Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. All Saints’ Day is Sunday that would be really easy to look over on the calendar. But, it’s an important day for Christians for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that throughout the Bible God calls his people to remember. “Remember who I am. Remember what I have done for you. Remember how I have provided for you and your family throughout history. Remember.” And so, on this All Saints’ Day, it’s fitting that we take time to remember those who have gone before us in the faith. It’s fitting that we remember how the Lord has provided for them, and how he used those saints to provide for us as well.
2. So, on this day, I can’t help but be reminded of my two grandfathers, who both died in the faith a number of years ago. Grandpa Recks was a wonderful pastor and Bible scholar. But more than that, he was a friendly, loving, generous man. He always went out of his way to treat everyone as a “real person.” I have memories of grocery shopping with Grandpa and Grandma Recks, and it seemed like every time he would hardly make it in the door before finding a stranger to talk to. Grandma would go do the shopping and come back to find him still talking to that same person. Grandpa Recks was a pillar of faith who I’ve always looked up to. My Grandpa Akers (I always called him Papa) was also a pillar of faith, but in a different way. Papa had a high-stress job and was very particular about the way things were done, but the Papa I remember most was a fun-loving, goofy, kind man. He would almost never pass up an opportunity for a joke, but he was also very serious about his faith. One of the lasting memories I have of Papa was visiting him one time when there was a road crew working out in front of the house. I remember Papa going out to talk to the crew because he wanted to share his faith and the hope that he had in Jesus with those men. As I think about both of my grandfathers, their faith is both an inspiration to me and a cause for me to wonder how I could ever live up to that kind of faith.
3. I wonder how many of us experience a similar conundrum on All Saints’ Day. Maybe it’s our own sainted family members and friends whose great faith we remember. Or maybe we remember the great faith of other saints and we find ourselves concerned by how we didn’t see that same faith demonstrated in the lives of our loved ones. Or maybe we’re concerned by how we don’t see this same kind of faith demonstrated even in our own life… Regardless of where you find yourself, Jesus’ Beatitudes of Matthew 5 offer both comfort and a challenge to you and me as the saints of God on this earth.
4. Our text this morning is the Gospel Reading from Matthew 5. And as I said, it’s that famous Beatitudes section of Jesus’ teaching. This morning we’re going to spend a few moments meditating on the first beatitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). First, I want to make sure we understand the meaning of this beatitude, then we’ll briefly discuss what it means for us.
5. First, what does Jesus mean by, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? To be “poor in spirit” means that your spirit is empty—you have no spiritual resources on your own. Now, what’s interesting about this statement, Blessed are the poor in spirit, is by nature all humans are poor in spirit. To be “poor in spirit” is an objective condition that characterizes all humans in and of themselves. So, is Jesus saying that all people are inherently blessed? Not necessarily because to be “poor in spirit” means more than just existing in the state of spiritual poverty. It means acknowledging that you are “poor in spirit.” Jesus offers the blessings of his kingdom to all who acknowledge their need for it. This beatitude embraces all fallen human beings because everyone is “poor in spirit” by nature and needs to hear the Good News.
6. Secondly, what does Jesus mean by, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? Jesus declares that the “poor in spirit” are blessed already now. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven and the blessing that it is already bringing into history belong to people like that—to people who have no spiritual resources of their own. Right now, in the church we possess the blessings of the reign of heaven: forgiveness, Baptism, faith, the Lord’s Supper, fellowship with one another. All of these kinds of blessings of the reign of God in Jesus belong to those who have nothing in themselves. That’s the message of Jesus’ first Beatitude. And that’s the message of Christianity—Jesus gives life to those who have nothing.
7. So, on this All Saints’ Day, this is a message I pray you take to heart. As we remember the great faith of so many saints this day, I pray that we all remember the heart of their faith: Jesus death brings blessing to his people. No matter how great our faith may seem, all saints of God (that includes you and me) are “poor in spirit” at our core. Or, as Luther put it in his 18th Thesis for the Heidelberg Disputation: It is certain that a man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ. Thanks be to God that we have a Savior who grants forgiveness, grace, and even sainthood to the “poor in spirit.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.