Sunday, November 03, 2013

All Saints Sunday - Homily for 8.00 at All Saints, Uplands

I  believe in the Communion of Saints...”
That's what we assert week by week – but I wonder what it means for you.
It's very easy to picture The Communion of Saints as simply the shining ones who are quite out of our league...those who have made it...who stand in glory around the throne of God....who have passed through the great tribulation and washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb...
Such wonderful finished products – overflowing with holiness, love, joy, and peace – in painful contrast to the rest of us who toil onwards, falling over our own feet, letting God down on a daily, even hourly, basis.
Saints and sinners...
As dear Bishop How puts it in that truly wonderful hymn

Blest communion, fellowship divine – we feebly struggle, they in glory shine”

That's one vision...Is it yours?

If it is – this morning I'd like to invite you to rethink.

Have you noticed how often Paul, in his letters to young churches, writes to “the saints in Ephesus...Philippi....Corinth...”....But as we read the substance of those letters we see that the recipients are very much works in progress, making just as many mistakes as we do ourselves. They are real people – messed up, sinned against and sinning but CALLED TO BE SAINTS in just the same way that we are ourselves.

If we use the Beatitudes as our yardstick, we may well feel we'd prefer to avoid sainthood– for if it is really blessed to be poor, to weep, to be hungry, hated, insulted, rejected...then, please Lord, could you choose someone else
In truth, we can often see God's light shining most clearly at times of the greatest darkness – so perhaps it's no surprise that those who suffer are also those who shine.
And it's all about shining...
Remember Leonard Cohen's wisdom
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”

It's their flaws that enable the saints to show us God's grace at work...It's our flaws that may show that same grace to others.

So let us celebrate the every-day saints, as we are invited to by the priest and poet Malcolm Guite in his sonnet for All Saints

And blessed are the ones we overlook;
the faithful servers on the coffee rota,
the ones who hold no candle, bell or book
but keep the books and tally up the quota,
The gentle souls who come to 'do the flowers',
The quiet ones who organise the fete,
Church sitters who give up their weekday hours,
Doorkeepers who may open heaven's gate.
God knows the depths that often go unspoken
Amongst the shy, the quiet, and the kind,
Or the slow healing of a heart long broken,
Placing each flower so for a year's mind.
Invisible on earth, without a voice,
In heaven their angels glory and rejoice.

Holy, holy, holy Lord”

That shining circle who stands around the throne of God is still very much part of our story…for we worship together, our prayers and praises connecting with theirs across time and eternity.
When I first celebrated Mass, the day after my ordination as priest, I was completely bowled over by the overwhelming presence of that heavenly company….MY saints. - the people whom I’d known and loved, who had shaped my journey…and those who had died long before I was born, but whose words or deeds had inspired me. They were all there, standing beside me at the altar – and when I’m properly attentive, they are there still, week on week, singing with us, lending power and life to our song.
Pause to listen for their voices yourself, this morning, and be thankful.
Oh yes, I believe in the Communion of Saints alright...I'd be lost without it.
Without them – and without you - the saints of Uplands, of Stroud, Cainscross or Slad...(the saints of twitter and Facebook too)
We may not think of ourselves as holy in any way…but actually, by virtue of our baptism, holiness IS our calling.
We are, every one of us, set apart for God…called to be saints, just as we are.
Flawed, imperfect people, but people through whom the Light of the World is content to shine.

Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine....Alleluia”


Wendy said...

Thank you for this. I feel very much like a work-in-progress saint today. This is a good reminder. It's okay.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I have just read the poem to my husband, who was totally bowled over by it! Thank you.