“Christ, our Refuge and Strength”
An All Saints Sunday Sermon based on Matthew 5:1-12,
Given the weekend after Superstorm Sunday
Today our hearts go out to all who have been affected by Superstorm Sandy. We especially remember all those who have suffered loss and devastation in New Jersey, New York, Long Island, our own state and so many other places in the northeast. So many people have lost their homes and possessions. So many people have lost loved ones. So many have had their lives disrupted and have had their world turned upside-down.
In a time like this, we turn to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is our refuge and strength. In times of trouble, Christ is our hope and our comfort. We turn to our Savior today as he speaks a word of blessing for those who suffer.
Today, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Our Lord Jesus pronounces his blessing upon all the saints who have experienced suffering – theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In Revelation 7, we see a picture of the saints who are in heaven. They are described as those who have come out of the great tribulation. They have suffered greatly in the earthly life. They have experienced loss and devastation.
But these saints have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That makes all the difference in the world. That is why they now stand before the throne of God; they rest safely in God’s presence in heaven. They rest in glory and happiness; their suffering is over.
John says, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Think about that! The Lamb is also our Shepherd. That is our hope and our comfort today - we have a Good Shepherd who leads us through this earthly life. He takes us by the hand, and he guides us through the valley of sadness and grief.
Our Lord Jesus takes us by the hand and he says, “I know that you are tired and weak and worn out. But I will help you through the storm and though the night. I will lead you to the light.”
As Christians, we know that we are not immune to tragedies and disasters. We know that we live in a broken world, a world that has been damaged and ruined by sin. Ever since the Fall, there has been death and suffering and pain. We live in a broken world filled with so much sadness and grief and mourning and tears.
But as Christians, we also know that in Christ we have the hope and comfort we all need. Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart – I have overcome the world.”
Our Lord overcomes this troubled world by entering into our suffering and pain. In Christ, we see how God becomes flesh and blood. God himself enters our life and he experiences our tragedy and loss and devastation. God himself experiences our brokenness as Christ suffers on the cross.
God experiences the disaster of his Only-Begotten Son dying on the cross for the sins of the world. But through this suffering and death comes the promise of a new life to come. This is true because Christ is the Son of God, the God who suffers and dies on the cross to save a lost and dying world.
Christ is the Son of God! That is why we turn to him in times of trouble. We cry out and pray, “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.”
Here we join the saints in heaven who have come out of the great tribulation. We, too, have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. We also have put our faith and trust in Christ. We know that we now belong to Christ because he suffered and died for us. His blood washes us clean and gives new life.
Through Christ, we have the promise of life everlasting and a new creation to come. By faith, we look forward to a new world where there will be no death or mourning or crying or pain. By faith, we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We know that one day God will make all things new, and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Until that day, we continue to put our hope and confidence in Christ. He is our refuge and strength. Even in the midst of the storms of life, Christ is our Rock. He will be with us as we go through the valley of suffering. Our Lord takes us by the hand and he says, “Receive my blessing. In this world, you will have many troubles. But take heart – I have overcome the world. And I now bestow upon you the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit and who experience hurt and loss, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted. Blessed are the meek and humble, for they will inherit a new creation. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, for they shall be satisfied rest content in God’s presence in heaven. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive God’s mercy and grace. Blessed are those who are pure in heart because they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and they shall see God in heaven. Blessed are those who experience God’s peace, for they are the children of God. Blessed are you who suffer today, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Take heart and be strong! Continue to live by faith, for I am with you, both now and forevermore!” Amen!