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Saints in our Weakness. All Saints’ Day 2015.

November 1, 2015 Leave a comment

All Saints’ Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 5:1-12

November 1, 2015

“Saints in our Weakness”

Iesu Iuva

Today is All Saints’ Day. What is a saint? A saint is a holy person. “Holy” means “set apart for God.”

On the altar, veiled by a cloth, is bread and wine. Later it will be consecrated, hallowed and made holy by God’s Word to be the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The consecrated bread and wine are holy things. We treat them with reverence, not like common bread and wine. In the same way saints are holy people. They are not normal, common, unclean people. They are God’s people, set apart for Him, filled with a treasure that is not of this world—the Holy Spirit of God.

And where do you find these holy people, these saints? You find them where the thing God uses to consecrate and make holy is. You find the saints where God’s Word is, because it is God’s Word that sanctifies, cleanses, and makes the saints holy.

That means you find the saints of God not in a monastery somewhere, or out in a cave fasting. You find them in this congregation and others like it, where God’s pure Word is proclaimed and taught.

Yes, you yourself are a saint, you who are baptized and believe that Jesus died for the forgiveness of your sins. That is the way the Bible addresses and describes Christians, people who only believe in Jesus. The first reading from Revelation says the saints are those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) In the epistle John does not tell us to doubt and question whether we belong to God. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1) And whenever Paul starts his letters he addresses the churches he writes to as congregations of saints. “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints,” Romans 1:7. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 1:2. “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 1:1.

Why are we saints? Not because of our works, but because of the works of Jesus. All our sin was given to Him, and He wore it as His covering on the cross and bore God’s wrath against us. Scripture doesn’t say merely that Jesus bore our sin, but that He became sin for us. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) Just as surely as God made Jesus to be sin, so surely are we righteous for Jesus’ sake. And if we are righteous, then we are also saints.

This is why so much of our effort at witnessing is misguided. We look at our unbelieving neighbors as if they had something to give us, by making our numbers larger or by adding to our offerings. No! We are God’s saints through Christ. We long for the salvation of our neighbors for their sake, not for ours. We don’t need the help of the world; we already have everything, because we are God’s saints.

This is where worldly wisdom barges in with scornful laughter. “You are God’s saints? You don’t need anything the world has to give? Are you crazy? Look how few of you there are! See how you are barely paying your bills, and you are only doing that with the gifts people left you when they died! And look at your sins—your own private sins that no one knows about as well as the obvious sins that afflict the congregation—disunity, disregard for God’s Word, pride, factions and jealousy. You are supposed to be saints, and you have everything? Then why does God let you be weak and suffer and be dragged through the mud?”

Surely you know that voice as well as I do. Sometimes it comes out and speaks openly. Other times it is present as nagging doubt. Whether we are speaking of the congregation or ourselves as individuals, we don’t often feel like saints who have everything. The reason is because we are weak, we suffer, we see our ongoing sinfulness. This shouldn’t happen to saints, says our reason. They should be like the saints we see pictured in Revelation, who are dressed in white robes, carry the palm branches of victory, and sing hosannas. God should lead the saints from victory to victory, from glory to glory. If we are really saints, there must be something wrong with our sainthood.

But if we paid attention to our Lord’s words in the Gospel reading today, we would see that the reasoning of our flesh is incorrect. In the beatitudes, the “blesse are’s” that Jesus speaks at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the saints on earth in terms that contradict our reason. He calls blessed not the spiritually rich but the spiritually poor, not the happy but the mourning, not the church that is loved by the world but the one that is persecuted by the world and cast out as evil.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus. The saints are not rich in

spirit. They don’t come to God with their own righteousness, with something to boast about. We come

before God with the awareness of our ongoing sinfulness and spiritual poverty. But in our ongoing

struggle against our sinful flesh we have the kingdom of heaven. That’s because our righteousness, our

spiritual riches, are outside of us. Jesus is our “wisdom form God, righteousness, sanctification, and

redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) We have no righteousness in ourselves that could save us. We

possess the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus. We believe that all Jesus is and has done is for

us.

But we believe that in the midst of sin’s raging and storming within us. That is why Jesus says, “Blessed

are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” We mourn because we are constantly afflicted by our own sinfulness and unbelief. In addition we live in a world of death and suffering. We long for the day when we will be in Paradise and the Lord Himself will “wipe every tear from our eyes.” (Rev. 7)

 

And so throughout the beatitudes Jesus describes the saints not as living what might be called a “victorious life”, but as living with weakness and suffering. We are blessed in the midst of that weakness. In fact Jesus says we should rejoice in our weakness. “Blessed are you when others 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 so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) It’s one thing to bear with weakness and suffering, and something else to rejoice in it. But Jesus says to rejoice in weakness and suffering. It is not a sign that you are not a saint; it is the normal experience of saints.

There should be no surprise in this if we thought according to faith in Christ and not according to the flesh. Because what happened to the Holy and Righteous One, Jesus? He exemplified these beatitudes. He was poor in spirit because He bore the sins of the world. Look at Him going down to the Jordan to be baptized with sinners. Look at Him in agony in Gethsemane and crying out, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” from the cross. He was meek and lowly in heart, so meek that He would not cast away the most unworthy sinner but invites them to come to Him so that He may stoop down and wash their feet. He was pure in heart, as no sinners are except through faith in Him. He, the Son of God, was the peacemaker, because He made peace with God for us by His suffering and the shedding of His blood. And He was persecuted for righteousness. Because as He fulfilled the Law for us and gave righteousness to the sinful and lost, the leaders of the Jews reviled Him and spoke all manner of evil against Him until finally they had Him put to death as a criminal, as a blasphemer.

So you are a saint, baptized into Christ. And it is not a shock when you are weak, you suffer, and you continue to struggle against sin. You are born again into Christ in your baptism. You were remade into His image where you used to have the image of Adam. Adam was proud and tried to snatch the glory of God for Himself. But you have put on the image of Christ, who was “a man of sorrows and familiar with grief” (Is. 53). Your proud Adam died with Him and dies daily, so that you might be raised up with Christ in the glorious image of His resurrection.

No! says your sinful flesh. No, I do not want to live by faith. I want to see the glory that is supposed to be mine as a Son of God. I want to experience it. I want to see signs that Christ is really among us, not just receive His promise that He is when He gives me His body and blood.

Repent. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is yours now in your poverty of spirit. He calls you a saint. He gives you everything. “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now.” (1 John 3:1-2) Do you want something greater than what your Lord experienced on earth? “A servant is not greater than his master” (John 15:20). But even under the cross and weakness you are a saint through faith in Him. You have the kingdom of heaven.

That is what we Christians rejoice in. In the midst of our suffering, sin, and weakness, we already have God’s kingdom. God is pleased with us. Jesus gives us His very body and blood which was crucified and poured out for us on the cross to assure us that the kingdom of heaven is now ours, that our sins are forgiven. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2) We rejoice not only that we have God’s favor now. We rejoice in the sure promises of our Lord of what is to come for us. We will be comforted when the Lord wipes away every tear from our eyes. We will be satisfied with righteousness. We will receive mercy on the day of judgment. We will see God. We will be called His Sons before all creation when He judges the living and the dead.

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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