Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
In the Beatitudes, Jesus provides a unique description of those who are blessed with God’s favor. His teaching is surprising and shocking to those who seek wealth, fame, and control over others.
1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
All Saints Day was originally set aside to commemorate all those martyrs from the early persecutions whose names were never recorded and thus whose memory was in constant peril of being lost. Over time, this celebration was extended to remember all who have lived and died in the faith and now rest eternally and triumphantly from their labors. We continue this aspect of the celebration when we name those persons of our individual parishes who have died in the last year and live now in the glory of God.
We join in this ancient feast celebrating and commemorating our beloved dead. And firmly stating we know that they are with us in the body of Christ. We remember that we in the living, breathing, earthly sense, are the minority of the church. The church is all those who have gone before us in the faith; some traditions speak of the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. The church in heaven and the church on earth, but in this case, militant doesn’t refer to military, but in fact “to struggle, to make an effort.”
The church militant does the work of spreading the gospel, sent out into the world in the great commission. We struggle mightily to do God’s work – because the church here on earth has never been called to be successful, only called to be faithful. It is God’s grace that gets us the throne room, not our success.
Revelation, in part, begin with this vision of the saints, this vision of those who have come out of the great ordeal, who have been purified, cleansed, and clothed in Christ – and now they are with Christ. Day and Night. But this is not the end of the story. This is a vision of the kingdom. But not the end.
Because at the end of days, what is God doing? God’s not waiting around for us to get our angel wings so we can fly on up, but God is on his way down. The writer of Revelation tells us that at the end, God comes down, again. God will dwell here, among people. Not in some place far away but here, this place made new. And as this theme is repeated at the end of the book of Revelation, God says I will make all things new.
Notice, God does not say, I will make all new things! God will be and has been in the business of renewal and redeeming. God is not in the business of scrapping the whole lot and starting over. God has promised that’s not the way it will be, ever again. For me, it is reassurance that God intended me to be exactly who I am… minus sin, minus that part of my humanity that robs me of being what God intended me to be… And as anyone who is in Christ is a new Creation, so will Creation be made new when time is fulfilled.
The kingdom of God is already here, but not yet made whole and complete. Jesus declared God’s blessing and honor on those who don’t look blessed from our point of view. And yet that blessing is not made whole. The Bible declares what is and what will be because God’s word has power to transform. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”.
This is one of the hardest parts of being faithful. Knowing what has already happened, that is not fully revealed yet. Knowing our loved ones are at home with the lord and yet not being able to prove or see or sense that in any earthly way. Knowing that God has won the victory over evil, and yet evil still rages the world over like a wounded caged animal.
God is outside of time. And space for that matter. And we mortal creatures function with a very linear concrete window of reality. This is part of the reason why visions such as those in the book of revelation spook us – but these visions were written to Christians who were already terrified in the world around them as comfort and a promise that no matter how bleak and violent things look, they will end up in the presence of God. And it won’t depend on how mainly saintly things they’ve done or left undone – but on God’s love for God’s children.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” This text is full of indicative verbs, not imperative. Declarative statements, not commands. The readers are not simply told to be better, to try harder, or to get rid of their sin. That’s what Jesus came to do But it is a firm declaration of God’s promise and honor and blessing, no matter how things seem now.
These texts for all saints Sunday have their verbs tenses all messed up and confused, which should remind us that God operates outside of space and time. But also gives us assurance for today and hope for today. The Bible declares what is and what will be, because God’s word has power to transform. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. The future, which is promised, impacts the here and now. God’s blessing and honor is given first – it’s already all over the place, perhaps not where we might conventionally expect it to be.
We are grateful for the witness of the people who have gone before us in faith. Those who remained faithful no matter the ordeal they came through. Those who mourned, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness and justice – those who were spiritually poor, meek, or persecuted. Those who realized that God’s honor and God’s blessing were upon them and lived in such a way as to bear witness to it.
But the past and present and future are all God’s kingdom, and belong to God who operates outside of space and time. So we don’t just remember the past, and those we knew who showed God’s blessing and honor, we keep our eyes open for those saints in the present. Those who live out their identity as beloved children of God. We may wish we were different, or had more or less, but our identity and blessing has already been given to us. “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” Thanks be to God. Amen.