Sixth Sunday after Epiphany | Luke 6:17-26 | The Beatitudes
The phrase “Kingdom of God” has been thrown around so much,
That I wonder if it has lost some meaning, even among Christians.
If you aren’t sure that’s true, do what I did.
Ask someone this week, maybe even at random (if you dare),
What the Kingdom of God is like.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will anyways.
Most everyone, even Christians, thinks that the Kingdom of God will be like heaven;
At least their idea of heaven.
They’ll talk about all the things that they think and hope will be there:
Grandma and Grandpa, the family dog, pizza and cake, and hopefully Jesus.
Cliché as it might be, that’s actually ok.
What they are trying to describe is the new heavens and the new earth.
And as long as Jesus is there, that is the Kingdom of God, too.
The problem with that answer is not what they hope heaven will be like.
The problem with that answer is that they see the Kingdom of God as a future event.
The problem with that answer is that the Kingdom of God is not only then and there;
The Kingdom of God is here and now.
We even pray that it comes here and now.
Of course, the Kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray (in the 2ndpetition of the Lord’s Prayer) that it may come to us also.
Think for a moment what that means when you pray the Lord’s Prayer today.
When you pray for God’s blessing upon you,
And for the Kingdom of God to come to you here and now,
Jesus wants you to understand several things.
To be blessed by Jesus, and to have His Kingdom means that…
You are poor.
It means that you are hungry.
It means that you are weeping.
And it means that you are hated, excluded, reviled, and cast out.
Not one day in the future, but now.
What does this mean?
What does it mean to be poor?
It means that you have nothing to offer God.
That’s difficult for a lot of people who want to please God by giving Him something,
When what they really need is nothing.
And it’s the one thing they don’t have.
It’s why one of the historical postures for prayer is open and empty hands.
What does it mean to be hungry?
It means to desire God’s Kingdom and God’s Word as starving people desire food.
I’m not talking about telling me you’re hungry for God’s Word.
Lot’s of people claim to be hungry, but when food is put in front of them, won’t eat it.
If you are hungry for God’s Word,
You will devour it like a man who has not eaten in a week.
And odds are, even if you are here in the Church, you haven’t eaten in a week.
This is what fasting is to remind us of.
If we are cranky after a single day without food,
This ought to remind us of our need for repentance,
Because we have been happy to go days on end without the Word of God.
If you are hungry, you will be satisfied here and now.
And if you are not satisfied, it is because you were not hungry.
What does it mean to weep now?
It means to lament over your sins;
To despise from them and mourn over them.
If you can cry for the harm you have done to a loved one,
Then you can weep over your offenses against God.
If you come weeping over your sin,
And cry them into Jesus’ ear at Confession,
Then you shall laugh.
Here and now, in this Church today, you can rejoice at tears turned into laughter.
What does it mean to be hated by men?
This is actually quite plain.
When you are excluded and reviled and cast out on account of Jesus,
On account of confessing Christ in word and deed,
In this you are blessed.
In this you are following the example of the prophets and of Christ Himself.
And all of that is wrapped up in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer,
“Thy Kingdom Come.”
To be blessed in the way of God’s Kingdom: poor, hungry, weeping, and hated.
And how is that prayer answered?
How does God’s Kingdom come?
God’s Kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
So goes the Small Catechism.
Which means the Kingdom of God is here and working today.
Today Ambrose James comes to the font poor.
He comes with nothing to offer God.
And in exchange for his nothing, Jesus gives Him everything.
Today Jesus pours His Kingdom onto Ambrose, just as he did to you.
And so it belongs to him, here and now, but also there and then.
For you who are hungry and praying for the feast of God’s Kingdom,
It is set before you.
The Holy Spirit has been given to us in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
And by His grace, the miracle of Epiphany happens again: you believe it.
And then you go forth from this place to live that faith in the world.
For you who came weeping, Jesus has taken your sorrows.
He has taken them to the cross and the grave, and He has left them there.
They are buried and will not be raised.
And so you all get to have a good laugh.
For you who are hated and excluded and revile and cast out,
God gives you His Holy Spirit, here and now, to endure.
That is part of living a godly life here in time and there in eternity.
By grace you live and even rejoice of being counted worthy of persecution for confessing Christ.
You do need the Holy Spirit for that, by the way.
If you are rich and full;
If you are laughing and popular;
This should make you very nervous.
This is exactly how the false prophets were treated.
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
But that is not you.
For the Father has sent you His Holy Spirit,
And so the Kingdom of God and all its blessings are upon you.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Blessed are you whose trust is in the Lord.
Blessed are you: poor, hungry, weeping, and despised.
You are trees planted by the Water of Holy Baptism.
You do not fear when the heat comes.
Your leaves remain green,
And you are not anxious in the year of drought;
For the Word cannot be taken from you,
And you will bear fruit forever.