For You, From Him

Calvary is for you, from Him, a gift. Blessed are those who are given to. They are “the poor in spirit” of the first Beatitude. If there is any hope of deliverance, it can only come from God. The poor in spirit wait on the Lord. As He gives, they are given to. His giving to them is not blocked or hindered by what they h ave crammed together and would use for bargaining. “God gives into empty hands,” says Augustine, not into hands full of what we would boast of before God. There is no room for the gifts to be given into. Sometimes, with drastic mercy, our Father empties our hands so there may be room for His gifts. Blessed are those who are given to by God. Blessed are they who receive their death as a gift from His hands. Nothing is outside His hands. Despite the pain and perplexity of any way of dying, we are never outside His hands, and within His hands and from His hands our deaths are a gift by way of which He brings us to the fullness of His promises. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

In the Gospel this word blessed is always in relation to Jesus. It rings with gladness, as is pointed to by the translation that says, “Happy are those who know their need of God.” But happiness is often something so fleeting or shallow, and here is something from our Lord, a lively, joyful gift for all our living and all our dying. Not spoonfuls, not bucketfuls, but the “river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1). “And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). You were “buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). You who were dead in sin God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our sins, having blotted out the charges of the Law against us. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).

– Norman Nagel, Sermon for All Saints Day (Matthew 5:1-12), from Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel, page 317.

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