Biblical Text: 1 John 3:1-3 (Psalm 136)
Full Sermon Draft
Today was All Saints (observed) on the church calendar. In Lutheran circles All Saints is not a celebration of some spiritual elite but the celebration of the church in all its dimensions – the church militant, the church at rest, and the longed for church triumphant. Given special notice are those who have entered rest in the past year of the congregation’s life. Because of this juxtaposition of those of us still struggling and those at rest, as well as its position toward the end of the church year, it opens itself to a meditation on our now and not yet existence. Now we are children of God; not yet do we fully know what that means. That is John’s writing. We see the Love of God, but every time we see it, it is met with challenge. Satan challenges it, the world refuses to see it, and even our own weary flesh can challenge what has been revealed to us. God loves us. When Christ appears, we will be like him in glory, in that resurrection body. We know this because we’ve seen it, or have accepted the witness of the apostles. That is what we know by faith and by hope. And because we hope, we live into that not-yet reality now. “We purify ourselves as he is pure.” No, we will not always be successful. But blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
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One of the things that I am constantly amazed at is how the Church or Christianity is usually placed in the narrow, weak, small-minded, etc category. To me the simple facts are usually just the opposite. It is the church that requires disciples of Jesus to a) look up and see with eschatological or eternal eyes, b) recognize your real pitiful condition and c) look for salvation from outside yourself and d) start living that eternal reality here and now even though the kingdom has not been completely revealed. Each of those elements takes more courage and greater vision than anything those who attack the church have ever tried.
Everything the world tries to do can be condensed to getting you to narrow you focus to something you think you can control. As long as you don’t ask the big questions or get outside of a comfort range, then you can fool yourself in a high self-esteem. Christ says blessed are the poor in spirit which is point a and b. If you look up with eyes that see beyond your immediate plot you should recognize just how poor and pitiful we are. You can recognize that and run back immediately to your little plot. The Christian recognizes it and confesses it – I am a poor miserable sinner. Which takes more vision and courage – retreat into the seemingly safe self, or confession? Which is more limiting – finding yourself in within a much larger plot, or going back to your small one? The world wants you to stay so small that you don’t even think you need anyone else let alone a savior. Christianity says its hopeless absent God’s action in Christ. Which takes more courage: trying to keep everything in your own hands, or turning your very life over to someone else? And then Christ says go be merciful, be pure in heart (read as seek God first), be peacemakers. You know what happens to those kind of people in this world. But Christ says his disciples do these things. These are what my blessed people will look like.
It is one of those truisms that the world will throw at the church that only weak people need religion, or that the church is for those who are small minded. That truism is demonstrably false. It is those attempting to follow Christ, to live out their religion, that are given much larger vision and challenges. It is much easier to run back to the deceptive safety of one small plot. But running back to that small existence casts away the blessings. Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.