11/7/2022 11:58:33 AM
What Is and What Will Be
Pastor Eric Schroeder - All Saints' Day - Sunday, November 6, 2022
20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Are you comfortable? We live in a day and age and in a place where if the answer to that question happens to be “no,” it usually doesn’t take long to fix it, at least for people who live like we do. For instance, if you’re not comfortable because you feel cold at home or in your office, there’s a thermostat you can adjust and take care of it before too long; if you’re cold outside, you might add on another layer of clothing. If you’re uncomfortable because you’re hungry, you can just open the fridge or the pantry and grab a snack; if you’re driving around you can stop at a convenience store or a drive-thru restaurant and eat something. Just a few examples that show how easy it is for people like us to find comfort in our lives.
And so, on the surface, any of us could hear Jesus’ words today and wonder if they are at all for us. It might seem like a stretch. We wonder about what we are going to eat, not whether we are going to eat. We might get anxious about what to wear, while other people don’t have a choice; they are already wearing all the clothes they have. So maybe as we hear Jesus speak, our first thought ought to be a sense of gratefulness for all the comforts we have in our lives, many of which we so often take for granted.
And yet, in the context of All Saints’ Day, there is a far bigger message for us to latch onto and take with us today. Of course, Jesus’ main point here isn’t that he is advocating for a life of homelessness and starvation and sadness; instead, he is drawing attention to the great contrast between What Is and What Will Be. Jesus is urging us not to let anyone judge us by the way things appear right now; instead, we are to live with an overarching focus on where we are headed when this life is over. With that in mind, let’s look closer at Jesus’ words.
First, the audience: Looking at his disciples, he said… Jesus is speaking to those who believe in him, those who follow him, those who are committed to a life of learning from him and listening to him. In other words, Jesus is speaking to people like us, who by God’s grace know and cherish the name of Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our brother and our King. He is speaking to us and urging us to step back and think about how we define and identify ourselves, calling us to evaluate what we are after and what we are about as we live in a world where so many don’t consider discipleship with Jesus to be desirable at all.
How does he begin? “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…” I’m thankful that we have similar words of Jesus recorded in Matthew chapter 5, which are helpful in understanding Jesus’ main point. There we read, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. No matter what our finances look like, Matthew’s gospel helps us see that Jesus is primarily concerned with our spiritual state; what does it mean to be poor in spirit and yet blessed with the kingdom of God?
Here's the way Martin Luther phrased it in a scribbled note that was allegedly found in his pocket as he lay dying; that little piece of paper said, “This is true; we are all beggars.” Those of us who have heard the truth of God’s Word are well aware that when it comes to our salvation, we have absolutely nothing to contribute that makes us even the slightest bit worthy of eternal life: no righteousness, no holiness, nothing in us that would attract God to us or convince him to set aside his wrath over our sin. On our own, we are spiritually bankrupt, absolutely broke, without a spiritual penny to our names. And yet Jesus calls us blessed, poor though we are, because through him we are part owners of a kingdom, just like Paul wrote to the Corinthians, you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. No amount of temporary earthly riches can compare to what is promised to us, the eternal riches that will be ours all thanks to Jesus.
Jesus goes on: 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Here, too, Matthew’s parallel account provides some clarification as to Jesus’ true aim. There we read, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. As those who realize our deep need for God’s mercy and forgiveness, as those who struggle with doubt and guilt (maybe even despair at times), as those who go through so many times when it feels like our spiritual cupboards are bare, how wonderful it is that the one who miraculously fed so many bodies is also capable of satisfying our souls as well. Jesus calls you blessed, because you are forgiven, you are filled with his grace, and you will be satisfied for all eternity because someday soon all those doubts and worries and fears and all your guilt and remorse will be left behind as we enter the kingdom that awaits.
There’s more; we’ll look at two statements this time. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Perhaps it’s a regular part of maturing in our faith…Isn’t it true that the more our thinking aligns with Jesus, the more uncomfortable we can become with this world? Do we ever go through those times when the sinful world breaks our hearts to see so much pain and suffering, so much willful ignorance and blatant rejection of God’s will? If we have ever felt like weeping over the state of our world, we’re in good company, because Jesus did too. Just like this world rejected him, we shouldn’t be surprised when it rejects his followers. But we can marvel every time it occurs to us that this was the very same broken world Jesus willingly entered in order to rescue us from all its pain and suffering by dying in our place.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. Today we have two reasons to rejoice. Jesus mentions the first reason here. Great is our reward in heaven. What is now ours cannot compare to what will be ours in heaven one day. We find great comfort in the truth that the reward that we never could have earned in a thousand lifetimes is already ours in Christ, the one who calls us all his saints; it’s an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us. How can we know for sure? Here’s how Paul describes it to the Ephesians:
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In baptism we who were by nature sinners are given the title of saints, because then and there Christ washed us of every spot and clothed us with his own holiness. We were buried with Christ and raised to live a new life, fighting against our own desires and the world’s temptations—not in the hopes that we might get to heaven, but because thanks to Jesus’ willing sacrifice for us, heaven is already waiting for us. Rejoice and leap for joy!
Here's the second reason to rejoice today: What will be for us already is for the saints who have gone before us. God in his grace decided that for these saints, in the words of our second reading, the world was not worthy of them, and now all of their struggles are over. We rejoice that their every moment of existence is in the blissful kingdom of God, where they are continually satisfied in the very presence of God, never to hunger, thirst, or weep ever again. Such is the reward of grace that God bestows upon all the saints for Jesus’ sake alone. And now, it’s only a matter of time before we get to join them, either one-by-one when Jesus gathers us through death, or all together when he returns and unites all the saints on earth with all the saints in heaven in one glorious band.
Until that day, Jesus urges us, don’t get too comfortable here. Enjoy the blessings that God gives in this life, and be grateful for them, but don’t cling to them as if this is all there is. Praise Jesus now and forever for teaching us the difference between what is and what will be. May his Holy Spirit ever remind us that we are but strangers here; heaven is our home. Amen.