God’s blessings are present tense: a sermon on Matthew 5

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, the day when we remember all the faithful people who have gone before us.

The Feast of All Saints is less about remembering those who have died, although we always carry the memories of our loved ones with us…

And more about honoring the legacy of those faithful Christian women and men, upon whose moral and spiritual example we now live and build.

When we look around this beautiful worship space today, it is important to remember that everything we see around us…

from the pews to the stained glass, to the very roof over our heads, is built on the legacy and sacrifice…

the faithful gifts of those who have gone before us.

And we cannot forget the less tangible, though no less powerful, gifts that these saints have also given us.

Their example of prayer and steadfastness, their generosity, their commitment to God and their neighbor, to name only a few.

We would not be here today if other past members of Christ Episcopal Church had not given faithfully to the glory and work of God in the world.

Today, in the midst of our fall stewardship campaign, we ask you to consider giving to the ministry and work of Christ Church

in the way other saints of God who have gone before us have given.

To do so not only honors their legacy but it also helps to create a legacy for future members of Christ Church.

But the truth is, of course, that we do not give to the glory of God simply as a way of honoring our past legacy and ensuring our future one.

We also give to the glory of God, because God gives so generously to us in our own lives.

It is no mistake that the Gospel reading for All Saints is the beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel.

Jesus literally describes what a faithful life, what a truly sainted Christian life looks like…

and the crux of faithfulness, it seems, is recognizing and giving thanks for our blessedness by God.

We often hear the beatitudes as a conditional statement of blessing…

If you are meek, then you will inherit the earth.

As if we somehow need to earn or be worthy of God’s blessings.

When we think this way, we are interpreting faithfulness based on the human transactional model that so much of our culture operates on.

That we have to earn what we get, that we receive what we pay for.

This is not the way that God’s blessedness works.

If you look closely at Jesus’ words, you see that they are completely unconditional.

There’s no “if, then”.

God’s blessings are present tense, actually realities for God’s people.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are.

We are already blessed by God, by virtue of our faith in God.

God’s blessedness is already true for us; we do not need to earn or to pay for it, based on our deeds.

But the power of Jesus’ words goes beyond simply the present tense.

In Greek, Jesus actually speaks in the unconditional performative tense…which means that not only is Jesus speaking about a current reality for God’s people…

But Jesus literally speaks these realities into being.

The beatitudes are true for us, because Jesus says them.

Put another way, there is absolutely no way to avoid or to get out of God’s blessings.

They are real, given to us freely, by virtue of Jesus Christ in the world and our faith in Christ.

We are blessed by God, whether we want to be or not, whether or not we think we deserve or have earned such blessing.

What is ironic about the beatitudes is how many of them, though blessings, do not initially sound like gifts from God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Who wants to be poor in spirit?

Blessed are those who mourn.

What kind of a blessing is that?

Poor in Spirit doesn’t actually mean lacking in Spirit.

Instead, to be poor in Spirit means to be humble and not self-congratulatory.

Being poor in Spirit means that we acknowledge that our gifts come from God, and not from anything we’ve earned or achieved all on our own.

And when we mourn, we mourn precisely because we recognize the blessings that we’ve received from God.

Those we love, who have gone before.

It is a painful feeling, but inherent in mourning is an acknowledgment also of blessing.

And that’s why Jesus says these blessings today.

Because everything, from the people we love to the gifts of the Spirit, all of it is a blessing from God.

And how can we give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received?

There is no way we can adequately repay God for all the blessings we have.

To even think that we can or we need to, is to put ourselves right back in the transactional model of the world,

rather than in the abundant generosity of a blessed life as a child of God.

But at the same time, a grateful life of faith, a faithful life that recognizes the blessings that we have received from God…

is not a selfish one.

It’s not as it we simply receive and take, take, take, from God’s blessings.

Recognizing our own blessedness from God, we seek to share that blessedness with others.

And we can serve as a blessing to others in innumerable ways.

But one important way is by supporting the work of God’s people in the world through the ministry of the community of faith.

By supporting the ministry of Christ Episcopal Church through a financial pledge, as well as through the work of our talents and our time.

If you were able to attend last week’s stewardship presentation, then you know that the primary goal for Christ Church’s budget for the coming year…

is to commit ourselves ever more deeply to the work of God in the world, to try to be,

as best we can a blessing to others as we ourselves have been blessed.

Part of this commitment means preparing ourselves for future change and growth in our facility,

to better meet the needs of the people who worship here.

We want also, for example, to increase the hours of our children and youth minister,

as a part of our commitment to the formation of young people in the life of faith.

We want to be a blessing for others, as we ourselves are blessed.

Part of what makes Jesus words in the beatitudes so meaningful, is that they not only declare the reality of our blessedness in this world…

But they also allow us to a part of what it means to be blessed and to be a blessing.

God’s blessings for God’s people are real not just because God makes it so,

but also because God’s people live and share their blessedness in concrete ways in the world.

To make a financial pledge is just one way, but it is an important one.

Help us to be a blessing to others, like the saints who worshipped here before us.

In gratitude, and in faith, for the many, many ways we have been blessed by God.