We are here today to celebrate. And we have two main things to give thanks for today.
Firstly, we are joining with the church around the world to celebrate All Saints Day, where we give thanks for the saints, their work, lives and their examples.
Secondly, and of great importance is the baptism of …..
It’s always a great celebration for the church when we can baptise and welcome new members into our family.
And in my mind, these two celebrations work well together. Where we give thanks for the lives of those who have gone before us and those who have ensured that knowledge and belief in God has continued down the generations.
And where we give thanks for the potential of these new lives, and pray for their role in this clear continued line as their parents, godparents and all of us gathered here make promises to guide them.
It is equally as important for us to look at the future as it is at the past, and i know all too well that we in the church may like to look at the past a little too much at times. But at other times there can be great lessons for us waiting to be re-discovered.
I don’t know what you think of when I say the word saint.
Possibly you think of the names of people in the bible, or of the stained glass windows around us. Maybe you can think of some historical saints and a story or two of what they have done. But I’d like to offer you two definitions I found a few years back of what a saint is like.
The first is ‘Saints are people who aren’t afraid to live with both the gruesome and the glorious. They are not embarrassed to struggle with the great division between good and evil, life and death, heaven and hell. They are called forth into the unknown and return home not only safe but triumphant.’
We may gulp at this, and think to ourselves that we could never be saints, but I ask that you don’t make that judgement too quickly.
The second came from a little girl and was an ‘out of the mouths of babes’ moment when she was looking at a stained glass window and said, saints are people who let light shine through them.
We are given some guidance in our readings for this morning. In a dramatic reversal of the customs of this world, Jesus foretells the truth of what we’re in store for, and what we need to be working towards.
Unsure of your direction in life? You’re blessed.
Caught under the weight of grief and loss? Joy comes in the morning.
Undervalued and not heard by those around you? God hears you.
Groaning with longing for a moment of respite? The comforter has come.
Campaigning for peace and righteousness, only to be trampled down by violence and abuse, and those spreading lies to discredit you? God is travailing right alongside you.
The saints, Jesus reminds us, aren’t simply those who seem to have it all figured out, whose prayer life is perfect, whose service to church and community are faultless, and who have left a legacy that the rest of us will spend a lifetime aspiring to realize for ourselves.
On the contrary: The saints, Jesus tells us and John reminds us, are those who have suffered – and some who suffer still, even in our midst – and yet are able to praise God all the more.
The saints are those who have known the pain of grief and the sting of death, and still manage to find a way to sing, “Alleluia!”
The saints are those who have been excluded and ignored by every corner of society and yet still find ways to seek and serve Christ, loving their neighbour as themselves.
We are just as much saints as those we first call to mind as being holy and saintly, we are the saints of today and so on this day of All Saints, we not only celebrate the saints that have gone before us, and those who seem more like myths then historical figures of inspiration, but we are also celebrating the saints who are around today, those who have encouraged us in our faith, inspire us to be better Christians, and to follow God with a stronger faith.
In a few moments Richard will be blessing the good and holy St Albans tap water that we’ll be using to it to baptise our six and we’ll be using many symbols which date back to the earliest of times, and I believe they are incredibly fortunate that they not only have the saints of old and the traditions and symbols of the church to guide and teach them into what it means to be a Christian.
But they have the saints on earth in their family in the church and their families at home.
Those of you who have come as part of the baptism party have been asked today to be as saint like in your life as you can for the sake of that child, you are asked to be the best example to them you can be and to teach them all the important lessons you can which will help them grow into the people they will become.
So today we give thanks for All Saints, those we know, those we don’t for their lives, and for the inheritance of faith that has been passed from generation to generation. And we give thanks that we have the chance to pass it on to a new generation.
We pray for those being baptised at the start of their journeys, and we pray for ourselves that we can be the persons through whom the light of God shines and who turns the world workings upside down.