All Saints 11-6-11

  

 All Saints 11-6-11

 Matthew 5:1-12

In some cultures, especially in third world countries, there are such people called ‘the blessed ones’.

They’re often regarded as holy people who seem calm, peaceful and content at all times, even if they’re faced with trouble. Many people flock to these ‘blessed ones’ to gain some kind of spiritual advice or wisdom to help them in their troubles of daily life. They’re called ‘blessed ones’ because they seem closer to the gods or godliness.

Strangely, in our Western Society, the last person many want to go to is a spiritual person like a pastor, elder, or priest.

Instead, in our culture, the ‘blessed ones’ of today that people go to are our financial advisers who help us on the way to wealth. They’re our health advisers in the form of, naturopaths, or gym instructors. They’re our teachers who lead us into all kinds of wisdom and knowledge. They’re the fashion gurus who tell us what to wear. Many even see their television or the internet as their ‘blessed ones’ since they offer so much advice for us, whether we want it or not, and whether they offer good advice or not.

Today, in our culture, the ‘blessed ones’ we go to for advice are those who show success in what they do. Since we consider riches, possessions and beauty to be signs of God’s blessing, we seek out ways to improve what we have so we can show others God is blessing us by our advancement and growth.

Even in the church we want to show we’re blessed by God. So, we’re tempted to seek out any program or marketing strategy or worship style which will help us grow in numbers and build our resources. The fear is that if we’re not growing, the church must be dead or dying, and therefore God isn’t blessing us.

Likewise, we might try to stay away from anyone who is poor, handicapped, suffering or sick. We might think they don’t “have it together” or are even cursed by God. We might wonder what they did to deserve their misfortune. We might think we can’t learn anything from them.

But what does Jesus say today?

Does he say: “Blessed are the strong; blessed are the happy; blessed are the financial advisers; blessed are the fashion gurus; blessed are the health advisers; blessed are those who grow and show signs of prosperity; and blessed are the strong and growing churches?”

No!

Jesus says blessed are the poor, the grieving, and the meek!

Jesus says the blessed ones are those who are dependent on others for their spiritual life,

blessed are those who grieve their loss,

blessed are those not impressed by their own importance over others,

blessed are those hungering and desiring the goal of righteousness,

blessed are those concerned about others in their need,

blessed are those whose motives are pure,

blessed are those who endeavour to reconcile people who have disagreements, and

blessed are those who are persecuted and insulted because of their faith in Jesus.

How radical is that! Jesus seems to get everything all mixed up, the wrong way around, and all topsy-turvy! When we’re depressed, grieving, weak, or insulted for our faith, we feel anything but blessed!

So what he tells us doesn’t match our feelings or seem to make any sense! After all, don’t we normally think that if we do all the right things God will bless us and if we do bad things that God will punish us? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? But then why does Jesus seem to get this all mixed up?

How can he say that the depressed, grieving and insulted are blessed?  If anything, at these times we might feel as if God has abandoned us, is angry with us, or even worse, that he’s cursed us! It just doesn’t seem to be fair or right!

What’s Jesus getting at? Why does Jesus tell us the opposite of our experience?

Rather than Jesus identifying with the rich, happy and beautiful people, Jesus is identifying himself with the poor, grieving and suffering people. Jesus didn’t come to sit with the people who trusted in themselves, millionaires, the successful, or the ones who seem to have everything going their way. Instead Jesus chose to dwell with those troubled by their spirit, troubled by their grief, troubled by their faithfulness to him, and troubled by their striving for peace and righteousness.

Jesus, the Son of God, identifies himself with us and our troubles. He knows what it’s like to grieve, he knows what it’s like to be persecuted for his righteousness, he’s the one who shows true mercy, and he’s the only one who brings true peace between us and God.

Jesus is the true blessed One who’s near us and sits with us in your troubles. When he is near, we’re blessed. He doesn’t abandon us just because we are depressed or grieving.

