All Saint's Day
At that time when Jesus was preaching to the poor, a woman cried out from amongst the crowd, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee and the paps which thou hast sucked." And Jesus answered, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it." Luke 11. 27-28
This woman who cried out, "Blessed are, etc." must have been one of those whose hearts the Word of God had touched, and she must have thought how fortunate that woman was who had given birth to such a son. But all blessedness does not stand in that, that someone has given birth to the Son of God, but in this is blessedness, that someone hears the Word of God and keeps it. The Word of God is that holy seed which the Lord of the Seed Himself has planted into those hearts who preserve it and receive it, that it becomes living and fruitful. Not many became Christians in the Saviour's time, although they went to school and listened to His teachings. But when the Holy Spirit began to effect in the hearts of the disciples, then they preached the gospel powerfully, and then some became Christians. In comparison to the great multitude, there were no more than those few chosen ones who were marked: namely those twelve thousand who were marked from the beginning of the world. In the Apostolic time there must have been one Christian for every fifty people. And when you see that there have not been many Christians in the world, and even of those few who have truly become Christians, some go back into misfortune, so take heed you few souls who yet are striving in your most precious faith, that you would come into that communion of saints in that new Jerusalem. Take heed how dangerous this world is and how deceitful the enemy is to entice even those who have been released from under the power of the devil through God's grace, that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect. The enemy has now become terribly angry when, in these last times of the world, he has allowed some to escape from his kingdom. And he is especially terribly angry at those who do not allow peace of conscience to his offspring. But on the other hand, the Heavenly Parent has become sorrowful when the slaves of the enemy do not allow peace to His children. But our hope is that that children of God will not give up their faith for that reason that the dragon shows his teeth to them. But that appears to be the worst enemy, which lives in a Christians own flesh, who comes upon them like an enticing serpent, into whose mouth the chickadees go when they become frantic from that poisonous odor which the enticing serpent emits from its body. And that deceitful spirit, which changes itself into an angel of light, is very dangerous to a Christian. It is self-righteousness, who is the accuser of God's children night and day, and he preaches there in the intellect, "How can you become saved, who are so evil and who commits so much sin every day with thoughts, lusts, and desires?" But if there were not an advocate before the Father for the Christians, to whom they can flee when self-righteousness attacks them, then they would all have sunk into doubt. But may that great Advocate before the Father, who is the Guardian of all the orphans and minors, guard, protect, support, and strengthen the feeble knees, lift up the weary hands, pick up the naked wretches who lament on the cold floor of this world, wash the newly reborn with the water of life and wrap them in clean linens and allow them to suckle of Your grace-flowing breasts! Hear, You great Advocate before the Father, the sigh of all the sorrowful and penitent when they cry out to You with a broken heart. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
In today's gospel the order of grace is brought forth in that way, that all oracles which pertain to salvation are mentioned there in that order in which they are experienced by a Christian: namely 1) spiritual poverty, 2) spiritual sorrow, 3) meekness, 4) hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) mercy, 6) purity of heart, 7) peacemakers, 8) persecution for righteousness sake. And so there are eight oracles of grace from which not one can be left out. Whoever wants to be saved must experience all of these and go through them. So let us consider through God's grace the eight oracles of grace.
First: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is always the true sign of awakening, that all whose conscience has truly awakened feel poverty and shortcomings, and feel lacking in all things which were the basis of salvation before, as faith, hope, love, meekness, honesty, purity, honor, righteousness. Before the awakening, all these spiritual goods were in a sorrowless person's mind. The sorrowless one did not feel any lack of faith or lack of love. He has been honest and done rightly to all. Even now the sorrowless base so much upon that meekness and honesty when they say, "I have not stolen, thanks to God; I have not done wrong, thanks to God; I am not a whore, thanks to God; I am no drunkard, thanks to God." All of these false foundations crumble when the conscience awakens. Faith ends, love ends, honesty ends. He becomes a whore and a thief, and so must sink into hell. This is therefore the sign of spiritual poverty, that all spiritual substance is gone. And to such ones the kingdom of heaven is now promised, from whom all one's own goodness has ended.
