All Saints Sunday
Kirking of the Tartans
A cowboy went to a wee country Kirk one Sunday (I thought I’d try to “Scottish up” my story)...
And when he entered the meeting house, he saw that he and the preacher were the only two people there!
The preacher asked the cowboy if he wanted him to go ahead and preach.
The cowboy said, “Well... I’m not all that smart, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I’d feed him.”
So the minister began his sermon.
One hour passed, then two hours, then two-and-a-half hours.
The preacher finally finished and came down from the pulpit to ask the cowboy how he liked the sermon.
The cowboy answered slowly, “Well, I’m not all that smart, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I sure wouldn’t feed him all the hay…”
I promise not to feed you all the hay today...
Back when Jesus’ ministry was first getting started... after his baptism by John... and his temptations in the wilderness... he called his first disciples... and began to preach the “good news of the Kingdom.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for news to spread about Jesus throughout Galillee and Syria... because Jesus wasn’t just preaching and teaching... we’re specifically told that as he traveled... he “healed every disease and sickness among the people” - and so - naturally - more and more people began to flock to Jesus... bringing their sick, in the hopes that they, too, would be healed.
And as large crowds from “Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan” followed him... he gathered his disciples and began teaching... again. Saying:
“Bless-ed are the poor in spirit" -
“Blessed are those who mourn...
“Blessed are the meek...
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...
“Blessed are the merciful...
“Blessed are the pure in heart...
“Blessed are the peacemakers...
“Blessed are those who are persecuted...
Then... Jesus, in my minds eye... stopped. He paused. He looked the people right in the eye and said: God blesses YOU when people insult YOU, and talk badly about YOU and undermine YOU and treat YOU unjustly because of me. Rejoice in persecutions! Don't feel bad, but be glad. Remember... God will reward you. And besides that... you're in good company. That's the way people treated God's prophets before you.
We Christians traditionally call these blessings "The Beatitudes." I’ve always thought of them as “attitudes that are becoming” for followers of Christ. And they’re certainly that...
But they’re really just blessings. Jesus’ words were aimed towards - they were intended for - people who believe in Christ (those seeking Christ); his disciples.
Jesus had been teaching his disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven’s at hand. And in these blessings... Jesus is encouraging his followers, by sharing with them, the tangible impact the Kingdom will have on their lives. They will be blessed!
Not by the “powers that be” - not by “kings and rulers of this world” - NOT by politics... NOT by wealth... NOT by material possessions... NOT by the traditions and ways of man... But blessed by God Himself!
Of course, on the surface... many of these “blessings” don’t necessarily seems like blessings!
I mean... “blessed are the poor in spirit?” We don’t usually associate being poor in anything with being blessed. The word “poor” is usually associated with “less than good!” With a lack of. If we say we received poor service at a restaurant, that’s not a good thing.
“Blessed are those who mourn.” Really? I don’t know about you, but grief doesn’t feel like a blessing to me.
“Blessed are the meek” - we hear the word “meek” and think doormat. But that wasn’t Jesus’ intent: for Jesus, meek is the opposite of obnoxious or overbearing! And who would you rather spend time with?
Again, not all of these “blessings” seem like what you and I would think of, as blessings (at least on the surface)... not initially.
But some do:
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." These are the people who truly seek to know God - for they’ll be satisfied.
"Blessed are the merciful." God is merciful and those who seek to show mercy are reflecting the very nature of God to others...
"Blessed are the pure in heart." These are people who are single-mindedly focused on God and the Kingdom. No ulterior motives...
"Blessed are the peacemakers." These are those who try to bring people together instead of tearing them apart. Precious are the peacemakers... and rare.
Try to think of it all like this...
*Have you ever put your whole trust in God like someone who has no other hope? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever been concerned for the state of our society or the world - or cared enough to grieve? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever put someone else's needs before your own? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever yearned to have a closer walk with Christ? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever tried to show the same forgiveness and grace that God showed you? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever tried to live for God and God alone? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever tried to bring people together? - You are blessed.
*Have you ever been called names or sneered at or ignored because of your faith? - You are blessed.
That’s the bottom line: you and I are blessed. The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Jesus the Savior is here with us. And all who serve him are blessed.
Don’t misunderstand: It’s not the service... or the grief... or the persecution... or the self-sacrifice that’s the blessing! The blessing is the fact that Jesus is with us through it all... Jesus is the blessing!
Of course, today is Kirkin’ Sunday - it’s the day we celebrate our heritage as Reformed Christians and seek God’s continued blessings on our Church and it’s individual families.
But, today is also “All Saints Day.” I know when we hear the word “saints” we think of Catholics and their saints (or football). But in the Bible the word “saint” means anyone who believes in and follows Christ. If you’ve responded to the call of Christ upon your life... then you are a saint.
The message; the intent; the point behind Jesus’ Words for us today... it that as saints (as followers of Christ)... as people who live life with Christ, for Christ, and in Christ... we are blessed.
Think of all the saints who’ve come before us in the 183-year history of this congregation. All the members - and the baptisms... the Sunday school teachers... the Elders and Deacons... and preachers... and choir members... and organists... and musicians... and... well, you get the point, don’t you?
They paved the way for us to be here today... their faith and commitment and faithfulness - gifted us with a blessed inheritance...
But even more than that... the Saints who’ve gone before us... led us... to our greatest inheritance... The Kingdom of Heaven! God is with us always... filling the emptiness in our hearts and souls and giving us the hope-filled assurance... that He never gives us more than HE can handle.
The Kingdom of Heaven is here, because Christ’s is with us... and we are blessed.