Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Sermon for 11/06/16--Feast of All Saints (observed)

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Saints by Grace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

There's a reason why the heavenly elder, the servant of God, calls it "the Great Tribulation." The Lord does not promise that the life of a child of God will be easy. In fact, the opposite is true. If the world treated the promised Messiah like a common criminal, the world will certainly not treat those who cling to the Christ with any more compassion. And it’s not just the world which hates you. Your own flesh betrays you, taking comfort in worldly treasures and rejoicing in sin. Woe to you whose heart is not pierced and broken by the Law, for whom all the answers are easy and excuses plentiful, who has never struggled against sin or doctrine! Woe to you whose conscience is hard, who is comfortable in this living death, who has sought honor, prestige, and approval from men! Woe to you who is proud. You have your reward. Woe to us all, for the flesh is weak. Its seduction always betrays you. It never satisfies. It is always shameful. Repent. Be emptied of yourself.
Blessed are those whom the world counts cursed. The Kingdom of God is built upon suffering and blood. When you are poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty, then you are His. You do not yet have your reward, but the suffering you now endure is not worthy of comparison to what you will enjoy. You will be comforted. You will inherit the earth. You will be satisfied. You will obtain mercy. You will see God. You will be called the sons of God.
But not yet. Not now. Now you are poor, sad, meek, hungry, and thirsty. You are taken advantage of for your mercy. Your purity in heart is mocked and challenged. You receive violence for peace. You are falsely accused and reviled. So was He. And as He now is, you will be, for you are Baptized. You are a Christian. You are blessed. Yours is the Kingdom of God, now and forever, delivered and bestowed in time and in eternity by grace. Now is the peace that passes all understanding. You belong to Christ. You are a holy one, a saint, by divine redemption and atonement, by prophecy and promise, by the cross and resurrection, by the victory of the Messiah, the crushing of the serpent’s head, and the defeat of Hell. The Kingdom of heaven is is a present reality. It is yours.
You live in this Kingdom of grace by faith. It cannot be seen with mortal eyes. But faith knows and trusts Jesus died and rose again, that the victory of God over Hell was won by suffering violence in meekness and poverty, by being falsely accused and betrayed, by pain and sorrow, hunger and thirst upon a cross, and finally by being overcome to the point of death in an execution reserved for the guilty but foisted upon the innocent. Faith lives what faith believes. Blessed are those, then, who are like Him: poor in spirit, sad, meek, hungry, thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers. Blessed are those who are suffering, falsely accused, and reviled. Blessed are those who are killed all day long for His sake, for they are like the One who lived and died without sin to make men free again. They are like the One who did not love His life to death but who instead loved His murderers so much that He laid down His life for them! The kingdom of heaven is theirs—not by works of righteousness which they have done, but according to His mercy. This is not a to-do list; all of this has been done by our Lord Jesus for you.
The Kingdom of heaven is yours. You are killed all day long for His sake. The old man in you is daily drowned in contrition and repentance. The new man emerges and arises. It seems as though you have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed, but some martyrs bleed on the inside. Indeed, the greatest heroes of the faith are the ones who go unknown and unsung by men, who are poor in spirit. They bear their burdens as silently as lambs to the slaughter. But the angels know. And so does the Lord. The reward will be given. The seats at the right and left hands of Jesus that John and James sought for pride’s sake will be filled by grace.
Rejoice and be glad. Your suffering will not last. Your tears will be wiped away. Even now the saints in glory pray for you. A great cloud of witnesses surrounds you. The saints have been delivered and enjoy their rest because Jesus rose. So will you. God be praised. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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