Summary: Christ’s description of being a Christian is not necessarily what the "real-world" preceives it to be.
All Saints Day (observed)
November 2, 2003
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want it our way right away. Is your internet too slow? Get high-speed internet! Does it take to long to gas up your car? Pay at the pump! Is snail-mail really that slow? Send email. Is your fast food not so fast? Check the time on the cash register: "average serve time 36 seconds." Some small comfort when your special order Big Mac takes ten minutes. We eat in our cars. We talk on the phone in our cars. We microwave our meals and we have overnight-express-even-on-holidays delivery of our packages! The one thing we don’t have, it seems is patience. No patience and no desire to look forward to things to come. But on All Saints Day, this is precisely what we confess as Christians: there is an eternal city, a paradise of God, an eternity of rest and being with the Lord. But we don’t have it yet. Now we walk by faith, not by sight, confessing the eternal joys of the life to come while yet struggling in this sin filled world of death.
One great struggle we face as Christians in this life is that we think we should have all of this peace and rest right now. No waiting. When we are Christians, God should bless and reward us with a lack of problems. Christians shouldn’t get sick. Christians shouldn’t have trouble paying their bills. Christians shouldn’t have problems with their marriages or difficulties raising their children. All of the peace and joy and bliss of heaven ought to be ours immediately, instantly, and right now. But then when these things do happen, when we find ourselves far from God, unloving toward our neighbors and full of unbelief, despair and other great shame and vice, we wonder what’s wrong. We don’t feel much like saints do we? Why? Because we have let go of Christ’s word and in our unbelief we have not heard what our Lord has said to us about being saints.
Christ’s word describes our life of sainthood. His word tells what "real life" is like as a Christian and at the same time comforts those who receive this word. "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake." All of these Beatitudes that our Lord speaks describe the life of saints in this world. Since we’re celebrating All Saints Day, let’s be very clear first of all about "saints." A saint is a holy person. Those who are in Christ through Holy Baptism , fed by the Holy Supper and preached the Holy Word, by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Ministry: those are the saints. You are saints. When we celebrate All Saints Day, we are recognizing that all of us are saints in God’s sight through Christ. After all, it is not how we live that makes us saints, but how Christ lived for us, died for us and rose for us. Your Baptism into Christ makes you a saint. Your eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Christ makes you a saint. Your being absolved of your sins makes you a saint. But saints, dear saints, are poor, mourning, harassed, hungering, struggling saints. In this life, the path of sainthood--that is, of being a Christian--is one of hardship and sorrow that does not bring with it the "instant gratification" our world tries to buy and sell.
Let me explain what I mean by taking just a couple of these Beatitudes. "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of God." "Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted." If you listen closely to the Beatitudes, you hear a description of those who are in Christ. The Beatitudes describe those who have been crushed by God’s Law over their sins and have nothing going for them except Christ and His perfect life, death and resurrection for them, and His gifts delivered to them in the Gospel and Sacraments. The saints described by Christ are poor in spirit. That means they have nothing to bring before God to show how well off they are. They have a poverty of spirit, empty, nothing. Yet they have Christ, for "to such is the kingdom of God." They mourn over their sins. They are troubled and frightened by their lack of faith, they are grieved and sorrowful because they do not live to serve their neighbors in love. Such sin causes them to shed tears of repentance. But they are comforted. Not just dried tears, but the Comforter, the Holy Spirit comforts them by delivering to them Baptism and the Word of God and the body and blood of Jesus. In the Beatitudes, in short, Jesus describes those who are troubled by sins, frightened by death, suffering for His Name, and who have nothing in themselves and their lives to cling to; rather, these saints have only Christ and the promise of His future blessings.