All Saints’ Day 2015
November 1, 2015
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us this morning on our celebration of All Saints’ Day is the Gospel reading from Matthew 5, a text known simply as “The Beatitudes.”
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Back in 2010 I went to New Orleans, LA for the National Youth Gathering. Next summer, we return to the “Big Easy” for the 2016 NYG. But, back in 2010, I felt like I was visiting a crime scene. Why? Not because of Bourbon Street and all the drinking. It was because, just the season before, the NY Saints has just beaten the (at that time) beloved MN Vikings in the NFC championship game sending the Saints to the Super Bowl and not the Vikings. The rally cry of the Saint’s fans was “Who Dat?,” and even in 2010 you could still buy that terrible merchandise! The question “Who Dat” implied the under-rated Saints were only recognized by their faithful fans. “Who Dat?” was shouted by their fans even after their team won the Super Bowl – something the Saints and Bucs have done, but not the hapless Vikings.
Maybe when you realized today was “All Saints’ Day,” you asked the same thing. Who Dat? In the Roman Catholic Church, there are specific rules to follow before declaring someone a saint. First, the person has to be dead for at least five years; that counts any of us out! Then, once the person has been dead for the requisite period, the bishop can begin an investigation to see just how virtuous the hoped-to-be saint actually was. If the investigation turns out favorably, the “application paperwork” is turned over to Rome, where select theologians take a vote on whether to proceed or not. Finally, there must be at least one miracle performed by the dead saint-to-be before the examination is completed, and one miracle performed after! As you can see, it takes quite a bit of effort to become a saint according to Rome. It’s way more difficult than stopping the Vikings offense, but then again, who hasn’t?
Those who have studied the lives of some of the people who bear the official title “saint” very quickly discover that the saints, while extraordinary in terms of their faith and life, were also regular flesh and blood people who were at heart…sinners. As Lutherans, we don’t ignore the saints. We look to the saints as examples of faith and of Christian living, but we’re careful not to ascribe more than we ought. None of them merited anything before God, but were what they were because of the grace of God toward them.
There is only One who has actually merited the favor of God. There is only One who has earned the right to the title saint. That One is Christ Jesus. Today you heard the Beatitudes. The word “Beatitude” comes from the Latin translation “Beati” of the Greek word for “blessed” (makarioi). Make sense? Good. Now, let’s make sense of the Beaitutudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (v 3). Who dat? It’s Jesus. Who is poor in spirit but him “who…did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6–8). Christ cried out in poverty of spirit, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are those who mourn” (v 4). Who dat? It’s Jesus.Who has mourned but the One who mourned, not over his own troubles but over the troubles of his people? Christ came to comfort his people as their Savior, but he was, in the words of Isaiah, “Despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are the meek” (v 5). Who dat? It’s Jesus. Who is meek but the One who as King entered Jerusalem, “Humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9)? Christ said of himself, “I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v 6). Who dat? It’s Jesus. Who has hungered and thirsted but Him who did all things that righteousness might be fulfilled? Christ endured the cross “so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:21). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are the merciful” (v 7). Who dat? It’s Jesus. Who has been merciful but the One dedicated to mercy? Christ mercifully healed so many and forgave all who called upon him in faith, even from the cross crying out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” (v 8). Who dat? Who has been pure in heart but the One who sacrificed himself? As Paul says, “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). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” (v 9). Who dat? It’s Jesus. Who has made peace but the One who made our peace with God? Christ said to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27); according to Paul, “He himself is our peace, . . . through the cross. . . . He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Eph 2:14, 16–17). Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (v 10). Who dat? It’s Jesus. Who has endured persecution but Him who was perfectly innocent yet condemned? Because Christ was righteous, he became the target for the world’s hatred; he was threatened with death from all sorts, from Herod to the Pharisees of the Sanhedrin to Pilate. And he still is today by those who attack his Word and his institution. Who dat? It’s Jesus, and those who believe in Him.
Did Jesus have to do any paperwork? Nah. Christ’s saintliness is proven by what he has done. He meets ALL the criteria. Yes, he even did several miracles after he had died, and he still does today. It’s not always a loaves and fishes or water into wine kind of miracle. He does a miracle every time a family stretches one pay check to another, when a loved one comes home from the hospital, when an addict says “no,” when a couple steps back from the brink of divorce. And now this One who has earned the right to be called saint also calls you holy. He, by his grace, makes you a saint and that changes this life for you and how you live not just in this life, but into eternity.
Who Dat? You Dat! You may not feel like a saint yet, but in God’s eyes you are, for you have faith in Christ Jesus, his Son, who has saved you and made you holy. You are a forgiven sinner who has the promise of life everlasting. Come, then, with all the saints and receive His gifts prepared for you and won on the cross for your eternal forgiveness, life, and salvation – things WAY better than a Super Bowl trophy.