The Feast of All Saints
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
November 2, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 5:1-12

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them.” – Matthew 5:1-2

Here in these verses is contained all the works and majesty and mercy of God. For what else has the Lord done except to look out upon the multitude of the earth; to see the throng of men, women and children striving after the wind? He sees that we are as sheep without a shepherd and lambs as to the slaughter. He sees that our works are as rags and our righteousness a fairytale wrapped up in morals we cannot keep and lies we tell ourselves that we might not be condemned for our transgressions. He looks upon the multitude of the earth and He has compassion. And His compassion leads Him up the mountain called Golgotha that He might gain the heart of wisdom for all men. For He who knew no sin learned obedience through what He suffered. And having gained the heart of wisdom and accomplished all that the Father had sent Him to accomplish, He ascended to the right hand of the power of God. And there He sat down.

And here at His footstool His disciples gather; a numberless multitude from every nation and tribe, from every people and tongue gather here to hear the Teacher and to learn the wisdom of the Master. And He opens His mouth and teaches us.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

When you look at an old run-down, gutted out, dilapidated house on the wrong side of the tracks; whose windows are all broken and whose door is off the hinges; whose porch is falling and whose roof seems to be caving in, what do you see? Well, you see a run-down, gutted out, dilapidated smelly house whose windows are broken, and whose foundations and fixtures are collapsing. Somewhat hopeless and helpless. Better to tear it down and start over. In fact, better to tear it down and build a new house on the right side of the tracks with all the modern features and fixtures.

But a builder who cares about the history of the house, who cares about the location and the neighborhood, a builder who spends his time fixing things and building things; he may see something different. He might see a house in need of care and love. He would see a house that can become a home for a family with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren running and playing in it and all around it. He sees what the house was built to be; He sees what it will be when he’s done with it, because such a builder loves the house. He sees the house in all of its glory. And he sets to work.

So our Lord sees you, His house; His temple. When we see it, it looks run-down and gutted out. Maintenance of the church has become a drain and the pews are emptier and the activities seem to be dwindling and petering out. We may see a dilapidated congregation whose foundations seem to be cracking and crumbling under the weight of yesterday’s memories. The fixtures are falling apart, beginning to show the wear and tear of the years.

Not just the wear and tear of usage, the mechanical physical wear and tear on a building. But the wear and tear on souls tired from the burdens of this life of sin and shame. Wearied by the oppression of sin and the shame of past sins and temptations they cannot overcome. Laden with guilt at failed attempts at righteousness and imprisoned with the fear that someone will find out their thoughts and sins. Numbed by the countless years of doing the same thing over and over and over, never seeming to get better, never seeming to get it right; worried and concerned that they are doing it all wrong; worried about whether or not God has forsaken them or loves them still. Heavy laden with the demands of scribes and Pharisees that demand a hearing but do not help those they burden with their demands.

We feel the wear and tear of friends offended; loved ones gone; deceased, moved away, or transferred out. The fixtures we call “youth groups” “LWML” “LLL” “Sunday school” even “fellowship,” they seem to be decaying before our very eyes. And no matter how badly we might want them to be strong and vibrant, shinny fixtures that are pleasing to the eye, they look weak and dull. We see a dilapidated little house that is only getting worse as it suffers the weather and fury of high winds and storms that beat against it, wearing it down. And sometimes we catch ourselves thinking that it would be better to tear it down and start over, o  to move to a new house, than try to build it up and repair it. Better to go and build somewhere else than to try and salvage such a dilapidated house.

But that is not what our Lord sees when He looks out on you. He doesn’t see a dilapidated failure; a weather-beaten, storm-tossed little house whose foundation is cracked and whose fixtures are falling apart, old and tarnished. He sees the multitude of the blessed. He sees His Father’s house.

He is the builder and we are the house. He is the craftsman and we are the temple. And He is building us up into a spiritual house whose foundation is Christ Himself; a foundation that cannot crack. Whose walls and rafters are the apostles and prophets. He and His Father come and make us their home, their dwelling place; uniting us by the Spirit of God and joining us together in the sacred bond between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the bond of peace. And we are blessed for it.

This is the kingdom of heaven, and we are the poor in spirit who are blessed to inherit it.

Here you come mourning your sin and shame and the by-gone days of old, and here you are comforted by the promise of Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven” and “My kingdom is not of this world.” Here is the new heavens and the new earth whose King reigns in righteousness and purity forever. Here the righteousness of Christ satisfies your need for a clean conscience. Here we receive the divine mercy from our divine Friend and Brother who purifies our hearts so that we see God. Here you are not called “sinner” and “God-hater,” here you are called sons of God for here the peace of God reigns by the blood of Jesus who is the peacemaker between God and man.

When the Lord looks upon you, the multitude gathered here before Him, He sees the company of the blessed. For it is not just you that are here, but the whole company of heaven. The fixtures of the house of the Lord are not the meetings in her basement or the clubs she forms and outgrows. You are the fixtures. And your heavenly builder cares about you and your past and where you are and where you are going. So He sets to work. He forgives your sins and takes away your shame. He teaches you the righteousness of faith that clings to the obedience of the Son of Man as your obedience. He raises you up out of the grip of sin and death and gives you His Spirit so that you have the mind of Christ, rejecting the evil and choosing the good. He fills you with the joy of angels who rejoice with you at the salvation of our God and the Lamb. He sets to work building His house, His Father’s house. And in it He prepares a place for you so that when He is finished building He would come to you and take you to where He is, even as you are now where He is, as even now you are in the company of all saints.

Rejoice, O congregation, for while you may well be reviled and rejected by many, hated, persecuted and maligned because of your devotion to Jesus, your reward is great. Indeed, here is your reward: eternal life in the Son of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +