Today is All Saints Day and often there is a tendency to focus only on that great cloud of witnesses who have now entered into God’s everlasting Kingdom. Not just the likes of John and the other Apostles we read of in Scripture, but also those who we know have done so much in the name of God down through the generations. And we tend to think of them as having entered God’s Kingdom whilst we might hope to join them one day.
However, All Saints Day is a celebration of all Saints, known and unknown, and stems from the belief that there is a powerful Spiritual bond between the Church in heaven and the Church here on earth. For some that then poses a further question about just whose lives we should be celebrating and giving thanks for on All Saints Day.
In the book of Revelation, at the beginning of chapter 3, we read, ‘See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God…’ Does this mean that we can change our way of thinking, such that we can begin to widen our understanding of who we consider to be Saints?
If John is correct and we can all be called Children of God here and now, doesn’t that mean that all who faithfully live out the Gospel message as best they can, who seek to share the love of Christ in all they are and do, can’t they be thought of as being Saints? Are we able to alter our understanding of the Kingdom of God to accept that we are living in that Kingdom now?
These are all very profound and meaningful questions and perhaps ones that we don’t consider too often, nor indeed wish to consider too often, preferring instead to simply focus on that great cloud of witnesses who have now entered into God’s everlasting Kingdom.
So on this All Saints Day let’s indeed remember those who have gone before us in the way of their faith. But let’s also remember these words from John in the book of Revelation and let’s rejoice and give thanks for this love that God lavishes upon us and let’s reflect that we are not made saints by what we may have done or left undone, but rather through what God has done for us all in His Son………..Let’s pray…
Lord of all being, of all life, as we come before You in worship here today, we acknowledge that You are indeed the centre and soul of life itself and that by Your Spirit, You come to us each and every day, pouring Your love upon us, calling on us to walk in Your light.
Your love for us brings a smile to our faces and joy into our hearts, as we share in the joy of all that You have created and in Your grace and majesty You created us in Your image, capable of great and wondrous things, yet also so weak and fragile.
And as we come before You in worship this day Lord, we ask that You would encircle us with the tenderness of Your strength and embrace us with the gentleness of Your mercy, that within Your love we might be touched by Your Spirit, as we lift our hearts and souls to the glory of Your name.
Loving God we praise You because you have shown to us in Your Son that Your love reaches out to all people. Yet we confess that sometimes we fail to do likewise and with sadness and sorrow we admit how well we know that our lives have not always been pleasing to You and yet we have failed to change our ways.
Lord forgive us we pray and into the midst of our lives we ask that You will once again come and guide our steps. Help us to turn our hearts and minds away from ourselves and our own failings and to focus on Your forgiving and accepting love. So that we might walk together in humility and faithful obedience, desiring above all else to become the caring, sharing people that You have called us to be in Your Church here today, proclaiming Your Gospel message at all times and in all circumstances.
So come and be with us now we pray and lead us in worship here this morning. And unite our hearts and voices together now as one, as we come together in the words of Your Son……
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever…Amen
Read Matthew 5:1-12
I wonder how many of us have read these verses from Matthew’s Gospel, the Beatitudes, and all of a sudden felt somewhat inadequate in terms of our faith. Because if we are honest with ourselves, we know the occasions when we have had thoughts and feelings that we should never have had and when we have behaved in ways we should never have behaved.
We remember those times when we gave thanks for the actions of others, at the same time asking questions of their motives. We recall those occasions when we remained silent because standing up for what we believed or using our voice to uplift others would have meant rejection and persecution by some. And we remember those words of mercy and forgiveness we offered even when our hearts remained cold and callous.
And today, on All Saints Day, we perhaps feel this even more, as we think of those whom we ourselves might have thought of as Saints. We remember their courage and conviction, their boldness and humility, their unwavering faith and we dare not even consider ourselves to be as worthy servants of God as they were.
However, any blessing we receive through fulfilling any of the actions in the Beatitudes is not because we were able to do the thing we did. The blessing comes from the aid and consolation of the Holy Spirit being with us, guiding us, and bridging the gap that is simply part of being created.
So what then are we to make of these blessings that Jesus speaks of here and how do we apply this to our lives of faith each day?
