All Souls

Revd Sarah
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 8:30pm

Sermon – All Souls – ‘A new birth into a living hope’   1 Peter 1: 3-9

 Tonight, is a night of thanksgiving, light, and hope.  As St Peter’s words remind us...... that living hope Christ gives us, transcending death through resurrection, in communion with all the saints in the ‘unfading, light of heaven’.

On All Saints day, yesterday, we celebrated the great saints recognized by the church. Saints who can encourage us still, as we see the grace of God at work in their lives.  On All Souls, tonight, we continue to celebrate saints in a more personal and intimate way, remembering with thanksgiving before God those whom we have known, those who gave us life or who nurtured our faith, those who cared for, encouraged, inspired or simply loved us... those who allowed us to care for and love them. 

At both All Saints and All Souls we celebrate the extra-ordinariness of saints. 

The great saints canonized and celebrated by the church, are usually remembered for a moment of supreme faith or sacrifice, or simply for rather strange or mythical behavior. But the real example of saints is not the spectacular moment, but the lifetime of steady, godly days. When we remove the halo, we see the saint. When we peal away the layers of perfect gold artists and church historians have painted onto saints over the centuries, remove our own expectations and projections of perfection, we usually uncover the true gold of holiness. We discover a very real human being who offered their life wholly to God and to others in selfless, sacrificial love.  

The great St Francis, for example, died feeling an utter failure, deserted by all but a handful of his Franciscan brothers, suffering the agonies of leprosy and other diseases for years through tending the sick and dying with unfailing devotion. Yet he lived to the last in service and praise.  

St Francis shows us the deepest mark of a saint – acknowledgement of their need of others and of God as they live in the honesty of their own human frailties.  When we see beyond the halo, we see a human being living faithfully day-in-day-out, allowing the inflow of God’s grace into their hearts, from where the extra-ordinariness of God’s love flows out to others.

Tonight we remember the saint in every soul. We remember not perfect beings but ordinary saints - real, vulnerable people, sometimes struggling or weak, sometimes stubborn and frustrating, yet people who brought light and life to us and others, perhaps simply through the warmth of their smile, the generosity of their kindness, the depth of their love.

We give thanks tonight for those whose lives have personally inspired us, those who have drawn us beyond ourselves to greater life. Those we love and remember simply for who they were.....and who they are as they live on in our lives.

Soon we will have the opportunity to light a candle as we remember. And as we reflect on the brightness of a cherished life lost from our sight, that life can live on through us as they continue to shape us in the richness of our memories and the communion of our hearts. 

Saints help us to see things differently, to live differently, to love differently. Ordinary saints speak to us today perhaps, by prompting us to ask what we think life is really worth living for. Searching our hearts for the courage to perform costly acts of kindness and generosity. Asking us whether we can radiate warmth, peace, openness, hospitality, and God’s light into a world that’s sometimes dark and cold as we reach out and enable a fellow soul to be touched by the presence of God’s love. 

To open ourselves in all our vulnerabilities and need, is to allow ourselves to be filled with God’s love streaming into us like the shards of light that sear through the early morning mists of autumn; enabling us to reflect that light, to reflect that love, to others.

Dante (in the Divine Comedy) puts it beautifully:
The love of God unutterable and perfect
Flows into a pure soul the way that light rushes into a transparent object,
The more love that it finds, the more it gives itself; 
And the more souls who resonate together,
the greater the intensity of their love, 
For mirror-like each soul reflects the other. 

The ordinary is made extraordinary in our communion with all the saints; in our communion with others as we reflect God’s love; in our Holy Communion in Christ as we come forward shortly to receive his broken body or a blessing, and be transformed in his love.

It’s our prayer of thanksgiving, our living hope:

Lord, in the darkness of this age that is passing away, may the light of your presence, which the saints enjoy, surround our steps as we journey on. May we reflect your glory this day and so be made ready to see your face in the heavenly city where night shall be no more.