When we feel we’re lacking in spirit, that’s when we’re blessed because Jesus gives us his own Spirit to strengthen us in faith and hope.

When we grieve the loss of loved ones, Jesus himself comforts us with his own tears, his own pain, his own death, and also his resurrection so that we’re reassured that death is not the end. Death is a comma, not a full stop.

When we show mercy and forgiveness to others, even if they haven’t been merciful and forgiving toward us, Jesus is merciful to us and assures us of his forgiveness.

When we hunger and desire the goal of righteousness, we’ll be filled with God’s righteousness given to us as a gift through Jesus Christ.

When we’re clean in heart, we’re assured we’ll see God face to face.

When we seek peace between warring people, we’re identified with the true peacemaker, the Son of God.

When we’re harassed because of righteousness, we are assured we belong in heaven.

When we’re insulted and people spread vicious lies about us on account of Jesus, then we should rejoice and be overjoyed, because our reward in heaven will be extensive. In this way, we’re counted with the prophets of the Old Testament who were also persecuted. But even more importantly, we’re counted with Jesus Christ himself.

For when we suffer, we are identified with Jesus, the true blessed one.

On the other hand, we’re the ones who get everything all mixed up, the wrong way around, and all topsy-turvy.

Take Jesus for example.

When people looked at him on the cross, he was considered cursed by God himself. He was anything but successful. He didn’t even try to fight for his innocence or attempt to struggle free from his bonds or from the cross.

Yet that’s where God’s greatest victory was. In the face of death, God gave life. In the face of defeat, Jesus triumphed. Even though people only saw a weak, beaten, and pitiful man, the One on the cross was Jesus, the blessed One, the Son of God. Despite death’s apparent success and Jesus’ apparent weakness, God raised his Son to new life and glory.

When we’re spiritually down, when we’re grieving and when people tease us for our faith, Jesus doesn’t abandon us, but shares his glory, life and blessing with us. He wants to count us as his ‘blessed ones’; as one who shares in his blessing.

Do you want to know who the true ‘blessed ones’ are? They aren’t the Oscar winners, the millionaires, the fashion or health gurus, or the rich and famous. Look to those whom Christ identifies with: the poor in spirit, the grieving, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted and the pure in heart. Don’t go to those who seem to have everything in control; go to the ones who suffer because Jesus is with them.

Now does this mean we’re to seek out suffering so we can be counted with Jesus? No, we don’t have to seek it out; it finds us soon enough and it makes us more reliant on God’s blessings that come by grace.

But we can seek out the ‘blessed ones’. We can seek out those touched by the hand of God. We can pray for those who feel they can’t pray for their lack of spirit. We can sit beside and cry with the mourners in their grief. We can encourage and boldly stand beside those who desire God’s righteousness and are persecuted because of it.

When we’re troubled, we shouldn’t go to the socially blessed, but to the spiritually blessed. We should go to the ones experienced in suffering so that we will receive something others can’t give: an understanding ear, a shared tear, and a comforting presence. They probably won’t have all the answers and won’t be able to take our troubles away, but they might understand a little of what we feel and will share our burdens with us.

By faith in Jesus, we can see how despite our troubles, we’re truly the ‘blessed ones’. We see how our happiness or blessedness is that light of truth which shines over our present sorry situation. We can see our present state in the light of the future promise of God. Our blessing is that we belong in heaven. Our blessing is that God himself will wrap his arms about us, comfort us and wipe away our tears. Our happiness grows out of the mercy that will be shown to us. Our happiness will be complete when we see God himself with our own eyes.

Our blessedness is because we’re counted among those prophets and saints of the past who’ve already won the race. We’re counted with those who have already been shown mercy, who have already entered the kingdom of heaven, who have already been comforted by God, and who already see the majesty of being called children of God.

Blessed are we, brothers and sisters in Christ, for we’re called children of God. Blessed are we when you’re chosen to suffer with Christ, for his wounds and precious blood make us holy. Blessed are we because through faith in Jesus, salvation is ours.

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