Many people look at the beatitudes as essentially being a set of instructions as to how we as Christians should live our lives each day. But they’re not. Nor are they some kind of addendum to the original commandments or a collection of self-righteous and pious hopes of what is yet to come – vague promises or prophecies even of some future time of blessing.
They are blessings which exist here and now and they express the joy and delight that is ours as Christians to follow Jesus – the sheer joy that comes from knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Yes, there is no doubt the blessings they speak of will find ultimate fulfilment and consummation in the everlasting presence of God.
But they are still a reality here and now – a list of blessings that we will receive if we strive to live as Disciples of Jesus Christ. And there is a hugely important difference here…
In sending us His Son, God acknowledged that we could not live to His high standards; that we were unable to live the kind of sinless life that He wished. So there would be no point therefore in Jesus simply then telling us we have to do this…and we have to do that…oh, and we can’t do this…
Because as has been the case since the dawn of creation, as human beings we would all fail – we are incapable of living a perfect life. And still today, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we remain incapable of living our lives without making any mistakes. But, we don’t have to worry about that anymore because Christ has done that for us.
However, what we should do is try to live as Jesus would wish us to. So these beatitudes are not so much about our action but more our attitude. Here Jesus is not simply commanding us how to live, He is asking us to think about how we live. He doesn’t only want us to live by sheer obedience to His teachings – He wants our hearts to belong to God.
Through Jesus Christ, God has shown His love for us. He now wants us to accept this love into our hearts and to share this love with others through the way we act day by day. So what does this mean for us today?
The vision reflected in Matthew’s Beatitudes is essentially tied up with our expected character as believers of Jesus Christ and in a sense offer a foundation for the kind of Holy living that is celebrated on All Saints’ Day. And this way of living consists of our absolute trust and faith in God, and our active involvement in God’s compassionate and transforming mission in the world today.
Saints, therefore, are those whose lives bear witness to suffering and struggle, and to strive to live as God would wish us all to, demonstrating life on the margins and fulfilling the prophetic role that this world so badly demands. They belong to the past, present and future of God’s Kingdom.
And what unites them all, and of course us, and what holds us all together as one is that we are all God’s children. All unique and different, yes, all with our own skills and gifts, yes – but all children of the one true living God, sanctified through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. It was not their or our achievements or qualities on their own that makes them Saints, but God’s grace working in them.
So ultimately today we celebrate what God has done, not what we or those who have gone before us in faith, have done, but God.
God, through His Holy Spirit is the One who is able to empower, equip and enable us all. So today, the persecuted ones are still seeking to make peace and those mourning are still showing mercy. They do not give up – and nor should we. Through His Son and by His Spirit, God has transformed us all. And in our weakness we are safe, because, in the words of the Beatitude, we know that one day, we will see God.
In His Son, God reverses the values of the world and so ‘the saints’ are not heroes of holiness, but the poor who simply hold on to God. God achieves all these through the Lordship of Christ. In Him, God has won the world. As for us, today…
Let’s continue to be a comfort to those in need; let’s be merciful, let’s be humble, let’s be peacemakers; lets’ be pure in heart. Not because God demands it, nor for the benefits that we receive in behaving in this way… but because God loves us and through our actions wants is to share that love with others… Amen.
Loving and merciful God, Father of us all, have mercy upon us and all your children everywhere. Forgive us the mess that we have made of Your world and hear us now as we come before You thinking of those who need You most today. We pray for peace in this our world and ask that You might move among us by Your Spirit and break down any barriers of suspicion, hatred and fear. Heal the human family of all its divisions and unite it in the bonds of justice and peace. And as we pray for our own nation we ask that You would enrich our common life and strengthen all forces of truth and goodness in our land.
We pray for all who suffer this day, especially through sickness or bereavement. Encompass them with Your love, surround them with Your strength and console them with Your comfort. Show them that there always is hope and equip them with the courage they need to accept this hope. We think especially of those in our own families and communities, those whom we love and care for. Support and uphold them in their times of difficulty and anxiety, that they might draw close to You in faith and so find the love and compassion that they need.
And on this All Saints Day, we remember with thanksgiving those who have gone before us in the way of our Saviour. Keep us united with all your saints on earth and in heaven. Grant that as we journey through the years we too may know joys that are without end till at last we too come to Your everlasting and eternal Kingdom…Amen