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Epiphany 4

January 29, 2017 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Epiphany

Passage: Matthew 5:1–5:12

†††In the Name of Jesus†††

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Date: January 29th, 2017; Epiphany 4; Series A

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

This portion of the Sermon on the Mount is often referred to as the “Beatitudes” because the word “beatitude” is Latin for “blessing”.

But blessing here does not describe what we often think of when we hear the word blessing.

It’s not about being blessed with wealth, or health, or fame and power.

When Jesus uses the word “blessed” here he is looking at the bigger picture. He is talking about an eternal blessing - the truth that eternal life is yours.

The text could read, “Saved are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or, “Redeemed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and so on.

Unfortunately some have understood the Beatitudes to be a list of things that we are to do, or ways that we need to be, if we want to receive God’s blessings.

It is misunderstood to mean that if you don’t do these things, or if you don’t become this way - then no blessings for you.

But this is not a list of things we better do if we want to be blessed by God.

Rather, the Beatitudes simply describe who we are and what we do as Christ’s loved and redeemed people.

The first beatitude opens the door to the rest of the sermon, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he visits the poor.

Being poor is simply a condition of lacking. It’s a condition of needing something that you don’t have.

We typically think of someone being poor when they don’t have money and worldly possessions.

But being “poor in spirit” is different.

Being “poor in spirit” means to be lacking in the spiritual realm.

And spiritually speaking, we’re all poor. We’re all in need.

On our own, we have no spiritual resources.

We are born into the debt of sin - and we only go deeper into debt as we live.

All people are poor in spirit - everyone, everywhere. We can't help it.

And we are blessed when the Holy Spirit leads us to recognize our spiritual poverty.

Groups like the Pharisees and the Scribes and other people who perceive themselves to be rich in spirit have nothing to do with Jesus - and when you have nothing to do with Jesus, you have nothing to do with his forgiveness and salvation. And that is deadly.

We need to recognize that we are poor in spirit before we can receive the riches that Christ has won for the world.

Next Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed.

And this certainly applies to those who mourn the death of loved ones, but it also goes further to mourning the sin we see in ourselves, in others, and in the world.

We mourn over the troubles, and pain, and suffering, and death that sin causes.

But we are blessed because we have God’s Word of promise that the curse of sin will be reversed in the eternal life that is to come.

Sin and sorrow will be no more. Death will be no more. There will be a joyful reunion in heaven.

This Good News comforts those of us who mourn as we have certain hope in the victory over sin and death that Christ Jesus has won for us!

We who belong to Christ are meek.

We are not meek because we seek meekness. We have not set out on a quest to become meek. There is a danger of becoming prideful of our humility and meekness.

We are meek because, as sinners, meek is all that we can be. Before God who is holy and righteous, we sinners are humbled.

The only boasting we can do is when we boast in the Lord.

We who belong to Christ know that he is our righteousness.

We heard in our epistle lesson that Christ is the source whom God has made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

And once we have tasted the righteousness of Christ, we want as much as we can get.

We hunger and thirst for more of the righteousness that is Jesus - and he promises that we will be satisfied.

We who belong to Christ continuously receive his mercy.

Not only does Christ's mercy work in us, but it also works through us.

We freely forgive those who sin against us, just as we have been freely forgiven in Christ. We pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of others.”

We are merciful and we receive God’s mercy.

We who belong to Christ have a pure heart.

Yes, today we continue to struggle with our sinful nature and we fail in this life. Our heart may seem to be more contaminated than pure.

But, in Christ we are forgiven. Our sin is cleansed and washed away. In Christ we are declared holy and righteous.

With King David, we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (psalm 51:10) - and he does.

He creates in us a clean and pure heart.

Because we have a pure heart we shall see God.

We who belong to Christ are peacemakers.

Even though we are spiritually poor, God has generously made peace with us through his Son.

By our Saviour's holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death, we have peace with God.

And we who have this peace with God can’t help but share it with others.

We do not seek revenge, we do not seek to get even - we seek reconciliation. Just as we have been reconciled to God.

The Beatitudes are a description of who we are. They are a description of the ways that we are blessed as God’s people.

When we look at our lives today, we may not think that we are blessed when we look at things according to the world’s standards.

Maybe it’s a struggle to make the mortgage payments, or you just had a car accident, or you were just diagnosed with cancer, or there is depression in the family, or there is an addiction, or it’s one of many things in life that can leave us feeling like we are anything but blessed.

But in spite of any difficulty we face in this life, any hardship - we are blessed.

In Christ, the troubles of this life are temporary. In Christ, sin and death have been defeated. In Christ, eternal life is ours.

These are the blessings that last. These are the blessings that matter.

These are blessings that we cannot earn. The Beatitudes is not a to-do list.

Instead, it is a description of the ways that we already are blessed as God’s redeemed people.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

More in Epiphany

February 11, 2018

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

February 4, 2018

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

January 28, 2018

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany