Sermon Nov 1
For all the saints
Sometimes I look around our small congregations, and start to wonder about our numbers, and I have to admit there’s a sense of smallness, that we are just a tiny group.
But then readings like we have just heard remind me of the vast number of those who have gone before us! One of the songs we often sing on All Saints’ Day is ‘for all the saints, who from their labours rest.
Let’s have a think about what that is all about.
All the saints! That’s not just the ones with Saint as their title, Saint Mary, Saint Francis, St Ambrose. It’s Saint Terry, Saint Jenny, Saint Dennis, Saint Trixie, Saint Graham, insert name of your parents here! Today we commemorate everyone who has ever loved God, all the way back through time!
How about some of the Old Testament characters? St Isaiah, St Eve, St Adam, St Moses? They don’t tend to get the title St because it has been used for people who have spread the Gospel of Christ.
In the Catholic church there are every specific steps that need to be taken before someone is canonised, that is, recognised as a saint. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is one of the newest saints. They have to have had a life of loving God, and also miracles have to be attributed to them.
Today, we take the wider definition of saint. I can see some saints, here; St Ila, St Pete, St Kevin, you are all saints because you all love God and do God’s work in the community.
Thinking about the many millions of saints who have gone before us helps us see that we belong to a larger movement than just the smallish group gathered here today, and other small groups gathered in churches around the city. It is those of any denomination, all around the world!
I have no idea how many people would have ever loved God back through time! It must be billions! If we trust our scripture, we know that these saints who have gone before us have not disappeared from existence. Revelation tells us a bit about their current assignment:
‘And there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
Note that these saints were from every tribe and language – there was no discrimination, no segregation. Everyone can be a saint.
The saints in heaven were crying out salvation belongs to the Lord, and to the Lamb!
They were worshipping God, praising and affirming God as the bearer of Salvation, and the Lamb, that is Jesus, as our saviour.
When we are praying, we can hold the image of these multitudes in our mind, and let our prayers mix with theirs! Whenever you think, what can the prayers of little me do, remember that they will be added to the prayers of all the saints in heaven! That’s a mind-blowing thought really isn’t it? We are part of something so huge, so timeless, so powerful, when we think about the sheer numbers involved! Our prayers will have power because of it.
We hear more about the saints in heaven: They have come out of the great ordeal, and they will never hunger or thirst again, and God will wipe away every
tear from their eyes! That’s the future for us as saints in God, and what we can look forward to in eternity with Christ!
On Wednesday we were talking about some of the Negro Spirituals, which often have an idea of going across a river to a new land where there will be no more sorrow. They are talking about the kingdom of heaven.
Our reading from the Gospel also talks about the kingdom of heaven by showing us hope for the future:
Let’s see if we can remember some of the endings:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs ….is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they ….will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they ….will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they …will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will ….receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will ….see God.
These are words of encouragement, but they are not specific about when we will receive our reward, or how long we have to be meek, or sorrowful, or pure in heart, before we can rejoice.
They all have a theme about humility though don’t they?
In our world we are constantly bombarded by images of pride and greed from the media, especially now that the junk mail season, oops I mean the Christmas season, is approaching. So many adds are encouraging us to be greedy and proud, to try and out-do the Joneses. But, blessed are the meek!
Does that mean we have to be doormats for the Lord? no. It is about seeing ourselves as part of a whole, not at the top, but just somewhere in the grassroots.
This is where the work really happens.
Imagine a beautiful avocado seedling growing in a pot, putting up its handsome leaves, and saying to the other plants, I am so beautiful, my leaves are bigger than yours, and a much nicer colour. Look, my flower buds are opening, and my, how wonderful I am to have such lovely flowers. But then the roots of the avocado start to struggle, because there is no goodness or water left in the soil! The avocado starts to look a bit less blossy, the flowers drop off, and the leaves droop, and it can no longer boast about being the most handsome plant in the garden! The meek are the soil, what feeds the whole system. If we work away loving people, praying for people, serving people, without expecting praise or thanks, we are part of other people flourishing. Yes, it’s good to be meek, because then we can be useful.
How about ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God?’ I have often wondered about this one, partly because it was our school motto. Maybe the school was trying to persuade all the green-uniformed girls to be pure in how we lived, and stop thinking about boys all the time, but on reflection I don’t think that’s what ‘pure in heart’ means.
If silver is pure, it has been refined in fire, and all the impurities are burnt away. It is just made of one thing, pure silver. There are no characteristics in it apart from silver. It is completely predictable in how it acts, whether it is waterproof, can conduct electricity, is magnetic or not. There are no anomalies. If we are pure in heart, we are constant, consistent, we have integrity. We can relied on for our attributes. If we purely follow God there will be nothing that we say or do that does not reflect our love of God. This is why the pure in heart will see God.
This All Saints’ Day, remember that you too are a saint, and are blessed.