All Saints Beatitudes for Abiding Peace Church
There is a lot going on today! And I’m not even talking about all of the anxieties, and questions, and challenges that we all probably brought with us today.
I’m sure many of you are still reeling from the most recent terror attack in New York. Perhaps you are also alarmed by the evidence of active racism in several New Jersey towns that has come to light this week. Or maybe you are anxious about next Tuesday’s elections, or what is going to happen with tax reform, or pains in your own bodies or families.
With all of that coming in the door with us, maybe it’s hard to engage the important elements that are specifically highlighted in our worship this morning:
The All Saints remembrance of the loved ones that we lost this year.
The joyful reception of new members to our church family following the sermon.
The exciting invitation to reflect on our sacred stories as a way of understanding
God’s call to stewardship in committing our resources to the work of the church.
If that’s not where your head is today, I understand. But I invite you to try to engage anyway – because these unique elements of our worship today remind us about why church matters in the context of everything we brought through the doors with us.
Church is where we hear God’s blessing proclaimed.
Not blessing in the shallow, braggy, #Blessed usage; but rather blessing like we heard in our scripture readings today:
The hope of heaven described in the vision from Revelation;
And the reminder of community identity from John’s letter to a troubled church;
And Jesus’s proclamation of blessing on all the least likely people in the gospel reading.
These blessing address the pain and confusion and fear of the world, because they put it all in the context of what God is doing in human lives. And so, for my sermon today, I want to offer you a blessing. These are my:
All Saints Day Beatitudes for Abiding Peace Lutheran Church:
Blessed are the Saints who have died in the Lord…
The loved ones we lost this year or many years ago;
The ones whose memories still encourage us by their examples of faith;
The ones who taught us what it looks like to love our neighbors in the little things, like praying daily for the needs of others, or speaking up against bullies, or teaching our Sunday schools, or encouraging our dreams, or just taking the time to really listen.
Blessed are the Saints who have died in the Lord, for they are now in God’s presence and they are singing “blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.” (Rev. 7:12)
Blessed also are the Sinners who have died in the Lord…
The loved ones for whom our mourning is complicated, because there was unresolved hurt in our relationships;
The ones who made visible mistakes, and had messed up theology, and who maybe were a little mean when they had too much to drink;
The ones who taught us lessons we are trying hard to unlearn, and who didn’t know how to stop the pain in their own lives from spilling out in the way they treated others. Or who just never quite got it together because life was too hard.
Blessed are the Sinners who have died in the Lord, for they have come out of their great ordeal, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Rev. 7: 14-17)
Blessed are the new members of this church…
The ones who want to live their lives in community and shared ministry with other believers;
Those who know that no community is perfect, and that God offers us love in calling us together as God’s children (1 John 3:1), because love is what we most need, especially when we gather together, and our rough edges rub against each other;
Those who are willing to commit to being part of the church anyway, to sharing their gifts, and their questions, and their voices, and their lives with Abiding Peace;
Blessed are the new members of this church, for they know that they are God’s children, and that their hope is in Christ (1 John 3:1-3).
Blessed also are the old members of this church…
The ones who helped to found it, or to grow it, or to bring it new energy and new ideas and new songs;
Those who have practiced the patience of ministry even though “what we will be has not yet been revealed,” (1 John 3: 2) and so… doing the work of being the church sometimes feels like fumbling in the dark, and feeling the pain of failure, and letting go of what we thought we were building;
Those who keep showing up anyway, and opening loving arms to welcome new partners in this ever-reforming work.
Blessed are the old members of this church, for they also know that they are God’s children, and that their hope is in Christ (1 John 3:1-3).
Blessed are those who give of their resources to the work of this church…
The ones who are merciful in responding to needs (Matt. 5:7), and who don’t excuse themselves from responding by defining those needs as “someone else’s problem;”
Those who are pure in heart (Matt. 5:8), valuing the work of Christ’s church as the most important investment they can make with their lives and with their money.
Those who are willing to risk the ridicule of a culture that prizes money and accumulation of possessions, and that punishes those who can’t prove their worth with a healthy bank account, but whom for righteousness sake reject the culture of consumption and give sacrificially for the work of God’s kingdom (Matt. 5: 10).
Blessed are those who give of their resources to the work of this church for they will receive mercy, and they will see God, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:7-10).”
Blessed also are those who receive from the ministries of this church…
The poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3), who are not ashamed to confess their needs and to ask the church to be the church for them;
Those who mourn (Matt. 5:4), who bring their pain into this community and testify to the brokenness that we all carry with us, and who in doing so draw all our eyes of the cross that reminds us God mourns with us;
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6), exposing their desperation for a gospel that actually changes lives; a desperation that won’t accept trite theologies and cultural Christianity, but demands a lived faith that witnesses to a resurrected Christ who has actually defeated the sin and death that cling to our lives.
Blessed are those who receive from the ministries of this church, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven, and they will be comforted, and they will be filled (Matt. 5:3-6).
Blessed are you church…
You who know mourning and rejoicing, both for and along with the Saints who have gone before;
You who are newly joining in this work, and you who have labored long already, and everyone in between who all share a common identity as God’s beloved children;
You who give of your resources and also of your needs, which are equally essential to our mission.
Blessed are you church, for you are Saints, and yours is both the struggle and the glory of being the hands and feet and voices and heart of Christ’s body. And Christ has called you and blessed you for good work.
Thanks be to God.