Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Being blessed. . .
In the Gospel for today we encounter part of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the Beatitudes – though something we normally hear from St. Matthew. They are lovely words and we all love to hear them but they are hard words to keep. The poor who see beyond their poverty to rejoice in the Kingdom, the hungry who are satisfied not by this food but the food of eternal life, the weeping who will laugh someday, the hated, reviled, and persecuted whose reward is not here but in heaven. I mean really – who wants to settle for delayed rewards when you suffer present day hurt?
It does not get better. Woe to the rich for this is as good as it gets, woe to the full who will learn hunger, woe to those who laugh because tears are coming, and woe to those of good reputation because the voices will turn on you – wait and see! Who is comforted by such words?
When we die we will give up the pods the pigs eat for the Lamb in the Marriage Feast appointed on high. When we die we will no longer have to war against desire and instinct in order to be holy. When we die, the enemies so fierce in this mortal life will fade from sight and memory. But what about now? How do we escape the trials and troubles, sorrows and sighs, disappointments and death of this mortal life? Where is our hope now? Where is our joy today? Is our only future a stiff upper lip in the face of a world falling apart in the hope of something better to come?
It may seem like Jesus is telling us to keep control of our feelings, not to give up, not to grow weary, and not to lose sight of the goal but that is not His message. Jesus is contrasting the passions of the moment that will consume us for the passion that saves us – HIS passion. Jesus has passion but it is not like ours. He does not yearn for food for the body but the Bread of every Word from God’s mouth. He does not seek riches that moth and rust destroy but the eternal treasure of love that does not fade away. He does not give into His tears – which He does have – but for the joy set before Him endures the cross and scorns its shame. He does not pander to people in order for people to like Him but endures the slings and arrows confident of the Father’s great love for Him. Jesus is not filled with passion for Himself for His passion is for YOU and me.
Jesus will suffer and He will die and He will be laid in the grave – all the while enduring not only the rejection of those He came to save but the abandonment of the Father when on the cross He cries out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus is not without passion but His passion is for you and for me. He will eat with sinners and die for them and cleanse them with His blood.
We are here today not because we hope God loves us but because we have seen that love in Christ. The Savior who was baptized into our sin so we might be baptized into His righteousness. The Lord who heals the sick to show He will heal the world by His death and resurrection. The God who comes not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. The Christ who stretches out His arms on the cross to set you free – the sinner who should suffer and die. We do not live in doubt or fear of what God thinks of us. We know. We know His love in Christ. And we know we don’t deserve it. And this love has given us new life.
So the words here direct us first to Jesus whose passion fulfills these words for you and for me. But they are also directed at us. Where is the focus of our passion? Where is the desire of our hearts? Because we are not who we were but by baptism have been born again, our passion is directed not on the things of this moment or even on ourselves but upon Jesus. Because we know the power of God’s love, the desire of our hearts is not on the passing treasures of this moment but upon the eternal treasure of God’s love.
And what does it look like? It looks like this. We are not defeated and even in our weakest moments we are conquerors in Christ. We are not the tired and weary who give up the fight, but we shall fight the good fight with all our might to belong to Christ and live in Him by His Word and Sacraments. We are not the people whose passions rule our minds but the people whose minds are transformed by the Spirit to rule our hearts with self-control. We are not the people who see with our eyes but who see by faith what our eyes cannot yet see. God is with us, God has saved us, and God will deliver us to everlasting life.
What does it look like to belong to Christ? We delight in His commandments and desire to be holy as Christ is holy and to be righteous as He is righteous. We will live this out in our homes as husbands love and care for their wives and as wives love and care for their husbands. We will live this out by loving our children and caring for them, not only in the needs of this life but by bringing them to Jesus in baptism and teaching them the faith at home. We will live out this faith by hearing the call of God to come together in the Lord’s House, on the Lord’s Day, around the Lord’s Word and Table – not as a people who must convince ourselves we have to but because this is who we are. We are the Lord’s and this is where God calls us to be. We will give as generously as the Lord has given us to make sure this church endures, a pastor will be called, and a place will survive us – to care for our children, our grandchildren, and for the strangers we have not yet met who will come to Christ and meet here in this house of the Lord for prayer and praise. We will serve our neighbors not because we like them or they are nice but because this is who we are and this is what Christ has done for us.
Dear friends, now is not the time to live in doubt or fear. Now is the time to fear and love God, to learn passion for the things of God and His House. For God has revealed to you the depths of His heart through His Son, Jesus Christ. He has loved you with the everlasting love strong enough to endure the cross and grave and to rise again so that you might be His own and live under Him in His eternal kingdom. Be of good cheer. Rejoice and leap for joy, for your reward is great in heaven. You are not the first to whom this call to faith and life in Christ is given and you will not be the last.
You may not be great or famous or live a fairy tale life but the Lord calls you blessed. You are blessed not because you are poor but because Christ was made poor for you. You are not blessed because you are hungry but because your hunger is satisfied by the Word of God. You are not blessed because you weep but because His joy will erase all tears and sorrows. You are not blessed because the world hates you but because God loves you. So do not lose heart and do not be afraid. You belong to the Lord by baptism and you live in Him by faith. He will not allow your enemies to triumph over you but will deliver you from all your enemies and bring you into His everlasting presence in Christ. And until that day, this is our consolation, this is our hope, this is our joy, and this is our peace that passes understanding. Amen.