Christ Lutheran Church
November 7, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Communion of Saints
Now seeing the crowd Jesus ascended the mountain, sat down, and his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and began to teach them. Matthew 5:1-2
At every Divine Service we confess our faith in THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS; and today all three of our readings join together to teach us what that means.
In a word Jesus is the COMMUNION, and we are the saints! He is the Sacrificial Lamb of God, who purged our sins by his blood. And by the Sacrament of Blessed Baptism has made it possible for us to wash our garments in his blood and make them white! So that now we stand before him as the “sons of God,” and “the pure in heart,” that our Lord so highly blesses in today’s Gospel.
The case is exactly as St. John writes in his First Epistle: “Beloved! Now we are God's children, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when he appears, we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who possesses this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
Now what St. Matthew reveals to us in his gospel today is earthly extension of what we hear in today’s first reading from Revelation. Take note of who is around the heavenly throne:
There are 144,000 Israelites – 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. Also in attendance is a multitude that no one could count; clothed in white garments; from every nation, tribe, peoples and language. There are 24 priests, 4 Living Beings, and along with these the innumerable angels and hosts of heaven.
And take note of who is on the throne in the middle of them all: None other than
the once crucified, but now glorified Lamb of God whom they worship night and day; who nourishes them, shelters them from all harm; and who wipes away every tear from their eyes. For while “weeping may tarry for the night, joy cometh in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5)
Remember that, Beloved: Joy comes in the morning. However bad the night, you will be restored! Returned to full and abundant joy because all that is wrong will be made right, and the grisly past will be remembered no more. This is the COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
Now just as the congregation we glimpse in Revelation Chapter Seven was comprised first of true Israelites, and people from every nation, tribe, peoples and tongue … here in St. Matthew we see the very same COMMUNION OF SAINTS, the earthly just like the heavenly.
Again we see Jesus in the middle! Jesus at the center surrounded by his disciples, and people from every corner of Israel. But it wasn’t only the chosen people who were there, because St. Mathew tells us that there were Gentiles aplenty as well. Vast crowds whom no one could number from beyond the borders of Israel who came to the COMMUNION OF SAINTS to see Jesus. And what a scene it was.
Jesus gazes upon lost humanity who are like sheep without a shepherd; and if you’ve never understood what that means turn on the news, or go sit in on a class at your local grade school, and you’ll see.
We are the lost sheep; and we have no true shepherd in this world today, no stability, no morality, no eternal vision to carry us through this brief life. No faith to shield us, hope to guide us, or love to heal us and make us glad.
But now hear Jesus who ASCENDS THE MOUNTAIN to teach, because his teaching is elevated far above any other in this world. He sat down in their midst on a throne perhaps made of rock: which is also fitting for he is the SOLID ROCK on which we stand! All other ground is sinking sand.
Next he opened his holy mouth and living, breathing, Spirit-filled words rushed forth like a mighty river – and he taught people as they had never been taught before!
But what did he teach them?
That day he preached what has long been called “The Sermon on the Mount” which is recorded in St. Mathew’s Gospel Chapters Five, Six and Seven. But at the head of this matchless and unparalleled sermon we have what the church has long called “The Beatitudes.” The words we hear in today’s gospel.
Now we could spend this day reviewing each of these beatitudes and what they mean. It would take a long time, but we would walk away fat and happy, filled with nourishment like no other. But that is not how the Beatitudes are learned. Rather they are the pursuit of a lifetime, but one more Blessed than any other.
The word Beatitude or Blessed, as our English Bibles have it translates the Greek word Makarios. Makarios means “supreme blessedness or happiness” – the very thing that every person pursues and desires more than any other.
But as the old country song goes it seems that we are always “looking for love in all the wrong places.” And so we can never become Makarios, Blessed or Supremely happy by the cheap pursuits of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or by drugs, drink, gluttony, greed, self-righteousness, self-pity, sloth, envy, robbery, living on the edge, living in a virtual world, trying to change the world or by terrorizing other people.
None of those, but only by gathering around Jesus as we are doing now, and only by soaking in his words over a lifetime; for he is the Beatitudes personified. He is our happiness. He is our blessedness. He is the “Communion” in the Communion of Saints; and when he dwells in our midst, as he does today here in Christ Lutheran Church, then we are supremely blessed and happy saints.
But still the Beatitudes are not learned quickly or easily; but only by a life time of worship, meditation, study, prayer, sacrifice, self-control, suffering, persecution and by conforming our lives to them. For they are the stuff of saints, and we are saints … Not because of our stellar report cards, for none of us has one of those. But by our Lord’s flawless life of love. By his Word. And by his redeeming death and resurrection.
But before we leave our exalted subject let us make one more connection, namely this: That St. Matthews Gospel and Revelation Chapter Seven are not merely interesting information, but are both: prescriptive and descriptive, of how true worship is conducted.
As Jesus sat on the heavenly throne in Revelation; and as he ascended the earthly mountain to teach, even so he is elevated here today. Truly elevated because his Word and his Cross prevails here, and there is nothing higher or holier in all the universe.
And so here, too, in this COMMUNION OF SAINTS there is a steeple pointing to the skies; a crucifix lifted high which is our Lord’s Glorious Throne of Victory over sin, death and Satan. And a high and holy altar where the Saints of God gather around Jesus, pray, bring their offerings and COMMUNE WITH THEIR LORD unto the ages of ages – and from which they take his love, and his blessed gifts out to the world in need.
Jesus is the COMMUNION. We are his saints. Christ be praised. Amen