Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints. Now I understand that there are many Christian denominations out there that have completely done away with the idea of celebrating saints days - and even this general thanksgiving and celebration of All Saints. Can I say at the outset that I view that as a great shame. We as Christians can learn so much from those who have come before us! Today is about giving thanks for the gift to the world that the lives of Christians past, and present are and have been - it is not about putting these people in exalted positions in place of God - it is about looking to them as ones who point the way to God. What do you think of when you recall the love and compassion of St Francis of Assisi, and the faith that made him say, whilst undergoing great pain and suffering which eventually led to his death: "I thank you, Lord God, for all my pains; if it pleases you, Lord increase them a hundredfold. I shall thankfully accept whatever sorrow you give, not sparing me; for in the fulfilment of your will I find my greatest solace."
When I read of his life and death I give thanks to God, I pray to the Father that I might be able to emulate the faith, love and devotion of Francis - I certainly don't elevate him to any position of deity. That my dear friends is the point of days like this - we celebrate and give thanks for the Saints - for those known to us like Francis and for those who are unknown, the ones who have been and still are faithful servants in the Kingdom of God. We pray today that like them we can be faithful, and we ask God that we might follow their example of devotion to God.
On this day I also want us to remember that we are members of a communion of saints. Those of us who recite the creed as part of our worship each week say that we believe in... 'the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.' . How often have you read or said this without thinking on what it means? If we are a part of a communion of people who have everlasting life what does that mean? Christian tradition has since the earliest times of the church held that this means that we faithful witnesses don't worship alone, but that we worship together with all the angels and saints who have left this world and are now alive (cf. Jn 3:16) and in the presence of God.
Please as you reflect on this reading from the Revelation of St John, look forward to the new heaven and the new earth, and give thanks for the promise contained within. Give thanks for those Christians who are in the presence of God now, and for those who roam the earth now. Pray that we like those who came before us can be faithful servants in the Kingdom of God, so that at the end of our earthly lives we might join with them in worshipping our King in eternal life.
I finish this week with this prayer I have blatantly plagiarised from the Anglican Communion Facebook page :)
Almighty God, your saints are one with you in the mystical body of Christ: give us grace to follow them in all virtue and holiness until we come to those inexpressible joys which you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.