All Saints Day

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Sermon Date: 
1 Nov 2009
Bible Base: 
2 Tim 1:1-7; Matthew 5:1-12
Preacher: 
David Jeans

All Saints Day 2009
 
9.00 St Johns Deepcar    2 Tim 1:1-7; Matthew 5:1-12
Today I think about John ; Peter; another John; Geoff;  Peter and Lorraine;  Winston
About Wilson Carlile
 
What do they have in common?
Basically they are all Saints.
 
You won’t find them in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints or in the Anglican lectionary (except possibly Wilson Carlile).
 
They are all saints because they are people who belong to the people of God. They are all people for whom Christ died and who have put their trust in him. They are people who were called by God to serve Him in his world. Some of them have passed important truths of the Christian faith on to me; one or two of them I have been privileged to be used by God to pass the faith on to.
 
Saints are not special Christians; all Christians are saints - the word means to be set apart by God, called by Him to be His children and to belong to Him. That is every Christian not just the special ones. Look at Paul’ introductions to his letters - Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1
Wadsley Church, where I was Vicar, is a unique church in the diocese of Sheffield. Not because I was Vicar of it but because it has no saints dedication - its Victorian very evangelical spinster founders were too Protestant for that,. They did not want anything that to them smacked of Catholicism - so no central aisle (no processions) and no saints dedication.
 
While I was at Wadsley part of me wanted to give it a dedication - but it would not have been anything usual like St Mark, St Paul or St Luke. I would have liked to have called it St Mavis, or St Brian or St Doris or St Jean - after some of the very ordinary Christian saints in the congregation.
 
Today is All Saints Day; its a good day to remember ordinary Christians who have influenced you and to give thanks to God for them; its a good day also to pray for those whom you influence, that they may carry on the torch of the Gospel in the future. That is what our reading from 2 Timothy is about, as Paul gives thanks for those who helped bring Timothy to faith , and urges Timothy to pass on that gift to others.
 
So a saint is an ordinary Christian - what then should saints be like ?
 
I remember the story of the little girl asking the Vicar what a saint was. At which point the Vicar pointed to the stained glass window. Oh I see said the little girl. A saint is someone who lets the light shine through.
 
Saints let the light of Jesus shine through them. How? By displaying the character of Jesus, the character of real saints.
 
Our gospel reading was about the character of saints. It could be described as a Saints Charter. We are so used to it that we have become immune to it. People say “I try to live by the Sermon on the Mount” Well, if there is anyone here who succeeds in living by the Sermon on the Mount you’d better take over the rest of this service. The Sermon on the Mount is difficult - only Jesus Himself has ever lived by it
 
This gospel reading is actually very subversive - to bring it to life in all its implications I have tried to give its opposite - the values that the world thinks are important
 
Blessed are the self-confident
for they will always get themselves noticed
Blessed are those who are self-satisfied
for nothing will ever upset them
Blessed are the aggressive
for they will seize the earth
Blessed are those who put self first
for they will make a fast buck
Blessed are those who bear grudges
for they will make sure they get their own back
Blessed are the cynical
for they will never be disappointed
Blessed are the warmongers
for they will always make a profit
Blessed are those who look for the easy way out
for they will have a cushy time
 
The Beatitudes are not easy. They involve putting others first and being meek; yet they also involve standing up for what is right. They involve mourning - weeping for what is wrong in the world and what is wrong in ourselves, getting involved in the hurt of others. They involve being hungry and thirsty for righteousness I and injustice and that can often involve rocking the boat at work if you stand up for someone who is being wrongly treated. And of course, peacemakers often get picked on by both sides.
 
How does all this make you feel?Can you live up to what it takes to be a saint? Does the light of Jesus shine brightly through you or are you a fairly murky piece of stained glass?
 
The paradox is that if you think you are up to this - then you are not. Whereas if you think you are not up to this – then you are on the first step of the ladder of sainthood.
 
For Jesus begins his saints charter with these words
Blessed are the poor in spirit
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 
The way to sainthood begins , continues and ends with being poor in spirit.
 
It begins because only as we come to Jesus as confessing sinners to we become a child of God. The kingdom is not about those who think they are entitled to be there. It is about those who approach God with empty hands (as we do in communion); it is about those who are able to join in with the prayer of humble access (quote it ).
 
It continues because as we strive to become more saintlike, we rapidly realise that we cannot do it. So we have to return regularly to God and to ask for his Holy Spirit to fill us and make us more like Jesus.
 
We become saints when we give ourselves to Jesus.
 
But we are continually being made into saints by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as he brings to our mind the areas of our lives that need to change and works with us on them. Perhaps these words of the Saints Charter have struck home to you - to be more saintlike you need to become more meek, or more merciful or whatever it is. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit today.
 
Finally we can look forward to becoming saints in glory, and to meeting with all those others that we thought about earlier.
 
So on All Saints Day
 
Give thanks for Christians who have influenced, and pray for those whom you influence.
 
Ask the Holy Spirit to make you into the saint that God wants you to be, letting the light of Jesus shine brightly through you.