1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then 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. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have once again come to All Saints Day, the day we remember all those who have died in the faith and whose baptism is complete. We will gather today as we do each week at the Lord’s table. Today we are especially remembering those who are gathered with us on the other side of the table, at the great high feast.
Today is a day of remembering. Today we are especially remembering nine of our brothers and sisters who have died in the past year.
We remember Lucille, Don, Mark, Evie, Val, Joe, Kenai, Dennis, and Kelly.
We remember all of them and all the others in our lives who have gone on to heaven ahead of us. We remember both the good and the bad things, the happy and the sad times. We pray forgiveness for those times that were not as God intended.
But mostly, we remember that they were a blessing to us. We give thanks to God for giving them to us as companions on earth.
A blessing is a thanksgiving event. It means that God has chosen us, granted us favor, and made us holy. God richly blessed us with these nine saints.
Today is more than a day of remembering though, more than the church’s memorial day. Today is a day of rejoicing and hope. Rejoicing and hope because we are able to see things from a different perspective.
Of course, we can see things from the perspective of the rest of the world. We can see what everyone else sees. We can see that people have struggled throughout human history.
We can see that there is one war after another. We see the hunger and poverty. We know innocent people suffer. We watch as the strong take advantage of the weak. We hear the earth itself cry out in suffering from human abuse and neglect.
Life is difficult. We can see that. We do not deny the reality that everyone sees. We do not deceive ourselves by saying that things are getting better. We do not walk through life with blinders on.
But today is still a day of rejoicing and hope. We see what everyone else sees, of course, but we can see beyond what others see. We can see from a different perspective.
Jesus has shown us the world from the perspective of the kingdom of heaven. He has told us what it looks like from the inside. Once you can see from the inside perspective, from the perspective of Jesus, it turns your world around.
All the things that are valued from the perspective of the world - wealth, power, self-sufficiency, strength - all those things mean nothing in the kingdom of heaven. You can't take any of them with you.
Today’s gospel reading is called the beatitudes, meaning the supreme blessings. Today, Jesus tells us that the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers are the ones who are truly blessed. They are the ones who are chosen for God’s favor and given joy and hope.
Jesus gives us the beatitudes to describe life in the kingdom of heaven. Most of them follow the same pattern.
They all start - “Blessed are.” Present tense. Blessed now. Then they have a statement about some virtue or trait that the blessed ones have - meek, merciful, pure in heart. Then Jesus names the reason these people are blessed. The reason is expressed in the future tense.
The specific reason why they are blessed is not something happening now in the present. The reason for the blessedness is in the future, seeing things from the perspective of the kingdom of heaven.
We in the church can see from the world’s perspective, but as the church we also see from the perspective of heaven, the future perspective. The church can see what others cannot see, that God is surely at work in the midst of this broken world. That there will be a time when God will bring all creation to peace and rejoicing. That God is making all things new.
When you come up the sidewalk, to the doors of this sanctuary, and the sun is shining, you can see your reflection in the glass. You can see the world behind you reflected - the dentist office, the trees, the street. But if there’s a glare, you can’t see clearly inside the church. You only have one perspective, that of the world. Because the glass acts like a mirror, you get a self-focused perspective.
When you come inside, though, you can see from both perspectives. You can still see the world outside, across the street. But you can also see inside the church.
When you only see from the outside, there is little room for hope. When you see the world from inside, you know that God is at work.
You see the baptismal font - the place where God claims us and names us as beloved children.
Today, you see the Paschal Candle lit - the candle that symbolizes the light of Christ, the light that shines in the darkness, the light that not even the darkness of death can overcome.
Today, you see all the other candles lit. The nine bigger candles for the people we are remembering this year. All the smaller candles we will light for all the saints who have blessed our lives.
You see the cross up front and you remember how our Lord willingly took on sin and death so that we all can enter the kingdom of heaven.
You see the pulpit where the Word of God is made alive in reading and proclamation.
You see the altar. It is set for the meal where Christ promises to be present with us. We know that the saints we remember today are with Christ. We know that Christ is with us, connecting us with them, even though they have died.
Today, you can see from two perspectives. You can see things the way the world sees them. But you are blessed. You can also see things from the perspective of the kingdom of heaven.
In the kingdom of heaven, there is joy and hope and peace. There is no more fear, no more war. There is no more hunger or thirst. There is no more poverty or persecution. There is no more mourning or dying.
In the kingdom of heaven, God will wipe every tear from our eyes. And when that day comes, we will gather with the saints at the river, that flows by the throne of God. Amen.