Friday, 4 November 2011

All Saints

First Reading Revelation 7.9-17

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing round the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God forever and ever.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Second Reading 1 John 3.1-3

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Gospel Matthew 5.1-12

Alleluia, alleluia.
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, God’s own people,
called out of darkness into his marvellous light.
All Alleluia.

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’


4 before Advent. All Saints – transferred from 1 November.

Picture of saints – we think of martyrs, those who have lived unique, special and blameless lives and died for their faith. These are the saints.

Revelation portrays them. Wearing white robes. Standing before the throne, and the Lamb. A great multitude no one could count. From every nation and language.

These are the saints who have come through great tribulation and been purified. Their white robes sign of cleansing, through blood of Christ. But is this the only picture of the saints we have? I have another picture here. I’ll pass the picture round...

Mirror – these are the saints as Paul describes them.
. . .to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” I Corinthians 1:2

The word Jesus uses is makarios. Those with long memories may think of Archbishop Makarios, primate of Cypriot orthodox church, later president of republic of Cyprus. Name means blessed, fortunate, happy, privileged.

Makarios – the happy ones. That’s how the early church described themselves. Saints and martyrs, rather than church members.

It all sounds rather farfetched when you consider what they went through. Many were persecuted, killed for their faith, shunned. Yet they called themselves happy ones. Jesus in the Beatitudes does not strike a happier note either. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, those who are reviled and persecuted. Even they are to rejoice and be glad, he says. Why? Because their reward is great in heaven.

So whatever happens to us here on earth, however difficult life might become, regardless of the way we are treated because of our faith, we are makarios because of what is in store for us after the curtains come down on our short time her on this earthly stage.

Our blessing, and theirs comes through the Kingdom of Heaven. As we know, the Kingdom does not exist only after the end of time but here, on earth, right now. It is present to us now, here in this place, where we are gathered together. Why? Because we all share and display the values of the Kingdom. Providing we live in poverty of spirit, we are blessed and sanctified as Jesus has promised in the Beatitudes.

The Kingdom of heaven has come near. That’s what John the Baptist preached. Those same words were given to the disciples when they were sent out on mission. That was the message Jesus gave them to preach.

Living the values of the Kingdom helps bring about the Kingdom in the here and now. Those who show mercy. Those who work for peace. Those who are poor in spirit, who do not lord it over others, those who are pure in heart – to them belongs the Kingdom, and it is those people who are sanctified by Christ and called Saints. Through them, Jesus brings about the possibility of goodness.

What does all this mean to us, the latter day saints, those of us who are at this service today? It means we align ourselves with all the saints of the past. Those who have run their course. Those who have gone before us. Those who now enjoy their reward in the nearer presence of God in heaven. We carry on the work they carried on from those who went before them.

We like them live according to the Kingdom values Jesus outline in the Sermon on the Mount. Our blessings reside both now, as well as in the future.

It’s not that we look only to the future, or look back to those saints of the past. No, we are living even now within and under the reign of God. We don’t fully understand what this means. It’s enough to accept we are fully in God’s hands, and trust in him.

We are blessed to share in the Kingdom right now, whilst moving towards a new creation in the future. And at the end time, we will receive the rewards of those who have remained faithful to the last. Past and present, not just a hope of things to come.

All this is fine in theory, but where can we get inspiration from? Who can we follow? In the past, people tried to emulate the saints. They were examples of sacrifice and sanctity. But if we are all saints, we need to be on the lookout for people who bring alive the Kingdom of God in our midst. Those who endure hardship themselves whilst dedicating their lives to others. Those who have selflessly found their ministry in the service of their fellow human beings. Very often, such people are almost invisible. They work in the background. Their whole lives are spent helping the sick, frail or others in need. They are the true meek whose trumpets are unheard, yet whose Christian sacrifice is well known to God. Think for a moment of anyone you know who is like that. Instead of admiring them, can you not follow their good example. The Big Society is absolutely the wrong description for such as they are. Yet these are the saints we should all aspire to copy. And by seeing in their faces the likeness of Christ himself, we are copying Jesus.

The other reading set for today puts it rather well. It’s from I John:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.


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