exclude anyone by status, politics, or economic wealth. By being this inclusive it states that everyone has the opportunity to be involved. Everyone has something to offer.
If we pay real close attention to the description of this community it is clear that it is open to all. For this community is open to the meek, the mournful, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for loving God and doing the right thing.
Do we understand to whom Jesus is talking? Jesus is talking to disciples. He is talking to anyone who has the open ears to hear. God's kingdom is real and alive because it is in the lives of people. To those disciples, those people on the mountain, these words must have spoken to the core of their being. For Jesus is speaking of them. Jesus is telling them they have a place in the kingdom of God. On that mountain Jesus told them God made them and God loves them. They have a place in the kingdom of God. Furthermore, they can help make it alive in their day.
The amazing thing is they did bring the kingdom to life in their day. After Jesus rose from the dead, all that he had said became clear. The kingdom of God was in the world. The kingdom of God is still in the world today. The kingdom of God is real and alive today because it is real and alive in us. We are the community of Christ in the world. We now carry the message of God's kingdom with us. It was passed to us by those who came before. They took the gifts God gave them and they used them to make God's kingdom come alive. Then they passed it down to us. We are to continue the development of God's kingdom in the world. We are to keep it alive today.
How do we keep God's kingdom alive? We believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We open the doors of our hearts to any who are in need. We invite them to come into the community of faith and use their talents, whatever they might be, to share the love of God to others. When the hungry are fed, the tears of the sorrowful gently wiped away, the meek given the opportunity to let their light shine, and the peacemakers bring concord where there is hate, then we see the kingdom of God before us. Everyday people bring it in and make it real and make it alive.
Our question is, "Are we willing to follow the lead of those who have gone before?" On this day when we remember the saints who have gone before us, will we follow their example? That is the question. If we call ourselves Christians and we mean it, then we are kingdom people. Our opportunity is to use whatever gift or gifts we've been given to work for the kingdom of God in the world right now. Not next year, next month or next week, but now, today.
Some people are frightened to take on this responsibility. We know what happens to people who have different priorities than the world. The world looks at them strangely. They are either brushed aside, pushed away or worse. They don't get coverage in the newspapers. They don't get supported in their work. In some cases in this world they get ostracized, threatened, hurt, or killed. But the kingdom of God goes on, because it is not about the one person. The work of God goes on because it is about the community. We are part of the community of believers. It is from this community that we draw strength no matter what the world throws our way. The head of our community is Jesus Christ. It is from him that we draw our strength. It is from him that we draw our commitment. It is from him that we draw the love necessary to do God's work.
The best part of being kingdom people is that we get to pass this legacy on. We have the opportunity to impress upon others that God's way is better than the world's ways. We don't have to be mean to do it. We love them into it. As Jesus was willing to die for us on that cross, it is our example of true love. One day we will get to see the fulfillment of the kingdom of God. On that day, everything God has promised will come to pass. We will know the day when the lion shall lie down with the lamb. When love will rule the day and peace will be present in all of God's creation. We, we will rest with the saints in light and worship our loving and ever present God. Come, Lord Jesus Come, Come among us here that we might see the glory of the kingdom revealed.