Second: In that spiritual poverty, spiritual sorrow also comes. When faith ended from the disciples, hope ended so that they had no more hope in heaven or in the world. Then such a sorrow came to them that they had to begin to weep and lament. Many say, "There is no faith that with this life I will become saved." but do not have sorrow because of that. Such a one is not spiritually poor, when he is able to live without faith. But he is spiritually poor who has an outwardly visible sorrow, heavy-heartedness, and sighs. Such sorrowful ones will be comforted when Jesus becomes alive in their hearts.
The third oracle of grace is thus: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Here it cannot be a question of natural meekness, under which pride often lies hidden; but with meekness in this place is understood that change of heart which came to the disciples after Pentecost, that they were able to suffer the hatred and blasphemy of the world without murmuring, although before they had a proud heart and demand for revenge. It was spiritual meekness and quietness. If now the naturally meek can inherit from their parents, then also the meek in spirit and in truth can inherit a better earth and heaven, which will never go into a poor condition.
The fourth oracle of grace is thus: "Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." After spiritual poverty comes spiritual sorrow, and after sorrow comes meekness and then comes a hunger and thirst after righteousness. When self-righteousness ends, which has followed the awakened a long time, then comes a hunger and thirst after righteousness. From where does righteousness come now to those who have no self-righteousness? From where does nourishment come to those hungering and thirsting ones? Do you know, you hungering and thirsting ones, where nourishment comes from when hunger and thirst greatly press you? In this wilderness hunger and thirst after righteousness often come to the journeymen, where there is no bread in the land, nor berries on the trees, there is not pure water in many places. Jesus has promised to you hungering and thirsting ones nourishment from His righteousness if all of the leaven of self-righteousness has ended with you.
The fifth oracle of grace: "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Merciful is he who has mercy over another's soul when he sees him in distress. It is another mercy which is called spiritual mercy; it is not the mercy of the whiskey merchant who has mercy on the thirsting. It is not the whore's mercy who has mercy on the whorebucks. But a spiritually merciful one has mercy on another's soul especially, and also helps his neighbor in natural need. Whoever is thus merciful shall also receive mercy from the Father of light above.
The sixth oracle of grace is thus: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Of this purity of heart there is a great doubt of how it should be understood, when all awakened ones have such an experience that the heart, feels like it is always full of filth and evil. But the sorrowless and thieves of grace do not feel any evil of heart. Do they have a pure heart and the awakened a filthy heart? I know that the devil has cleansed the hearts of the grace thieves, and their hearts are cleansed in the blood of the dragon. But the heart of the awakened one is not cleansed in the blood of the dragon. For that reason the heart feels devilish and filthy. Who now cleanses your hearts, you penitent ones who feel how unclean, wicked, and filthy the heart is? I have that faith that your hearts are cleansed in Jesus' blood if you believe, although you feel otherwise. But there self-righteousness causes a quarrel: "How can you believe that your heart is pure when you feel that your heart is unclean? You will begin to lie against your heart if you believe contrary to what you feel. Believe only then that your heart is cleansed in the blood of Jesus, when you feel that it is cleansed." Do you know who is preaching now? Yes, self-righteousness preaches so to the penitent. But thus the Spirit of God preaches: through faith your heart becomes cleansed in the blood of Jesus. And then you are blessed and shall see God.
The seventh oracle of grace: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." The grace thieves expound this place so that the meek pagans become peacemakers, but the Christians become makers of unrest who do not allow the pagans peace of conscience. But if the Christians are makers of unrest, no doubt the pagans are peacemakers, who quarrel and fight. I have that faith that the Christians, for whose sake unrest came into the world, especially at the time of Christ and the Apostles, are nevertheless peacemakers, for through them peace has come in many places where before there was a restless life, and because of that peace they are called the children of God.
The eighth oracle of grace is known to all Christians, for they are hated for righteousness sake and blasphemed for Jesus' name sake. But rejoice and be exceedingly glad, you disciples of Jesus, when you are hated and persecuted for righteousness sake, when the world speaks all manner of evil against you falsely for Jesus' name sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. But soon you will arrive at peace where no one will hate you for righteousness' sake. Amen.