A sermon for All Saints Day
I don’t suppose anyone has been to Liverpool Cathedral? I went to the Cathedral a lot when I was small - its stained glass windows are amazing. I remember when I was small going into this huge cathedral and looking up at the huge amazing windows that pictured the life of Jesus and the saints. As my family were not Christian the people in the windows never made any sense to me. I remember looking at them being really intrigued wondering why those people where so special. I love stained glass windows, in fact in Goulburn Cathedral, the windows are really beautiful too. I remember hearing a story of a father and his son, the father and son walked up and down the aisles of a cathedral, with their heads upturned, amazed at the stained glass windows. The father asked his son, “Do you know who the saints are?”
“Sure,” said the son, “the saints are the people where the sun shines through.”
That is such a good description of a saint, they are people who have the light of Jesus shining through them.
I don’t think this is a tradition here in Australia but in Wales this time of year it is a time where we celebrate the harvest. It’s where people come together and decorate the church with some of the harvest they have harvested ready to give to the poor. It is a custom to cut out some vegetables and put a light in them — not just pumpkins, they use swede and potatoes. This time of year in the UK it is getting dark by 4.30 so this is a way to light the way on the way to church. When I lived in Wales I would go into the little Anglican rural schools and make a Harvey pumpkin. Harvey would be made by all the kids at the school from ages 4-11. There were only about 15 kids in each school. The big kids would make soup with the pumpkin and carve it while the little kids would make decorations. We would tell the story of the saints. We would light up Harvey harvest Pumpkin and remember the importance of shining the light of Jesus in our own lives and sharing the light with all we meet. The local families would come and then share soup and homemade biscuits and it would be a time for the community to be together and celebrate the light of Jesus.
[the carved pumpkin held up for everyone to see.]
When we light the pumpkin up we see the light shining out of its eyes, this is similar to the story of the little boy saying he knew who the saints where because they had light shining through.
Do you think a person has to be perfect to be a saint? If that is the case that would rule most of us out. I have the word saint here, together lets see if we can unscramble the word. When we unscramble the word saint we can make the word stain.
Do you think a person can be a saint if their lives contain a stain from making a mistake or making a bad choice?
Today we will look at lives of some of the saints.
I want you to think of St Paul before he became a follower of Jesus, do you know what he did? He arrested and even tried to kill Christians.
If we think about Peter’s story. What did Peter do? Peter denied he knew Jesus three times.
All of us make mistakes, that's why we have the good news, the bible. The good news that God forgives us and washes away any stains so we can be saints too. All of us can be saints.
The word ‘saint’ means ‘holy’, which is another way of saying that someone or something has been given to God in a special way. Some people may be used to the phrase ‘set apart’ to express the same idea.
Now the children are going to share a little about the saints
Does anyone feel that being a ‘saint’ which means being given, or giving yourself, to God changes how you were thinking about the saints.
The apostles often talked about Christians as being ‘the saints’. Do you think we would feel comfortable to be described as a saint – if not, is it that we don’t feel worthy?
We do not earn the title ‘saint’; it is God who calls us, forgives us, and equips us to serve him. Being a saint is not an achievement, but a gift from God to everyone who believes in Jesus.
Today If you have time come and tell me your stories of the people who you honour love and remember today. The special thing about our memories is that no one like the person we remember has ever been before and no one like them will ever arise again, because God created in your love and relationships beautiful memories for you to hold and to cherish.
To praise God in times of joy is easy. To praise God in times of sorrow is much harder. God has an ultimate plan for the world, that every individual has a unique role to play in that plan, and that the plan is good.
Today on All Saints Day I want to honour my great grandmother. She passed away at age 101 in 1997, I was 22 years old when she died in Liverpool. She was one of a kind, I loved her deeply. I would like to give time to remember her today but also give a time for you to also remember those people we have loved and lost …..
In the prayers there will be a time of quiet where we will have the opportunity to honour those who we have loved. We remember the things that make them special.
My great nan was also my Godmother, apparently when my twin and I were born we were not expected to live. So my great nan had us baptized and gave us to God, and today I really believe she had a part in me having my faith today. Like all memories we think of the good and the bad. I am glad I could share my memories of her today, we don’t often get to share stories of the ones we have lost and loved.
I’ve left a bowl of olive oil at the back of church.
Oil was used in the Bible as a way of indicating that someone or something was ‘set apart’ for God, for example, anointing kings or objects used in worship. Today I invite everyone to think about whether we live as if we were ‘set apart’ for Jesus – are we aware of our special calling to serve him in our homes or workplaces?
As a final act of blessing, I invite you to dip your finger in the oil, perhaps making a sign of a mark of a cross on your hand, as a way of marking your willingness, as you go out from the service, to live as ‘saints’ in the world.