Associate Editor’s Note: Originally posted on Pastor Lovett’s blog. A great devotional thought for All Saints’ Day.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
This is what the Lord taught His disciples. He taught them who it is that is blessed; who it is that inherits the kingdom of heaven. These are not prescriptive, things we must do or keep or abide by. They are descriptive. They describe who the blessed are and what they will receive. They are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and they are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake and reviled for Jesus’ sake. That’s who the blessed are.
And they will receive the kingdom of heaven. They will be comforted, they will inherit the earth, they will be satisfied, they will receive mercy, they shall see God, they shall be called the sons of God, and they will have great reward in heaven. That’s what they get.
When you look at an old run-down, gutted out, dilapidated smelly house on the wrong side of the tracks; one whose windows are all broken, whose door is off the hinges, whose porch is falling and whose roof seems to be caving in, what do you see? Well, you see a run-down, gutted out, dilapidated smelly house whose windows are broken, and whose foundations and fixtures are collapsing. Somewhat hopeless and helpless. Better to tear it down and start over. In fact, better to tear it down and build a new house on the right side of the tracks with all the modern features.
But a builder who cares about the history of the house, who cares about the location and the neighborhood, a builder who spends his time fixing things and building things; he may see something different. He might see a house in need of care and love. He would see a house that can house a family and have children in the front yard. He sees what the house could be, what it will be when he’s done with it. He sees the house in all of its glory. He he sets to work.
So our Lord sees you, His house; His temple. When we see it, it looks run-down and gutted out. Maintenance of the church has become a drain and the pews are emptier. We may see a dilapidated congregation whose foundations are cracking. The fixtures are falling apart, beginning to show the wear and tear of the years. Not the wear and tear of usage, not the mechanical physical wear and tear. But the spiritual wear and tear of friends offended; loved ones gone; deceased, moved away, or transferred out. The fixtures we call “youth groups” “LWML” “LLL” “Sunday school” even “fellowship,” they seem to be decaying before our very eyes. We see a dilapidated house that is only getting worse as it suffers the weather and fury of high winds and storms that beat against it, wearing it down. And sometimes we catch ourselves thinking that it would be better to tear it down and start over than try to build it up and repair it. Better to go and build somewhere else than to try and salvage such a dilapidated house.
But that is not what our Lord sees. That is not what He saw as that tired and weary multitude gathered to Him when He sat down to teach them. Tired from the burdens of the scribes and Pharisees. Wearied by the oppression of sin and shame and guilt of past sins and present sins. Numbed by the countless years of doing the same thing over and over and over, never seeming to get better, never seeming to get it right; worried and concerned that they are doing it all wrong; worried about whether or not God has forsaken them or loves them still. That’s not what He saw then and that’s not what He sees when He looks out on you. He doesn’t see you as a dilapidated failure; a weather-beaten, storm-tossed little house whose foundation is cracked and whose fixtures are falling apart, old and tarnished. He sees the multitude of the blessed. He sees His Father’s house.
He is the builder and we are the house. He is the craftsman and we are the temple. And He is building us up into a spiritual house whose foundation is Christ Himself, whose walls and rafters are the apostles and prophets. He comes and makes us His home, with His Father also. They come and make us their home, their dwelling place; uniting us by the Spirit of God and joining us together in the sacred bond between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the bond of peace. And we are blessed for it.
This is the kingdom of heaven, and we are the poor in spirit who are blessed to inherit it.
Here we come mourning our sin and shame, and here we are comforted from the burdens of sin and shame by the promise of Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Here is the new heavens and the new earth whose King reigns in righteousness and purity forever.
Here the righteousness of Christ satisfies our need for a clean conscience.
Here we receive the divine mercy from our divine friend and brother who purifies our hearts so that we see God.
Here we are not called “sinner” and “G0d-hater,” here we are called sons of God for here the peace of God reigns by the blood of Jesus who is the peacemaker between God and man.
Here are the blessed. This is what Jesus sees when He looks out on the multitude gathered here before Him. He sees the company of the blessed. The fixtures of the house of the Lord are not the meetings in her basement or the clubs she forms and outgrows. You are the fixtures. And your heavenly builder cares about you and your past and where you are. So He sets to work. He forgives your sins and teaches you the righteousness of faith that clings to the obedience of the Son of Man as your obedience. He raises you up out of sin and shame, giving you His Spirit so that you have the mind of Christ, rejecting the evil and choosing the good. He fills you with the joy of angels who rejoice with you at the salvation of our God and the Lamb. He sets to work building His house, His Father’s house. And in it He prepares a place for you so that when He is finished building He would come to you and take you to where He is, even as you are now where He is as even now you are in the company of all saints.
Rejoice, O congregation, for while you may well be reviled and rejected by many, persecuted and maligned because of your devotion to Jesus, your reward is great in heaven. Indeed, here is your reward: eternal life in the Son of God.