The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Based on Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-9 The destiny of the righteous

And Matthew 5: 1-12 The Beatitudes

Opening Prayer:  Holy, gracious, and amazing God, our Rock and our Redeemer, may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we bring as we reflect together on your holy word, may all of it be acceptable in your sight this day, amen.

This morning, in keeping with our All Saints theme, we have two readings from scripture, each one offering a specific word of hope for those who suffer. 

It’s a word of hope for us as well as we sense and feel keenly the loss of recent and long passed loved ones.

They are the ones we would number among the saints.

They are the ones whose thoughts and actions have blessed and informed our own lives as they lived, as they died, and as they live on with and through our lives.

As we sit with our thought and our feelings, as we long for the touch of a hand or a sense of our beloved ones’ presence, as we acknowledge that we can no longer see these saintly ones face to face, may we find hope and promise in the first words from the Wisdom of Solomon Mary read for us this morning:

“the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God and no torment will ever touch them.’

 And then, we have the word of hope Jesus offers his beloved disciples gathered with him on the hillside. 

Just beyond the reach of the growing crowds, Jesus offers them a word of hope for the building of a much needed new and different way of being in relationship as community.

Jesus offers a hope-filled word of blessing and promise that will sustain them in the unfolding days of their ministries and that will turn the world as they know it upside down.

For those listening then and now, for those whose spirits feel broken or devoid of hope, may we take comfort in hearing again Jesus’ words: 

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit’, he tells us, “Theirs’ is the kingdom of heaven.”

For those listening then and now, for those bringing sighs too deep for words this morning and for those lives have been turned upside down by overwhelming grief and loss, may we take comfort in hearing again,

“Blessed are those of us who mourn, for we will be comforted.”

And, finally, for those listening then and now, for those who feel powerless in the face of grief and loss,  Jesus reminds us:

“Blessed are the meek (or we might say the ‘humble’)  for we will inherit the earth.”

Following on from there,  Jesus continues to invite his disciples and us listening this morning into a radically different understanding of privilege and power, of economy and grace, and of equitable sharing of resources for the well being of all.

Jesus’ words of blessing and of God’s promise known as the Beatitudes found in both the gospels of both Matthew and Luke  are indeed counter cultural in their message.

As such, they call all who have ears to listen into ministries of right relationship, mercy, congruence of thought with action, and the willingness to risk rejection in the relentless seeking of peace-making and justice in our broken and ailing world.

As such, the Beatitudes light a path for us that runs in the opposite direction of conventional wisdom which would hold up instead strength, wealth, distinction, and wickedness as opposed to righteousness.   

As such The Beatitudes provide us with clear blueprints for faithful living.

Let us not forget, however, as per the last of the nine Beatitudes, that faithful living is anything but easy.

As Jesus tells us and his disciples, “Blessed as you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely, on my account”, he also reminds them to “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” 

Friends, the ‘heaven’ to which Jesus refers is not some far off place we go to when we die. 

No, the ‘heaven’ Jesus refers to happens in the moment whenever two or more of us as gathered together here and now.

The ‘heaven’ Jesus refers to happens in the experience of community that is radically inclusive and welcoming.

The ‘heaven’ Jesus refers to in Matthew’s gospel is the place where the last and the least of us know we are accepted not for our gifts of strength, power, cleverness, privilege, status, or wealth.

The ‘heaven’ Jesus would have us strive for-that peaceable kingdom, the experience of shalom is the place where we are accepted just as we are: tired, lonely, and vulnerable.

The ‘heaven’ Jesus is inviting into building together requires us to let go the pressures of conventional wisdom and choose instead to be about the building up of communities   

Are we up for our journeys of discipleship? 

Are we up for the call to be about the building up of right relationship, the living out of ministries of peace-making, mercy, and justice?

Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, as with any significant journey, we begin by walking.

And I am reminded-we have our God who loves us more than we might ever ask or imagine. 

We have our stories from Jesus, perfector and model of our faith.

We have our traditions and our long history of meaningful ministry here at Knox.

We have our cloud of witnesses, and we have each other to sustain us along the way.

For all of this and more, we say “Hallelujah!” Amen.