Sunday, November 04, 2012

I  believe in the Communion of Saints
That's what we say whenever we recite the Apostles' Creed, as we've done this afternoon, but like many other clauses of the Creed, it's probably something we don't think that much about.
If we do, we may have vague images of shining people, probably wearing those strange Biblical nighties. After all, that's how the saints are described in the book of Revelation, from which the words of the Victoria anthem were taken
Oh, how glorious is the kingdom where the saints rejoice with Christ. Clothed in white robes they follow the Lamb wherever he goes”
All well and good – but it doesn't sound very real, does it?
When we say “I believe in...” - we mean – THIS is where we place our faith...THESE are things on which we dare to try to build our lives....and all those pallid figures drifting around in white robes seem to be rather too remote and ethereal for that. They might, I suppose, give us something to aspire to on a good day, but I'm not sure that I'd really know how to relate to those great heroes and heroines of the faith, those tested in the fires and found to be pure gold. After all, they seem a far cry from a middle-aged vicar in Gloucestershire with a weakness for gin, chocolate and detective fiction. I know that those shining souls are the ones who have made it.....but surely even at the beginning they must have breathed a different kind of air, been in that category of people who are so darned heavenly, they aren't of any earthly use at all.
No. Stop right there, Kathryn.
That's NOT how the Communion of Saints works, I'm sure of it.
Communion means a group of people who are united, sharing thoughts, purpose, feelings...Admittedly, when I think about "the saints," these great women and men who came before me, the idea of being united with them, tempts me to say, "You've got to be could I be in that number?"
All the saints...
ALL the saints” - there is such a range to remember. The great and the good whom we know from Scripture, right enough...but also many many others. The everyday saints who would blush or guffaw at being described in that way...the friends and family who have loved for us, encouraged us, inspired us. Let me share a few of my saints. 
The dynamic, inspiring school choir master, who probably drank too much, but who helped me to grasp that in worship we can be caught up in the music of heaven. The elderly couple, just another pair of pensioners sitting in the back pew, who used to invite my toddlers to sit with them every week – giving me the space to worship and to listen to God I so badly needed. The school-marm godmother I rarely saw, but who, wonderfully, prayed for me each day of my life. 
You'll have some too - people who have helped you to see God in the world. Think about them for a moment, your very own everyday saints – shining with God's love, just as we too are called to shine.
In the collect for All Saints' Day, we pray:
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord.
The mystical body...All sorts of men, women and children...people dealing with a myriad different issues, facing their own struggles in life and faith – and numbered among the saints not because of their talents or personalities but because of God's action.
And what is true for them holds good for us too.
Through Jesus' ministry, we have been knit in one communion, one fellowship, one Body of Christ. It is in Jesus that we find our true identity, and our passport to the Communion of Saints.
In other words, "For all the saints ..." is for us – you and me
We are part of one communion of saints with all the heroes of the faith, with our loved ones who have gone before us, with our friends on earth and friends above...In all our doubts and fears, in all our joys and certainties we are not for one moment alone. Together we are part of that great company in whom God's love shines...
I believe in the communion of saints
Flawed, imperfect people. People like us, through whom the Light of the World is content to shine. Ordinary, broken (for we need the cracks to let the light shine through) but transfigured by God's grace and God's glory.
I believe in the Communion of Saints – and I believe, too, that we are part of it.
All are one in Thee, for all are thine.
Let's pray
Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. 

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