Saturday, 1 November 2008

All Saints' celebration

I've spent the week thinking about the sermon - on & off - but not got round to posting - for which (if anyone ever reads this) - apologies.

As you'll see from the notes below I have a baptism at one church - but this is the sermon for the other church (if you see what I mean). It may seem very simple - but I wanted it to be. Maybe my brain has been in a half-term sort of mood - or just frozen solid by the cold weather! Anyway - her it is:

Fully Alive! 1 John 3: 1-3 Matthew 5: 1-10

Yesterday was All Saints day. Some people’s impression of saints is of people who gave up all fun in their lives to follow Jesus. But one of my favourite saints is St Teresa of Avila – who was once travelling with a younger nun who was shocked to see Teresa tucking into a dish of partridge with great relish. ‘Haven’t we devoted ourselves to a life of prayer?’ asked the younger woman, to which Teresa wiped her mouth & said ‘at prayer time, prayer – at partridge time, partridge!’.

Or to put it rather more reverentially, in the words of Irenaeus,
‘The glory of God is a human person fully alive’.
This is what it means to be a saint – to be fully alive: alive to God, alive to others and alive to the best self that we can be.
And alive to the communion of saints – aware of our place in that wonderful, quirky, fully alive bunch of people who are the saints of God.
And I don’t just mean the sort of people who end up in stained glass windows and having little booklets written about them – I mean all the saints of God – every single person who tries to follow Jesus, each member of that huge family stretching around the world and down through the centuries.

We can all be saints.

The passage we heard from John’s first letter explains that this has nothing to do with our efforts to be good. It begins with God’s love for us – which makes us the children of God – loved, special, able to live in relationship with God.
This is why this morning at Pampisford we were baptising a baby – Matilda – baptising a young child who cannot even speak for herself yet reinforces the message that God’s love is a gift for us the moment we are born – we don’t have to earn it.
John’s letter also makes it clear that God’s love grows in us through our lives and enables us to become more and more like the fully-alive saints God has made us to be.
This sign of God’s love in the water of baptism is only the beginning for Matilda – God’s love will be there for her all her life, and if she chooses to respond to that love she will be able to grow more and more like Jesus Christ, more and more ‘saintly’, if you like.

And what’s true for Matilda and everyone in Pampisford is true for all of us in Duxford, too. God’s love is there, offering us life in all its fullness, offering forgiveness and peace and a growth towards saintliness.

This doesn’t mean that life in the love of God is easy – you have only to think of some of the more gruesome ways in which saints have died to know that God isn’t offering us an insurance policy.

Saints have it hard – whether it’s Peter & Andrew, crucified like their Lord, or Catherine of Alexandria on her wheel, or just ordinary struggling saints like you or me. Being a saint doesn’t make you immune to life’s difficulties.
But Jesus, in that part of Matthew’s gospel which we call ‘the sermon on the mount’ makes it clear that whatever life throws as the saints who follow him and live in God’s love, in the end, in the words of another Saint – Julian of Norwich – ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’.
Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful..” for he knows that despite – sometimes even because of their difficulties all these saints of God will know God’s love more and more, and share in God’s presence at the end of their lives.

You might wonder what proof we have of God’s love for us – why should we believe that we are as precious to God as a new born baby to its parents?
The answer comes in this celebration of communion in which we can all share – as bread is broken and wine is poured out we remember that in Jesus Christ, God came to our earth to live and die and to be raised from death to show that there are no limits to God’s love for us.

All are welcome to eat and drink and to receive this sign of God’s love through which we are fed with food for our pilgrimage and strengthened to follow Jesus Christ.

So welcome to this communion - a celebration for saints – not because we are perfect, but because we are all God’s children, and God loves us always.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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