Our minister Rev Trevor Dixon led the worship on November 2nd and he focussed on All Hallows Day or all Saints day. We began worship as we sang, ‘For all the Saints who from their labours rest,’ before he led the opening prayers. We sang ‘Blest are the poor in heart’, before Isaiah 56 and Hebrews 12v18-24 were read. Then we sang, ‘Give me the wings of faith to rise,’ before the gospel reading, ‘Matthew 5v1-12.
Trevor began his sermon as he encouraged us to rejoice and be glad your reward is in heaven. We have passed the perils of Halloween and come to All Saints Day. John Wesley was fond of preaching on All Saints Day, the day of triumphant joy. We should thank God for the lives of the saints, who have wrestled hard with struggles and fears. Trevor’s mother had claimed that he would try the patience of a saint. Many churches are dedicated to saints, such as St Mark’s and even schools, football grounds and universities are named after saints. Even a girls’ pop group was called, All Saints and there was a detective series with Roger Moore, called ‘the Saint’. Apparently All Saints Day was first celebrated in AD 373. Who are the saints? They are invisible onlookers as we continue noble traditions? We gather here because of the faith of the saints, who have preached and lived the gospel before us. Those who have gone before were faithful before us.
What significance do saints have for us in our secular 21st Century? Some relics of saints or bones of the departed in chanceries have significance for some believers, especially on the continent of Europe, where there are many shrines. People go on pilgrimages to where saints lived, such as Lindisfarne, Iona and places in Ireland, Walsingham in Norfolk. Why do people set off on pilgrimages? Some places become hallowed by the pilgrims and visitors. However in the daytime such hallowed places are heaving with people but can have the stillness and wholeness of a holy place in the evening. The Apostles Paul and Peter were not always saintly; sometimes they fought with each other but they were saints in the making. Churches are respected and honoured in as much as they reflect Jesus’ character. Saints became shiny examples of what Christians ought to be; their lives speak of suffering and a gathered people including all nations as Isaiah foresaw. Clothed in white robes out of the tribulation and suffering of the persecution of Nero; the wounds were made white as they had shared Christ’s suffering. Bishop Polycarp was told to curse Christ, but he had served him for 86 years and Jesus had done him no wrong and feared eternal flames rather than the burning of the body. What good would it be to gain the whole world and lose his soul? There was an unbroken link from all the suffering saints who have triumphantly entered into the Kingdom. Most of them did not think they had suffered enough to be called a saint or to be commemorated in a stained glass window. However we are all saints in the making; not perfect but all too human people struggling as did the saints of old; called of God and committed to the way of Christ. God in his love has taken the initiative and called us to be the followers of Christ, inspired by saints such as Polycarp. We are called to be saints as we are called to be the people of God. As we celebrate All Saints Day, following in the pathway of struggling, suffering saints, longing to serve God here below we too are saints in the making; Trevor concluded the sermon by asking God to bless us.
He led the intercessions before we sang, ‘Jesus invites his saints; before celebrating the communion. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven.’