For All Saints Day the three readings are Revelation 7:2-17; 1 John 3:1-3 and Matthew 5:1-12. Chosen as the basis of the sermon is Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Christianity doesn’t sound very user friendly what with blessings provided to the “poor in spirit…those who mourn” and “those who are persecuted.” Once more we meet a God that doesn’t make worldly sense. We fall back on that principle, “If you want to know how God thinks, think common sensically and then reverse it!” Of course, there are those who conclude that the poor in wealth are being meant rather than the poor in spirit. Just what does it mean to be poor in spirit?
From a L&G point of view, God considers all unbelievers as poor in spirit in the sense that they have nothing to give to God to offset His wrath. While that might appear at first hearing to be a negative, in reality it is a positive. For the task of the preacher is to get members of the congregation to begin to think like God rather than their normal ungodly way of thinking on the part of their old Adam. The positive is not just that even believers are poor in spirit but that they recognize and confess their condition before God. It’s called repentance.
Repentance includes not only an awareness of one’s impoverishd sinful condition but also a confession of sin that looks to God and Him alone for salvation. Unlike every other religion in the world, Christianity does not offer any notion of team work between us and God to satisfy His demand that we be perfect in our works, thoughts and words. Instead, God sends His only-begotten to take upon Himself the punishment you and I deserved. It is not just our sin that separates us from God; it is the curse of the Law that reveals in the day we sin, death is the result.
It’s just that the Christian faith reveals that you and I don’t fulfill that curse. Jesus does by becoming sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. As our substitute Jesus takes upon Himself the punishment we deserve and then transfers His righteousness to us in the waters of baptism. Forgiveness is more than we normally think. From God’s point of view it is the Good News that you are no longer held accountable for your sins eternally. The words “It is finished” signal an end to sin being a problem for the whole world. Hell is no longer for sinners but for unbelievers. For if hell were for sinners, then no one would be saved.
And that is the comfort we have on All Saints Day as we remember those of our loved ones who died in the Lord. They are now with Him awaiting that great and wonderful Day of Judgement when their bodies will be restored to their spirits and the whole company of heaven will spend an eternity with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.