Blessed are they.

When Jesus saw the crowds.
He said.
Blessed are they.
The poor in spirit.
Those who mourn.
The ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
The merciful.
The pure in heart.
The peacemakers.
Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
The ones who are reviled.
Persecuted.
Those who have evil uttered against them.
Falsely.
On account of Jesus.

When Jesus saw the crowds.
And those who made up the crowds.
The ones who have endured every ordeal.
He called them, promised them:
you are blessed.

It was probably the first time they were ever called blessed.
For even they wouldn’t
dare to use such a
gracious,
loving,
kind,
and life-giving word.

And, I imagine neither would we.
We who struggle with life’s many turns.
We who work for peace and see in our world so much strife.
We whose hearts are weighed down.
We who mourn.
We who deal with others mercifully,
and who may not be treated by others with the same mercy.
We who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
We who, no matter how much we want to be filled with spirit,
find ourselves feeling distraught, depleted, devastated.

We who have been through every possible ordeal
— we wouldn’t possibly call ourselves blessed.

Maybe we’d use the word unfortunate.
Or doomed.
Out of luck.
Dealt a bad hand in life.
Or any of the many descriptors the world around us might say of us.
In our greatest moments of distress,
we may even think ourselves to be punished.

Punished by some punitive, divine judge.
Or by a God who doesn’t care about us at all.
Punished by others or even ourselves.

We wouldn’t call ourselves blessed.
But Jesus does.

I have no idea how many among the crowd believed Jesus.
I don’t know how many among us believe Jesus.
But that’s okay.

Good news such as this.
That we are, no matter what we struggle with, blessed by God.
Good news such as this takes a while to settle in.

It’s one of the reasons why
after pronouncing such good news high on the mountain,
Jesus came down to deep valleys.
and went out to the countryside.
And traveled into towns and villages.
Went to any and every place,
to the very people he called blessed.
To us who wouldn’t dare use the word to describe ourselves.
Goes to the poor,
and the lonely,
the sick,
the sinner,
the outcast,
the grieving,
and the dying
goes to anyone and everyone no one would else dare to.
And touches them
with healing.
Teaches them
with words that give life.
Sits with them
in the most trying of moments.
Eats with them
at tables with enemies and with friends and with the one who would betray him.

Goes even to the cross not simply for them, but with them.
With us.
With all of us.

So that we come to believe and to trust,
what Jesus says of us.
That we all are blessed.

Where the ways of this world might consider us wretched.
Or push us down.
Or neglect us.
Jesus, Jesus who establishes a different way, a way called the kingdom of heaven,
Jesus considers us blessed.
Blessed so as to raise us up.
To dry tears.
And to establish a way of healing.
And reconciliation.
And peace.

So that even where death began, life might be restored.

If there is anyone who can make such a promise,
and keep it,
it is God in Christ Jesus.
The one who knew the power of death.
Who knew the power of those who would cast him out.
Kill his way of love and forgiveness.
Those who would seek to stamp out the kingdom of heaven.
If there is anyone who can make and keep such a promise.
It is God in Christ Jesus who overcame death with life.
Overcame the cross with a tree of life.
Overcame sorrow with the joy.
For see, God says, I am making all things new.

God in Christ Jesus is making all things new.

New in the simple, but profound offering of himself.
Which is offered to us this day.
In bread and wine.
This is my body.
This is my blood.
The meal of betrayal.
Which becomes the meal of new and everlasting life.

It is a holy meal.
A holy meal in which all people become holy people.
God’s beloved people.
Who no matter how much pain,
or sorrow.
No matter how much struggle,
or helplessness.
Who even when we face death, are not alone.
For this holy meal in making us God’s holy and beloved people,
binds us together with all who have ever suffered,
all who have ever grieved and are grieved,
binds us to one another,
and to God
Binds us to God
in this mystical and wondrous thing we call the body of Christ.

It is a body which knows pain.
And suffering.
And death.

But it is also a body which also knows resurrection.
And comfort.
And life.

Blessed are they.
Jesus says, when he sees the crowds.
Blessed, when he sees us.

For God is with us and carries us through.
From hardship to contentment.
From sorrow to rejoicing.
From death to life.

And along the way gives us this food.
Gives us God’s very self.
And gives us one another.
The body of Christ.
The communion of saints.
Bread enough to know we are blessed,
even as God is blessed,
and blesses,
breaks,
and gives to all
in this life and the next.

Jared R. Stahler
Saint Peter’s Church
In the City of New York

ALL SAINTS SUNDAY
Revelation 7:9–17
Psalm 34:1–10, 22
1 John 3:1–3
Saint Matthew 5:1–12