You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.
Thank you to our own choir for sharing the gift of music with us.
We’ve also resumed our Children’s Time videos, which you can find here.
In these exceptional times, please do stay in touch, with us and with each other. The peace of Christ be with you all.
All Saints’ Day (Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost)
Scripture: Matthew 5: 1-12
Music: Where Two or Three Are Gathered; I Will Serve the Lord All My Days
Like a few others, I occasionally write to the Prime Minister to whine about something. Sometimes, I get a response. When I do, I realize Justin has not been sitting at his computer focused intently on crafting a reply to me. I know the email was actually written by someone way down the pecking order who replied for him. I get this because when I was in the private sector, I wrote letters for senior executives whose signatures were added at the bottom so we could ensure the auditors were happy and that the files were properly fed.
But in June of 2015, I was on my annual trip to Brudenell, PEI, for the Atlantic Senior’s Golf Championship and I was sitting alone in my hotel room checking my email when I saw a note from Desmond Tutu. I expected it was a response from his secretary but when I started to read it, I got really excited because it had some spelling and grammatical errors. It was actually written by Archbishop Tutu! One of my heroes, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, one of the great saints of all time had actually written me and it was from his iPad! I knew it was him because of the errors. I just sat there dumbfounded and couldn’t believe it. I was amazed.
A few minutes later, one of the other guys in the tournament came stumbling into my room, fueled by a few adult beverages, to tell me he was an atheist and he didn’t like the church and he didn’t have any respect for what I did.
I immediately went from being overwhelmed by getting a personal note from one of the greatest saints ever, to dealing with, shall we say, one of the lesser saints. Oh well. . .
Growing up Roman Catholic, I heard a lot about some of the saints:
St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and St. Joseph, the father of Jesus, whose name was added to my Baptism certificate by the priest, St. Francis of Assisi who loved animals and the environment,
And St. Jude the patron saint of lost causes. (Who was especially important to me during some of my exams.)
Later, when I studied theology, I became interested in other saints:
St. Paul and St. Augustine, who I still argue with all of the time,
Saints Joanna and Susanna, who financially supported Jesus,
St. Hildegard of Bingen, a mystic and visionary who helped expand my understanding of how we encounter God.
Then there are the contemporary saints who we know:
St. Theresa, who cared for the poor and the dying in the slums of Calcutta,
St. Martin Luther King and his vision and quest for racial justice in the US and peace around the globe,
And yes, St. Desmond Tutu, who helped South Africans face the truth and pain of apartheid and who helped bring about justice, healing and reconciliation.
These are just some of the people, who are part of the great cloud of witnesses and their stories have helped inspire me and millions of others. They are role models whose stories inspire us in terms of how we live and what values are important to us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us about those who are blessed; Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful and the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Blessed are you.
Jesus didn’t mention performing extraordinary feats or living lives that were focused on perfection or piety did he? Instead, he talked about those things that build character and values that we believe in. The values that are rooted in all of the messages he offered; caring for those on the margins, working in ordinary ways to make life better for others, seeking justice and peace, and especially loving your neighbor. For those values are the foundations of how we are meant to live.
I asked Andy at the start of the video about some of the great saints he has known and he talked about people who influenced him as a young person, then a faithful organist in her 90’s and others; ordinary people in whom he saw extraordinary qualities. Those are the kinds of saints who have actually influenced me the most.
There are those same kinds of people in my life. Women like Lena and Sue who modeled caring and compassion. People like Larry who was concerned about social justice the common good. Teachers like Martin and Shelley who had a passion for helping people dig deeper for greater insight and meaning; ordinary people in whom I saw extraordinary characteristics.
It has been a strange seven months hasn’t it? One of the hardest aspects is we haven’t been able to be together as a community of faith to celebrate many of the saints who have gone before us in these times: Jay, Joe, Gordon, Edna, Peggy, Chris, Brenda, Don, George, Robin, Marion, and many, many others. Saints one and all.
Someone once said, “Saints are those who managed to love more than we did.” Or who managed to love differently than we do.
So, I am sure, Jesus would say to you, “Blessed are you.” Jesus offered blessings to one and all; to rich and poor, to tax collectors and prostitutes, to lepers and little children, to anyone who would receive them because he saw God in each of them.
These blessings within us, these character traits, are ours to do something with – to be the blessings in this world we were taught we could be. One day, who knows – we will be the honored saints because we took the blessings we received and gave them away just as Jesus did along with all of the saints who followed.
So, today, I invite you to honour someone who helped make you who you are and who you might still want to become. And one day, we each might hope, we will be remembered for the positive marks we left on the lives of others. Impossible as it may sound to us now, we might even be remembered as saints ourselves; for blessed are you.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Holy One, with the saints of every time and place we lift our hearts to you. We give thanks that we have arrived at this moment, not by ourselves, but inspired by the love and dedication of those who have gone before us: parents and grandparents, family and friends, mentors and communities of faith. And we pray that what we do will support and encourage the faith of those who come after us. God of All, hear our prayer of thanksgiving for the family of faith.
God of blessing, as we hear the Beatitudes we are reminded of Jesus’ ministry to the last and the least, his desire to bring healing to relationships, and his mission to restore the forgotten to the centre of community. As the Body of Christ today, we hear this call to be a blessing to our neighbours, and to see how we, too, are blessed when we reach out in love. Help us, always, to look beyond our own landscape to your horizon of giving and of grace.
On this day, as our American neighbours prepare for a contentious national election, we pray that all people might treat one another with compassion and peace. We pray that polarization and division would give way to mercy and understanding. We pray for humanity and dignity, generosity and goodwill. Guide us, O God, to trust in you and your care for all people.
We pray for those who are ill in body and in spirit; for those who feel alone; for those experiencing a significant change in life or circumstance; for those who are concerned for a loved one or friend; for front-line workers, those who keep us fed and warm, and those who care for our bodies and our souls; we give you thanks, and we pray for their courage and strength, and ours.
And on this All Saints Day, we remember especially those whom we have lost this past year, all those whom we have loved, and all those whom we love still… Keep them in your eternal care and peace, O God, and keep us in communion with all your saints that, at the last, we might rejoice, together, in your love. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us when we pray to say, Our Father…