The Mystery of the Oddly Appearing Happiness
A sermon preached on Matthew 5:1-12 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD on February 2, 2020.
(the miracle of blessedness in Christ…and the double miracle that anyone believes it)
There was a moment when God, with his dying breath, guaranteed that you are finished worrying about life and instead had a special kind of happiness that you can pull out of your pocket like a Cliff Bar and take a nibble any time. There was a moment when God, with his baptismal splash of water on your head, guaranteed that you are finished worrying about life and instead have a lifelong supply of that certain kind of happiness that you can pull out of your pocket like a Cliff Bar and take a nibble any time. There is a moment when God, with the preaching of his Word, is guaranteeing that you are finished worrying about life and instead have a lifelong supply of that certain kind of happiness that you can pull out of your pocket like a Cliff Bar and take a nibble any time. And that moment is now.
“Blessed,” Jesus said. Blessed, which means happy in the deepest sense of the word. The kind of happiness that is so deep, you have it even when you feel terrible about yourself or terrible about your life. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Happy, in the deepest sense of the word, are you whose soul is so poor, so in debt to God for your sins that there is no way you will ever get yourself out of debt to God; when it comes time to pay-up, you know you are doomed, and so the only chance you’ve got is to sing, “Lord, have mercy on me, Christ have mercy on me, Lord have mercy on me.” And he does. He already has. He himself spoke through the mouth of Pastor Johnson and said, “I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And that was real. It was true. And for you repent of your huge debt of sin and believe in the forgiveness Christ has earned, it was sweet.
“Blessed,” Jesus said. Blessed, which means happy in the deepest sense of the word, “…are you who mourn.” And everybody does. We mourn when we lose things—like a loved one, or a pet, or your youth. Some of us are even mourning Kobe Bryant, though we never met him. If you don’t learn how to mourn, you get stuck in what Freud called “melancholic.” Which is an old fashioned word for “depression.” “Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.” Food never tastes better, in fact food tastes the best, when you are really hungry. When you are really mourning, that is when God’s promises taste the best. Because he always keeps his promises. You will be comforted. And it will be a sweet comfort.
“Blessed,” Jesus said, Blessed, which means happy in the deepest sense of the word, “…are the gentle, because they will inherit the earth.” In this competitive, bullies-on the playground-and-bullies-in-the-boardroom world (not to mention on social media), does Jesus really think being gentle will lead to happiness? Yes, he does. And he thinks the kind of happiness it will bring you will be sweet because you will enjoy it not just in heaven but on this earth as well, for he said, “Blessed are the gentle, because they will inherit the earth.”
“Blessed,” Jesus said, Blessed, which means happy in the deepest sense of the word, “… are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Does anyone really believe that trying to live rightly—controlling your sexual desires, living within your means, moderate to zero alcohol consumption, using food primarily for fuel so you don’t overuse it, working hard at your job, giving generously to the Lord’s work, forgiving those who hurt you, making time in our busy weeks for going to a Growth Group and in our busy days for reading God’s Word and prayer, putting others first—does anyone really believe that trying to live like that is going to lead to happiness? Well, Jesus does. That’s how he lived. Perfectly. For us. And he was happy, sublimely, independently, blessedly happy.
“Blessed are the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers.” “Blessed (happy in the deepest sense of the word) are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…when people insult you because of me…and falsely say all kinds of evil against you.”
Those experiences will bring you a deep kind of happiness. This is true. But it is so contrary to reason that we would never have known that this is the route to happiness, unless Jesus, the light of the world, enlightened us on this mystery, this oddly appearing route to happiness.
This is the route of happiness, for look what he has promised, “…you will be filled…you will receive mercy…you will see God…you will be called sons of God…yours is the kingdom of heaven.” Look what great company you are in, as Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad…for that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” To have yourself spoken of in the same breath as the great prophets, by Jesus…well. That’s sweet.
If you look for happiness in pizza or beer or women or men or money or traveling or sports or music or getting “A’s” or having a great bod or exercise or love or sex or beauty or health or family or winning elections, well, you will not find happiness. You will find pleasure. And pleasure is its own kind of blessing. But pleasure is not happiness. Looking for happiness in pleasure is like giving salt water to a thirsty man.
But if you want blessedness, happiness in the deepest sense of the word, then take these words in our gospel lesson to heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you take them to heart, because the fact is, they are impossible to believe. But not impossible for him. Giving and strengthening faith is his specialty. And he is doing it right now, for he does his work as we hear his Word and celebrate his Sacraments.
There was a moment when God, with his dying breath in the cross and with splash of water at your baptism and in this sermon right now, guaranteed that you are finished worrying about life and instead have the deepest form of happiness there is—the kind called blessedness. The kind that you get to pull out of your pocket like a Cliff Bar and nibble on in this life, and completely inhale in heaven. For while our Lord personally sees to it that we have many good times in this life, the fact is, for you who believe and are baptized, the best times are yet to be had, the greatest songs are yet to be sung, the finest wine yet to be drunk…in heaven. Just like the worst times and most horrible sounds and gut-wrenching pain is waiting for the person who does not repent and trust in the word of Christ’s forgiveness.
But for you who believe and are baptized, the fact is– nothing in all creation can separate you from that place where you will never have to hope for anything better ever again. Amen.