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Sermon November 5, 2023

All Saints Sunday 2023 The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:1-12

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This morning we celebrate All Saints Sunday.  Did you know that the All Saints Celebration has a long history in the worship life of the Christian Church.  It began as a remembrance of the martyrs who died for the faith but has evolved today to become a day when we honor and remember those who, in death, have joined the Church Triumphant.

But that’s not all.  The All Saints Celebration also includes a celebration for the faithful saints of today, people like you and me, who serve Jesus Christ, and trust in the promises made to us when we were baptized. 

As you may recall, Martin Luther taught that we are both saints and sinners at the same time.  We are sinners because of our rebellious nature, and saints because of the salvation given to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

At the end of the sermon today, you will be invited to come forward and light a candle in honor and remembrance of a loved one who has left the troubles of this world but now resides in the comfort of a Holy Hope given to us through the Redeeming Activity of God’s Son.

But before we light the candles and remember the lives of our loved ones whose lives we celebrated this past year, our lectionary turns our attention to one of the most blessed of all texts that the lectionary prescribes to us.

Today we have before us the Sermon on the Mount.  It is an important text.  It is a sermon that Jesus gave at the start of His ministry, where Jesus laid out the foundation for His entire ministry. 

As Jesus began His ministry, Jesus did not start off by speaking words about overcoming the Romans or driving out evil from the community. Instead, the audience heard a blessing that they could take with them when they went home for the evening.

And the Good News is that the Sermon on the Mount is also a blessing that we can take home with us today as we go out into the world.

Listen again to the text. 

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then 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. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Wow.  How can one feel blessed under these specific circumstances?  And how can one undergoing spiritual poverty, mourning, or meekness be blessed? Well, let’s find out.

I once asked a friend how he was doing, and instead of the usual “fine” or “great”, he smiled and said to me “I am at the end of myself.”  He further explained that he had exhausted all of his resources, and that his spiritual strength had been depleted. 

And yet, the man was smiling.  Having experienced what it is like to be at wits end, the man discovered what it is like to be blessed when poor in spirit.  The man, having used up all of his resources, discovered that he was finally able to depend completely on God.

I know that some of you have lost a loved one this past year.  And for some of you that experience is still fresh.  And for some of you, the process of grief has thankfully moved beyond shock towards healing.  Yes, sorrow takes its toll on us.  It drains us of our energy and makes our hearts heavy.

Yet, in our sorrow, God blesses us with hope, and reminds us that we have a future that the world cannot see or comprehend.  Our hope is in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, and in the promises that He has given to us.

And what about meekness?  We don’t use the word meek much in our society today, because when one stops and thinks about it, meekness is seen as a liability.

Meek rhymes with weak, and no one wants to be seen as weak.  People who are weak do not stand a chance in this world, because personal power is seen as a virtue.

But meekness is not a liability.  Meekness, rather, is a trust that God will act in due time, and that God will have the last say.  

My friends, when we are at our weakest, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven will be ours.  Even when our present condition is critical, our future is filled with great hope.

And that is why we can “rejoice and be glad,” because Jesus Himself has promised us that our reward will be great in heaven.  And we can cast all our sorrows on Him because of His great love for us.  

And to that I say: “Thanks be to God.”

Let us pray: O most loving God, you want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us.  Grant that no clouds in this mortal life may hide from us the light of your immortal love shown to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Today we recall with thanksgiving those saints who are no longer with us in our pilgrimage on earth, and we give thanks for all our departed family and friends who have gone before us in faith and all those who are in our hearts and minds this day:

 We remember with thanksgiving…

(The names of those who are to be remembered are read.)

Let us pray: Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

At this time, you may come forward and light a candle in remembrance of a family member or loved one.

During the lighting of candles, we will sing verses 1,2,3, & 7 of "For All the Saints." Feel free to come forward during the singing of the hymn to light a candle in honor and remembrance of a family member or friend.

After all have come forward continue…

Let us pray: Eternal God, neither death nor life can separate us from your love.  Grant that we may serve you faithfully here on earth, and in heaven rejoice with all your Saints who ceaselessly proclaim your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hymn of the Day.  “Blest are They” ELW # 728