Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate...exclude...revile...defame you.
Blessed are you whose bones creak with the daily agony of old age.
Blessed are you who are too young to think or fend for yourselves.
Blessed are you who bring home bad report cards and small paychecks.
Blessed are you who are sick, who are suffering, who are on the bulletin prayer list, who groan under the weight of life.
Blessed are you who are unpopular and misunderstood.
Blessed are you who are homeless, for you are at home anywhere, and you have
a mansion in God's house.
Blessed are you who are dependent, vulnerable and unprotected, for you are in the care of God.
Blessed are you who have lost goods, honor, child or spouse, for the kingdom is yours
Blessed are you who are dead, for yours is eternal life.
When you hear from the preacher on television with the miraculous hair that Jesus wants to bless you, it sounds a lot more attractive than the biblical original.
In fact, Jesus says nothing about wanting to bless you, as if he is on his phone, waiting
for you to message him so he can green light your prosperity.
Jesus instead proclaims blessing, with no input from us, upon all those we file under that awful, self-centered, wicked phrase "there but for the grace of God go I."
Jesus says that such folks do have the grace of God, and then feels sorry for the people
we are tempted to admire who do not.
Woe to you who are rich now, full now, laughing now, well-spoken of now.
Woe to you who appear to have your lives together, because when--not if, but
when--your life falls apart, then what?
Will you be able to recognize the grace you resist, the God you never needed?
Woe to you who have all the money in the world, because you have settled for so
little, and your worry is so great.
Woe to you who are filled, for you have no room left for God.
Woe to you who prosper, for how will you have the chance to be blessed?
The saints we celebrate today are the community of the blessed, which is exactly what
our culture trains us not to be.
To be blessed is not to be large or in charge, but to be led by God, usually where no one
who is reasonable wants to go, whether that is into poverty or the halls of power,
into graciousness with enemies, into bad investments of kindness, and finally, into
the grave, where everyone is truly equal and helpless.
Saints are the blessed ones who receive God's grace and then act like it isn't theirs to keep, act like there is plenty of it to go around, act like if they give away
everything they have, God will somehow provide for them with more if need be.
That is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural; it is really simple and really difficult.
We need practice, and we especially need the power of supportive love to inspire
and remind and retrain and refresh and renew us.
Blessed are you who receive Holy Communion.
Two children, Lauren and Keston, will receive Holy Communion for the first time this
morning, and in a way, that's a shame.
Why the wait until they are so grown up – so grown up, in fact, that they baked today's
Communion bread (be sure to thank them!).
Our Lutheran church, historically, has been inconsistent about the sacraments, insisting
that baptism is God's gift for everyone, but then reserving Communion for those who sufficiently understand it—which, frankly, disqualifies me.
Somehow we also twisted a blessing into a reward; we couldn't bring ourselves to trust
the extravagance of grace quite that much.
We worried about whether those who receive Commuion will be worthy—which, frankly, disqualifies me.
But God welcomes me, and children, and the dead, and the living, and the unworthy, and
the desperately needy, to God's table of blessing.
Pastor Will Willimon expresses it so beautifully:
The most moving moment in Sunday worship for me is when my people come forward, at Holy Communion, streaming down toward the altar, and there they hold out empty hands like little children, like the famished folk they really are, empty, needing a gift in the worst sort of way.
I think that is one of the most difficult, countercultural gestures of Christian worship-- outstretched empty hands.
What's normal, and natural, is the clinched fist, the hands grabbing and holding tight to what they can get.
What's strange, from the world's point of view, is the open-handed, needy, empty request for grace.
I submit to you that there is no way that people like us (we have our Master's degrees!) could hold out our empty, seeking hands had not the church taught us to do so, had not the church inculcated this honest gesture among us.
This is who we are, says Jesus, not big, self-sufficient adults, but rather little children, naked, frail, empty, and hungry, needing a gracious God in the worst sort of way. You can't get into the Kingdom if you are all grown up and big and important.
You can only come in through a very small door as an inept, bumbling, ignorant, and empty little child.
Saints seem rare because this is so hard for us to accept