All Saints

All Saints 2010

Marian Free

In the name of God whose presence is around and in us. Amen.

(Notes for a sermon)

I want to tell two stories this morning

There is a story about a monastery which, like many monasteries of its times was struggling to attract new members. As a result the community was fractious and filled with discontent. There were not enough people to do the daily tasks so everyone felt put upon and everyone felt that no one else was pulling their weight. Into this mix came a visitor – a stranger who was passing by and needed shelter. The stranger joined in with the activities of the monastery for a few days. When it came time for him to leave the stranger announced that during his stay he had received a revelation from God. It had been made known to him that it was to this community that Christ would come when he returned to earth.

Well, you can just imagine the anticipation and anxiety that followed the announcement. Of course, the community would have to be ready for Jesus’ return – not just physically but spiritually. Members of the community began to grumble less and to go about their chores with more grace than had been seen for some time. What is more, their attitude to each other changed. If this was the community into which Jesus would come, perhaps he was here already.

No one mentioned their fears, but the life of the community changed dramatically. Every member of the community treated every other as though they were Jesus himself. Everyone became considerate and thoughtful about the needs of others, no one complained about how much work they had to do.

The second story relates to a Parish in which one of the churches was dedicated to All Saints. One year, to celebrate the festival of All Saints the children made crowns (the symbol of All Saints). During the service the crowns were presented to everyone in the church and everyone, old and young, joined in the spirit of the day and wore their crowns throughout the service. It was a marvelous sight to look out at a congregation of crowned saints and to be reminded that in the early church the term saint was not reserved for particular people, but was applied to all believers.

The two stories are quite different, but in my mind they are connected because both relate to how we, especially we in the church, see each other.

When Paul writes to the members of his congregations he calls them all saints without discrimination – the good, the bad and the indifferent – they are all saints. If, according to Paul, we are all saints, and if, as the first story reminds us, Jesus is present in us all, we are challenged to see each other differently. As with the monks, we are confronted with the notion that everyone else in the community is Christ, and everyone in the community is a saint.

All of us are here because we have glimpsed in some small way the saving grace of Jesus and the boundless love of God – that makes us saints. It doesn’t automatically change our brokenness and vulnerability, being saints doesn’t make us perfect just those who are on our way to being perfected.

But – if we are all saints, and if Jesus is present within each of us – then we should treat each other as saints and as if Jesus himself were truly present. Such respect, such tolerance of each other’s foibles would truly make us into a remarkable community, a community on which others would comment and a community so filled with love and peace that others would want to join.

This is already a community of love and care. May the saints at St Augustine’s be so formed into the image of Christ and of the saints of old, that those who know us may say as Tertullian said of the early church: “Those Christians  – see how they love each other.”

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