All Saints Day
An act of worship at home
Reading Matthew 5: 1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
As many of you will know my wife, Eddy, has severe hearing loss. She manages amazingly well but on occasions (this morning being a classic) it can result in some strange and somewhat surreal conversations. That, combined with the words I have just read, reminded me somewhat irreverently of a scene in the Monty Python film, “The Life of Brian”. It is a scene which opens quite seriously with Jesus stood on a hill surrounded by thousands listening to him as he speaks words that have become known as the sermon on the mount.
After a few seconds the camera moves backwards over the heads of the crowd, further and further until Jesus is barely visible and barely audible and we see Brian right at the back of the crowd struggling to hear.
A wealthy couple standing near Brian are also struggling to hear and understand but when the wife hears the words “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” she exclaims patronisingly “Oh that’s nice, I’m glad they’ll get something.”, a sentiment ruined almost instantly by her wealthy husband proclaiming that the meek most certainly will not inherit the earth. The final confusion happens when someone else at the back of the crowd mishears peacemakers as “Blessed are the cheesemakers” but someone helpfully explains that it doesn’t just apply to makers of cheese but people who deal in all dairy products.
The point I am making, badly, is that even if we hear Jesus’ words they are not always easily understood, and sometimes as we try to understand we can overcomplicate their meaning. What these words of Jesus mean is quite simply this – those who are living out their lives in faith; those who go about – seeking to do what is right; those who are able to feel their pain and express it; those who are trying to show mercy; those who are willing to accept insult and injury for the sake of doing what is right; those who seek to make peace; those who are walking humbly before God – are met by God. God encounters them. God inhabits them. God strengthens them. God rewards them. God comes to them and meets them – where they are.
Today is All Saints Day, a day when we remember those who have died. This has been a tough year for so many people and in a year when I have conducted far more funerals than usual my heart breaks for so many families living with the deep loss of a loved one. It’s so hard to know how to cope at such times, do you try not to feel anything, shutting down the emotions that are so painful just to be able to keep functioning? Or do you let go and allow yourself to feel and express your hurt and anger and confusion? Each of us lives with it differently, partly depending on who we are and partly on our circumstances. Blessed are those who mourn, God meets with us where we are, in all that we are experiencing and feeling and, when we are ready, we will recognise his presence and his blessings.
And the same is true for all the beatitudes (as they are known). God meets us in ways we might not expect.
He meets us in our weakness, in our grief, in our hunger for salvation, in our attempt to do what is right, in our pain and suffering when we are persecuted. He meets us in the cross that we share with Jesus.
The proof that God meets us ultimately is found in us – that proof is not found in our great visions and great religious experiences, as wonderful as they are; it is found in our growth in understanding, in our increase in love, in our acceptance and faith in the midst of difficulties, in our doing of justice, in our love of kindness,
in our humble walking, We can meet God in many special ways and places and that is good – but the really good news is this – God comes to meet us – in all ways and in all places.
And all he asks us of us as he comes is that we trust and believe. Thanks be to God. AMEN
Amazing God, your ways are not our ways. Your true power is made perfect in weakness.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: we pray for the poor, the powerless, the weak; those who know their need of God.
Stillness The kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are the sorrowful: we pray for the bereaved, the guilt-laden, the depressed; for those saddened by stories of violence and neglect. Stillness They shall find consolation.
Blessed are the gentle: we pray for those caring lovingly for others; those whose acts of self-giving go unsung.
Stillness They shall have the earth for their possession.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail: we pray for those who work for justice and equality; those who speak out to the powerful on behalf of the powerless. Stillness They shall be satisfied.
Blessed are those who show mercy: we pray for those with responsibility for the lives of others; those who seek to act with compassion and understanding. Stillness Mercy shall be shown to them.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure: we pray for all Christians on their earthly pilgrimage; those seeking God amidst the distractions and temptations of daily life. Stillness They shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: we pray for the healers of conflicts in and between nations, communities, families; those struggling to forgive great wrongs. Stillness They shall be called God’s children.
Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: we pray for those who, at great cost, stand up for goodness; those who witness to your way in a cynical and uncaring world.
Stillness The kingdom of heaven is theirs. We pray in the name of Christ, the wise fool for love. Amen.
For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But yonder breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
May the love of the Father course through our veins. May the goodness of Christ pulse through our bodies. May the power of the Spirit flow through our souls. May the wonder of God resonate through our minds.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us now and always. Amen.