This morning we celebrate All Saints, a time when we remember all those who have in one way or another been exemplars of the Christian faith; people who have somehow rose above the humdrum of life and shine out as beacons of commitment to the Christian message… Of course, the most famous saints are known for their deeds that have been written about over the centuries. They appear in the bible and chronicles, as leaders of communities and popular figureheads.
Our own East window depicts a large body of saints from the time of Christ throughout the life of the church. You may notice that not one of them is a woman, although women have been saints since time immemorial! However, I would suggest that this window reflects more accurately the patriarchal society of the Victorian age rather than a sleight on the ability of women to be called saints.
Even so, they stand before us robed in nobility and transformed in glory. Near impossible models of distinguished sainthood and yet their histories are based on living out the attributes that Jesus revealed, not just with his closest group of disciples, but to a crowd of ordinary people on the side of a hillside; people like you and me.
Here was Jesus’ call to us to live the Gospel, by putting into practice in daily life the beatitudes, to demonstrate meekness, mercy, righteousness, justice, purity and peace. ‘Blessèd are the peacemakers… although Monty Python’s film the Life of Brian would have had us believe it was the cheesemakers!
Pope Francis has written that, “Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the beatitudes,” which are “the Christian’s identity card.” He asserts that “If anyone asks: what must one do to be a good Christian?” then “the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount.”
Developing and exhibiting these characteristics, direct each of us to be more saintlike, a calling that Paul highlighted was possible to the people of Corinth, Ephesus and Rome, all of whom he wrote were, ‘called to be saints’. So, it follows that we are all called to be saints, to be witnesses to Christ, but there are many ways of bearing witness and many ways to be blessed.
Earlier this year Dave Walker and Jayne Manfredi produced a very clever cartoon for the Church Times. It was entitled ‘Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic’ and whilst the nature of cartoons is to make us smile, they often hold truths beyond the humour.
Here then are eight beatitudes in a form for our current situation as we move back into lockdown and need God’s love and presence with us even more through this continuing time of uncertainty.
Blessèd are the teachers, for they remain steadfast and constant in disturbing times
Blessèd are the those who stay indoors for they will protect others
Blessèd are the single parents, for they are coping alone with their responsibilities and there is no respite
Blessèd are those who are isolated with their abusers, for one day – we pray they will know safety
Blessèd are the hospital workers, the ambulance crew, the doctors, the nurses, the care assistants, and the cleaners, for they stand between us and the grave, and the kingdom of heaven is surely theirs
Blessèd are the bereaved, for whom the worst has already happened, for they shall be comforted
Blessèd are those who are alone and isolated, for they are children of God and with him they will never be lonely
Blessèd are all during this time who have pure hearts, all who still hunger and thirst for justice, all who work for peace and who model mercy. May you know comfort, may you know calm, and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all.
Today we remember all the saints, but don’t forget that they are still here and that they move among us each and every day. They are you and me when we answer Jesus’ call and bear witness to his love
Blessèd are those who believe, for they are a comforting presence in a hurting world as they continue to signpost toward God