Fortunate are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What is a saint? In our bible studies recently, going through the Acts of the Apostles; our church after Christ ascended. There’s Pentecost, the first preaching, and Stephen the first recorded saint to receive that crown and fortune of Martyrdom, dying for the faith. Fortunate are you Stephen, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven. Down the ages there have been so many faithful Christians, gentle, merciful, pure of heart, craving righteousness and making peace. Fortunate are the saints who have gone before inheriting the earth, filled with righteousness, called children of God, seeing Jesus face to face. This is our church, this is our family; you are not baptised into the LCA, you are baptised into Christ’s church.
The same Church, Paul, Stephen’s vicious opponent, was baptised into, adopted as God’s son, then sent to strengthen and grow. The same church you were baptised into, the same church Karissa will be baptised into, that same church of those of our parish who died this last year, Lewis, John and Ruth. Fortunate are they who rest in Christ now, fortunate are the saints, people who embodied these beatitudes.
But these beatitudes are not attitudes you must work towards. Just take hungering for righteousness. Do you decide when you are hungry or not? We can choose to eat or not, but do you choose to be hungry? No. It’s something you’ve no control over. It just happens to you, almost as if it’s given to you. Just like the Holy Spirit giving us the desire for righteousness, we receive this hunger and all these blessings from God. And all these blessings point to Jesus. The lives of the saints, the lives of all good Christian examples, point to Christ. Those people who prove, that Jesus isn’t just up there in heaven somewhere, but here in the lives of us Christians. Who is poor in spirit? Jesus emptied Himself and became obedient unto death even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Who mourns? Jesus wept when He saw Jerusalem, How I long to gather you as a hen her chicks (Matthew 23:37). Who is meek, powerful yet gentle? Jesus to Peter at His arrest, you think I can’t call on my Father and Him send 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). Who hungers for righteousness? The boy Jesus listening and asking questions in the temple (Luke 2:46) Who is merciful? Jesus healed the silent long-bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20-22). Who is clean/pure in heart? From His purity Jesus cleanses lepers (Matthew 8:3). Who makes peace? Jesus says, peace be with you, my peace I give you (John 14:27). Who is persecuted because of righteousness? And so the Pharisees sought to kill Him (Matthew 12:14).
Who are the saints? The last beatitude: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Jesus. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted, not only the prophets and saints who were before you, in the same way they persecuted Christ Jesus Himself. We have been hearing since Trinity Sunday who we are in Christ’s church and what that means. Today we remember we are not alone, Christ is with us, He shines through us, His saints, by the grace given to you by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, you are already called children of God; and in another great mystery we are united together with all the saints who have gone before, in Christ’s Holy and Beloved Bride, His Church. Remember who you are, who we are together; and remember the fortune waiting for you, peace, joy, love and life everlasting with Jesus and all the saints who have gone before.
That peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.