Archive for November 3rd, 2013

Text:  St. Matthew 5: 1-12, The Beatitudes

Some of you may remember the child’s rhyme about the Church: “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and there’s all the people:.  In The Large Catechism, Dr. Luther explains that when we think of “church”, we usually think of the church building, as “we are going to church”, but he points out that the only reason a sanctuary is called a “church”,  

“…the house should not be called a church except for the single reason that the group of people assembles here.”  The people who assemble are the Church, the communion or the community, “the holy Christian Church” (Third Article of the Apostles Creed). Meeting here in the library, it is difficult to say we are “going to church”, nevertheless, we go as His Church, His people.

 The rhyme above could be redone:  ”Here’s God’s House, here’s the steeple, open the door and see God’s people.”  Lutherans and Christians have spent a lot of time of fussing over the church building, instead of concentrating on building up God’s people, His Church.  This is done by preaching, teaching, praying and administering Christ’s Word and Sacraments. As the Apostle Peter wrote:  “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2: 4-5). 

Further, this building up of Christ’s holy people, His baptized saints, is not according to our building specs, plans and blueprints. It’s according to the Lord’s Word alone.  That day in Palestine, on a mountain, Jesus drew forth His disciples and the crowd.  This was not a scary mountain, nor a mountain top “experience”. This was the mountain of blessing and by His Word Jesus was separating His disciples from the world to be sent into it with the Word.  Whom did the Lord bless?

poor in spirit

those who mourn

the meek

those who hunger and thirst for righteousness


the pure in heart

the peacemakers


the merciful

This is not exactly a recruiting poster for Church. Exactly what the Old Adam does not want to be.  We want to be the rich in spirit, go along with the world and make it,  the proud , the filled and popular, realistic, mighty warriors, at least in videogames, showing no mercy, admired. 

 The Bible is a story of mountains beginning with the Sermon on the Mount, or the mountain: 

 Sermon on the Mount and Jesus climbs the mountain, takes the position of a Teacher, seated and the disciples come near Him.  At the end of the sermon in chapter 7, we are told that the crowds were astonished at His teaching.  They were there like empty vessels to be filled. Jesus was forming the Kingdom, His Church, His Body.  They needed to be filled.  The Psalmist prayed, Be still and know that I am God.  You can’t fill an empty cup by continually moving it. They were still and He came to them in absolute Beatitude that is blessing. Blessed are…Blessed are…nine times over.  They maybe knew they were empty because of another mountain that loomed in background:


Mount Sinai where God gave His law in majesty and awe.  It was a terrible sight as reported in Exodus. Anyone who touched the mountain would die, complete with fire and smoke and thunder. For the wages of sin is death…for all have fallen short of the glory of God…for the wages of sin is death but the free gift is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.   Sinai shows us our need for the Lord. And when Jesus preached on the Mountain of Beatitude, another mountain was still in the future:

 Golgotha and it was more of a hill, literally the place of the skull.  There he was crucified and there He bore all the sin of those listening to His blessing on the Mount of Beatitudes. Only by His Word are we healed, forgiven, sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Golgotha points us to another mountain, the last mountain

 Mount Zion as He drew forth the last, the least and the lost to the Mount of Beatitudes, He promised to draw all people to Himself on the Cross and by the giving of the Holy Spirit to worship on Mount Zion, the very temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church and this place is the mount of beatitudes.  In between mountains there are valleys, where we work, live, play, study.  

In the valleys and Golgotha tells us in no uncertain terms:  I am with you.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

His rod and His staff is His Word that faith can grasp and lay hold.  He prepares an table before us in the presence of our enemies, and the cup overflows: His Body and His Blood.


Jesus by His majestic Word of blessing was beginning to form His kingdom and His Church to be in the world but not of the world, His ridiculously blessed people. “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house…” We are being built, passive tense. In my cynical moments, I have redone the rhyme above, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and where’s all the people?”  And sadly stats and surveys have been documenting the downward spiral of church attendance.  Well-meaning Christians cry out: “We’ve got to do something!” When we should be crying out,  “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  When cry out, we’ve got to do something,  come the ways to save the church.  We see what happens when men and women build the church according to their best laid plans of mice and men: see the Mormons, see the feminist church, e.g. as “womanchurch”.  . Those are the more egregious examples of not building according to God’s Word. Not a lick of the Gospel for the poor in spirit, those who mourn the way the world is,hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, His love which He has freely given in His beloved.  It is our time that has made popular the saying, always about someone else:  He’s so filled with himself.  Filled with ourselves, the Lord can fill us with  His grace. The false church doctrine teaches only conditional sentences: If you just do this, then you will saved or rich or powerful.  Everything is on you but all was placed on Jesus Christ.  Over the years, I have seen “models of ministry” paraded before pastors’ groups, and new programs like mega-church.  A seminary friend, asked me to be a groomsman for his wedding. It was the ‘70s.  The groomsmen wore robin-egg blue tuxes.  It was all the rage.  Even orange tuxes were worn. Remember avocado or harvest gold colored refrigerators, kulats, dickies, and the like?  We most likely want to forget them all! As I do all those programs that steered us away from God’s Word.

  Fads don’t build up His Church, only the labor of love of God’s Word in His saints by faith through His grace alone in the unity of the Holy Spirit in our families, amongst our friends, all our neighbors.  Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton wrote that the Church is the democracy of the dead, those saints before us have a vote.  This is what All Saints is also about.  When we gather for Holy Communion, the pastor will pray, “…with angels and archangels, AND ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN…” and even with 2 or 3 gathered together, there are countless more!  ZION: The saints before us were built only by one way:  the Word of Law and Grace. Too many want to disenfranchise the dead in Christ, who are with the Lord. The Lord makes all things new, He does not make all new things. We are called to keep the faith with the dead, who live in Christ waiting together the day of the general resurrection.  

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12

 “The fellowship of the Beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified.” (Bonhoeffer)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.-Philippians 4: 7

Post-Script: the idea of the story of the mountains from an excellent book: Why I am a Lutheran: Jesus in the Center, by Pr. Daniel Preuss.

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