Blessed Are Those Who Weep

“Blessed Are Those Who Weep”

(Seeing the Invisible)

November 06, 2016

(All Saints Sunday)

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18            Ephesians 1:11-23                             Luke 6:20-31

 

I saw a story this week about an 18 year old that got a birthday letter from her long dead mother.  Apparently, as she was dying, her mother had the chance to write down some things that she wanted her daughter to know, but they were words of wisdom that she knew she wouldn’t live long enough to share.  So, she put pen to paper and began to write down the things that she wanted her daughter to know as she approached adulthood, graduated from high school, and headed for college.  It’s the sort of message that is bound to make an impression.

We wonder what it would be like to be on the receiving end of that sort of message.

But imagine.

If you could send a message to your 16 year old self, what would you say?

We might tell our younger selves to avoid some of our poor choices, or reaffirm some of our best ones.  We might tell them to eat better, or exercise more because of the pain we experienced or the heart attacks we survived.

But, imagine that you could go back in time.  Imagine you could walk into FDR’s, or Harry Truman’s Oval Office and tell them what the future held.  Imagine you could tell the American Indians what lay ahead of them as the Europeans began to land on their shores.  Imagine that you could talk to Amelia Earhart before she left on her attempt to circumnavigate the world, or Abraham Lincoln before he went to Ford’s Theater, or the Donner Party before they left on their journey west.

What would you tell them?  What would you tell them if you had to compact your message into one or two sentences?

Even more difficult, what would you tell George Washington about the Civil War that lay one hundred years in the future?  This is the challenge presented by many of the Old Testament prophets.  They could see what was to come, but in many cases what they saw was generations in the future.  What they saw was sometimes difficult to understand but the message that they carried, although often short on details, emphasized the most important pieces.

In Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18, God’s prophet, who is living in captivity in Babylon, is given a vision of Israel, hundreds of years in the future.  And while it isn’t specific enough to build armies, or develop battle plans, or to change the course of history, it is enough to carry a message of hope to God’s people.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

The future that Daniel saw would bring four great beasts which would arise.  Simply by his describing them as beasts implies that they were both large and frightening.  And when he asked who or what they were, he was told that these were great kings, with great empires, that would arise over the earth.

If that alone was the end of the prophecy, everyone would have reason to be afraid and to fear the future.  But Daniel is also told that despite the rise of these great kings, God’s people will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever.  Despite Babylon, despite Persia, despite Rome, despite the rise of human empires and kings, God rules over all the earth and the people of God will prevail in the end.

In a moment when Israel’s best days would seem to be behind them, God proclaims that the future will be better.

In the same way, during a time when Christians and Jews were not in the mainstream of society and even outcasts in some ways because of their belief in only one god, and also a time when increasing pressure from society and government was suggesting that open persecution may not be far away, Paul writes a message of hope.  In this case, instead foretelling the future, Paul explains what the coming of Jesus Christ means to the future. (Ephesians 1:11-23)

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Paul says that you were included, you were chosen, to be a part of God’s eternal kingdom at the moment that you believed.  As proof, Paul says that the Holy Spirit was given to us as a deposit in order to demonstrate God’s goodwill and intent to fulfill his promise.  Just as we make a deposit on a large purchase in order to seal the contract and to demonstrate our intent to complete that purchase, God has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment to demonstrate his commitment to fulfill his promise.  Paul continues by saying that he is praying for three things, 1) that you may know how rock solid, how trustworthy, the future will be, 2) that you may understand how wonderful and how glorious our future will be, and 3) that you might know how powerfully God watches over us.

In a moment when the future seems dark, God says that it’s really better than anything you could have imagined.

And then in Luke 6:20-31, Jesus says this:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

As crowds gather to hear him speak, Jesus tells them that the world is not as it appears.  The poor will inherit the kingdom of God, the hungry will be satisfied, those who weep will laugh, and when people hate you, or insult you, or reject you, or say that the good things you do are evil, in all those times, you are, in God’s reality, blessed and not cursed.

In the day when the world tells you that you should be sad, rejoice instead because you know that your reward in the kingdom of heaven, is enormous.

But Jesus also warns that those who are well off must be careful because their world is not as it appears either.  When you are rich, or comfortable, or well fed, or surrounded by laughter, you may well be setting up a future that you will weep over.

The path that we must follow into the future, whether we are rich or poor, hungry or well fed, weeping or laughing, hated or loved, is exactly the same. The path that we are to follow into the future is not a path of despair, but a path of hope.  Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you.  Give to those who steal from you.  Give to everyone who asks and do for others the things you would like others to do for you.

The way forward, the path that we are to follow into the future has always been a path of hope and a path of compassion.

In a moment when Israel’s best days would seem to be behind them, God proclaims that the future will be better.

In a moment when the future seems dark, God says that it’s really better than anything you could have imagined.

This is a message for All Saints Day as we remember those that we have lost, but also, perhaps, a message for all of us as we approach one of the ugliest, and gloomiest, presidential elections in history.  The message of Daniel, and Paul, and Jesus is that the world has never been quite as it appears because in the end, God wins.

Scripture invites us to see the invisible, to see that in reality, God owns the future.

To see that everyone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ and believed in him is greatly loved by God and the promise of our future has been backed by the deposit of God’s Holy Spirit.

To see that those believers that we have loved have already moved forward into God’s future, and that same future awaits the rest of us.

To see that it doesn’t matter if our nation’s best days sometimes seem to be behind us.    It doesn’t matter if the future seems dark.  It doesn’t matter if our present is unpleasant.  What matters is that God owns the future.

And Jesus tells us that the path from where we are to where God wants us to go is a path on which we must show love, compassion, and generosity to everyone…

…even those who don’t deserve it.

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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