The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Based on The Beatitudes found at Matthew 5: 1-12

All Saints Sunday here at Knox is one of my most favourite Sundays in all of the church calendar year.

For me, there is nothing more meaningful than to gather with friends, family, and neighbours alike to bear witness through candle lighting, music, and prayer and to commemorate those ordinary folks whose lives have so graced and informed our own , the ones we now count among the saints.

As we gather in this set apart time, we do so knowing that we are not alone in our remembrances as many other Christians around the world also gather to celebrate the communion of saints.

Further to that, to be able to reflect together on Jesus’ foundational words to his disciples and us gathered together this morning, has me wondering: “Does life in ministry get any better than that?  I think not!

Come, then let us enter into a time of prayer: Holy, gracious, and amazing God, may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we bring in response to your word for us from scripture this day, may all of it be acceptable in your sight, amen.

Recently, I discovered that these verses from Matthew’s gospel are often linked to the verses from Micah 6: 8 which guides our vision and mission statement here at Knox. 

In Micah 6: 8, the prophet Micah both asks and tells his listeners this:

‘What does the Lord require of you?’

‘To seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God’.

For me, Jesus’ instructions to his disciples gathered on the hillside for the sermon on the mount is the perfect embodiment of what seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God looks like on the ground.

For me, Jesus’ words put flesh to the bones of Micah’s instructions as they paint a vivid and  startling portrait of what walking the talk of faith needs to look like.

They are indeed challenging words with the capacity to turn the world upside down!

But then, most of us do like a challenge, don’t’we? 

Assured by Paul’s words in his Letter to the Hebrews, we can take comfort in knowing that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, yes?

Let’s take another look, then, at a few of the words Jesus offered to the disciples on the mountaintop as he prepares for their work as faithful followers in the world.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, he tells them.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”, he says.

 “Blessed are the poor of heart, for they will see God.

And

 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely, on my account.”

“Rejoice and be glad,”, he says, “for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

All that said, the ‘Beatitudes’ or ‘words of blessing’ lifting up the last and the least would have felt not only challenging for Jesus’ disciples, but also for the thronging crowds listening in on his instructions.

Jesus’ conferring a blessing or naming the last, the least, the lame, the blind, and the demonic as ‘happy’ or as ‘fortunate’ in their circumstance seems as equally antithetical to us here and now. 

‘What good fortune is there to be found in poverty of spirit, mind or body?’ we wonder.

‘What good fortune is there to be found in deep sorrow, grief and loss?’ we lament.

‘Who could count themselves as fortunate or happy in the midst of persecution?’ we declare.

Jesus’ vision of a world where poverty, humility, mercy, rejection, and persecution is seen as preferential to a world focussed on self aggrandisement through wealth, power, fame, beauty, and success is hardly what most people would call enticing or appealing!

Unless, of course you’ve ever found your own spirit impoverished.

Unless, that is, you’ve found yourself so desperately mired in deep sorrow based on grief or loss.

Or, unless you’ve found yourself so completely reviled or persecuted for just being your own true, authentic self.

But then, let’s face it, all of us have been there.

All of us have felt spiritually impoverished at one time or another.

All of us have felt desperately mired in deep sorrow based on grief and loss.

All of us has had some experience of being reviled or persecuted for staying true to our most authentic selves.

Especially in times of crisis.

The context of crisis is where  the Beatitudes, Jesus’ words of supreme blessedness or exhalted happiness begin to make sense.

Further, they offer us words of great comfort and great hope.

In times of crisis, the Beatitudes offer us the promise and the hope that God is there to meet us at the edge of our ability, the places where we are no longer able to fend for ourselves.

In times of crisis, the Beatitudes offer us the promise and the hope that God will be there to meet us when we are at the end of our rope.

In times of crisis, the Beatitudes offer us the promise and the hope that there is more room than less for God’s presence to be known and experienced.

In times of crisis, the Beatitudes offer us the promise and the hope of God’s compassion when we feel lost in our grief.

In times of crisis, the Beatitudes offer us promise and hope that we will know God’s abiding presence when we feel misunderstood and discredited.

Most of all, the Beatitudes remind us that our faith ancestors have found themselves known and applauded for their courage in times of trial and tribulation.

This morning on the occasion of our celebration of the saints of our lives, I commend to your ongoing reflection Jesus’ words offered here in the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. 

Words of challenge with the potential to turn the world upside down, the Beatitudes are also words of comfort, promise and hope.

Why?  Because they remind us of this:

·         God’s kingdom is to be found whenever and wherever we honour one another.

·         God’s kingdom is to be found whenever and wherever we bear one another’s burdens.

·         God’s kingdom is to be found whenever and wherever we bind up one another’s wounds

·         God’s kingdom is to be found whenever and wherever we meet one another’s needs in compassion and hope.

God’s kingdom is to be found, not in some far off misty place when we die, but here and now in this very moment.  Here and now right in the middle of our All Saints service.

For God’s Word of Life before us.

For God’s Word of Life within us.

For God’s Word of Life between us, thanks be to God!

And

May it be so!