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November 5, 2017, 12:00 AM

All Saints - Living the Beattitudes

Let me start this morning with a list of the Saints I know. There is my mother Marjorie Robison and her sister, my godmother, Aunt Gwen and there are my Grandparents, Gaga, Papa, Grandpa Robison and Grandma Robison and then there are others. Just yesterday Vivian Cooley joined the company of Saints and then we have Dorothy Conley and Debbie Bennett. I would like to think that Ian and Pam, high school friends who have already passed, are in the presence of God and part of the company of Saints. These are some of the people who have gone before me to join the company of Saints in light.

As I contemplate the saints who have gone before me there are two realities. The first is the question of whether they have joined the heavenly throng and are thus part of those we celebrate as part of the company of saints. The easiest way to determine this is through the questions of baptism but then some of these people I know, I think would have made it simply on the lives they lived. I am talking not of those who were always troubled and for whom we pray God has mercy but those like Dorothy Conley and Debbie Bennett who lived lives that would seem to exemplify the best of what we might think of as Godly behavior.

Even as I am thinking this through I am reminded that we are also starting into our stewardship campaign and that part of our stewardship is how we live our lives. I would like to propose two things. First I would like to propose that those we think of first when we ask who are the saints, likely were good examples of the best of behavior and thus are people we might emulate as we try to live lives that are pleasing to God. Second, I would like to propose that there are some biblical standards we can use to guide our contemplation of the right courses of action. In other words when we think of the word saint, often the first people to come to mind are those who have lived lives in keeping with God's will and that we might also want to consider living in these ways.

Now thankfully we are not left without a rudder in determining whether our actions are in keeping with God's will. We are given both minimum standards and aspiration standards or standards to strive for. Minimum Standards would be say the Ten Commandments, read in a literal way. In other words it is pretty easy to judge whether I have murder someone or stolen a physical object. Luther teaches us that reading through these as guides we can also see the aspiration standard, things like not stealing points to the fact that we should instead help our neighbor to keep and care for all they have. I however want to point out another aspiration standard. This would be a standard of conduct that Jesus believes if you managed to live such a life you would have been a good steward of all God has given you.

I am reminded that aspiration standards are doable but sometimes stretch goals for us. In other words we might see the best possible in these and start working for them knowing that we are not there quite yet. What standard might that be, what if I were to suggest that Jesus' sermon on the mount and in particular the beatitudes were that sort of a standard. Follow me for a moment here but I think that being blessed is a positive and some indication that God is happy with your conduct. Jesus, son of God, second person of the trinity, God incarnate and come among us, would be teaching according to the will of God and thus a teaching which included being blessed would be the standard we should, could, might try to live by.

If these last statements are true then we have in our texts today one of the most concise lists Jesus has ever produced on how we are to act and behave as he points out all of those who are due to receive preferential treatment in or a special blessing from the Kingdom of heaven. I am talking about the beatitudes. So, let us start looking at what they might teach us.

Jesus began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I would like to suggest that “poor in spirit” could also be interpreted as humble. We have all met people who regardless of there station in life or their income are naturally humble and they are usually inspiring people to be with.

  4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Look around the world and see the pain and suffering that we inflict upon each other. Look at the damage that one person can do to another and the words of Desmond Tutu when asked, “How do you cope when you see the destruction and pain in the world?” and he responded, “I cry every day.” might be your words also. If you see the world for what it is, how can we do anything by mourn for the losses, losses of innocence, losses of humanity, losses of life, losses of dignity. There is plenty to mourn.

  5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Here is a word that we do not hear very often, meek. Other words you might use are quiet, yielding, gentle and deferential. This is not to say they are not strong people or people who don't stand for what matters, since often not imposing upon others but being gentle while also standing for truth takes real strength.

  6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

To Hunger and thirst for righteousness is not the physical hunger we feel in our bellies and the thirst is not simply a dry throat. No, these people want to see the world and God reconciled. Righteousness is no more or less that being in right relationship with God and how wonderful to long for being in right relationship with God.

  7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Mercy is something that we don't often consider because mercy is often about not giving the person who did wrong what they deserve but instead helping them out or helping them to see a new and better way to interface with the world. All to often we want them to get their just due or to suffer retribution when we are called as Christians to seek mercy on their behalf.

  8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Have you ever met a person for whom you could say that they have no agenda, except to make the world a better place. Have you met the person who could love anyone and everyone. Have you met the person who was able to see the good in each person even those who had treated them wrong. What does it take to become pure in heart but to give up and let God show us the world through a different lens, the lens that God uses.

  9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

What more is there to say, are we doing nothing, are we sowing discord or are we making the world a more peaceable place. Are we helping all the worlds people to live together in harmony or not.

  10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here is one we might not want to hear. People who do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and will not do otherwise are often at a minimum taunted a bit. The person who does not fight back because they are more interested in being right with God than right in the world is often looked down upon but then would you rather be right in God's eyes or the world's eyes. I might suggest being right with God is more important and more fulfilling that being right with the world.

  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.”

And finally, as if to anticipate the reaction we might get for following Jesus final command to go into all the world sharing the good news, we have this little gem. If people revile and persecute you, as they did the prophets before you and as they did Jesus your savior before you, because you are busy sharing the good new then so be it. Take heart in the fact that your reward is great in heaven and your efforts will be recognized in the place that matters, when you are rejoined with the saints who have gone before you.

So let us recap for a moment. We are remembering the saints who have gone before us, many of who exemplify the best of Christian living. As we remember the saints and their lives we are also reminded to be good stewards of our lives. As we seek to be good stewards of our lives, sometimes concrete suggestions are helpful in determining the best course of action. Today we have Jesus' list of behaviors we should aspire to fulfill in the beatitudes. Thus if you are ever looking for a list of qualities and traits to adopt, how about trying: humble, meek, merciful, and pure in heart while being a peacemaker who mourns the pain and destruction in this world while not worrying when you are persecuted for doing the right thing or sharing the good news.

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