The Feast of All Saints – The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12
I want to introduce you to someone. He’s a big part of this sermon and what I will say. He’s my visual aid and most of what I will say is directed to him, and through him to you. So I hope when you see him and hear his name you will also see yourself and hear your name. I hope you will let your best wishes and prayers for him be also your best wishes and prayers for your neighbor and yourself.
Some of you already know him, but many of you may not. His name is Emmitt L. H. He’s four and a half months old. Today is the day of his baptism. Today is also the Feast of All Saints, one of the seven biggest feasts in the church year. What a beautiful and holy day for his baptism. Today, however, is not only about Emmitt and all the Saints, it’s also about you and me.
Emmitt, though you are only four and a half months old you are never too young to hear the Beatitudes for the first time, and neither are the rest of us too old to hear them again for the first time. Today you are being immersed in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) as a way of being, a path to be followed, principles by which to guide your life. They describe the divine life, the life of Jesus. And whether that life exists in this world depends on you and the rest of us. We never accomplish the beatitudes as a task completed. Instead we strive, day by day, to live into them.
Emmitt, you are called to be poor in spirit. That means we are not full of ourselves. We don’t make ourselves great or number one. Instead, we make room for God and others. Our worth is not measured by the positions we hold, the power we have, or the possessions we own. We say we know that but it’s hard to live as if we truly believe it. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
I hope you never outgrow tears, or become so indifferent or self-interested that you can’t cry for others. You are called to mourn, grieve, and weep. Jesus did. It’s the way of a soft and compassionate heart, and lets us feel the hurt, pain, and needs of others as our own. For whom and what we grieve and mourn reveals who we are and what we value. “Blessed are those who mourn.”
Don’t be afraid to be meek. It’s not the same as being weak. The meek don’t take up all the space in a room. They’re humble, neither making more nor less of themselves than they really are. They neither oppress nor dominate. They have a disposition of good will towards others. They become a channel for God’s strength and presence. “Blessed are the meek.”
Let your hunger and thirst be for doing what is right, for deep and meaningful relationships, for the well-being of others, for justice everywhere and for everyone. You’ll have to make some difficult choices. The buffet of life will offer you things that look good but cannot nourish, satisfy, or give ultimate meaning. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
You are to be merciful. That’s about tenderness, graciousness, gentleness, kindness, unconditional love, self-restraint. The world needs mercy, and so do you, so do we. To withhold mercy is to deny your own humanity and that of others. “Blessed are the merciful.”
If you want to see God, Emmitt, cleanse the thoughts of your heart. Let go of fear, anger, jealousy, resentment, comparison, competition, and judgments. Be wholehearted and offer all that you are and all that you have. The pure heart is a lover’s heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart.”
Emmitt, let’s not add to the pain of the world. Let there be no violence in your thoughts, words, or actions. We follow the one who is the Prince of Peace. Make peace and start within yourself. “Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved” (St. Seraphim of Sarov). “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
There will be times when you are called to step up and speak out, to rock the boat, to challenge the status quo. Don’t just make trouble, “make good trouble” (John Lewis). We need people to speak God’s words and dream God’s dreams when we’ve forgotten or denied them. You’ll feel lonely doing it but you are not alone. You stand with Jesus, the prophets before him, and saints like The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, Ms. Rosa Parks. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
I can’t promise you much Emmitt, but I can tell you this. You will wrestle and struggle with these beatitudes every day of your life – not just to do them but to become them. And I think everyone here would tell you that too. They know the demands and the difficulties of living the beatitudes, but any life other than that is a counterfeit.
Every one of us who commits to this way of life has experienced the struggle and wrestling. We’ve been tempted to take a different way. And some days we took that other way. We’ve heard the voices – other’s as well as own – that say this is crazy, it’s not practical, it makes no sense, that we’re out of touch. We’ve felt the powers of this world push back: wealth, power, success, security, comfort, popularity, approval, what others say and think about us, and even family. And it would be easier to just go along to get along.
And yet, here we are. Here we are to give you our “We will” and do all in our power to support you in your life in Christ. Here we are to immerse you in the waters of baptism. Here we are to mark you with oil as Christ’s own forever. Here we are to smell the fragrance of the beatitudes. Here we are to renew our own baptismal vows and recommit ourselves to live the beatitudes.
Here we are, Emmitt, to stand with you as the saints of God in this world. Here we are.