Friday, 4 November 2011

All "saints" in the world

by Peter Lockhart

an interactive sermon

Today I have merged two themes within the liturgy.

The first is “life in the world” and second is a celebration of “all saints day”, two themes which are intrinsically linked together.

Over the past 3 weeks we have followed themes of the Christian life – prayer, scriptures, and community. Now we turn to contemplating our life in the world as Christian people.

When I spoke to the children before I emphasised the idea that our holiness comes to us from God as a gift, it is not something we can make for ourselves.

Yet as people who have been made holy we are called to holy living, living as if the kingdom of heaven has already come near.

When Jesus teaches the crowds on the mountainside, in those well loved words, often called the beatitudes, what he describes is not simply a future hope but a present blessedness in the lives of the disciples, and an invitation to share in the life of Christ.

The great German theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer, in his seminal work “The Cost of Discipleship, explores the meaning of the beatitudes and how living the beatitudes might shape our lives. He says:

“All are called to be what in the reality of God they are already. The disciples are called blessed because they have obeyed the call of Jesus, and the people as a whole because they are heirs of the promise.”

Yet as Bonheoffer points out a question remains unanswered. “Will they [the people] claim their heritage by believing in Jesus Christ and his word?” This is the question which lies before each one of us this day as well.

“Are we committed follows of Jesus Christ?” Or to borrow a phrase from the Basis of Union and put it into the context of the community of the church, “are we a fellowship of reconciliation bearing witness to Jesus Christ?”

Now whilst the Protestant tradition to which we belong does not make people “saints” like some other church traditions remembering great examples of the faith can help and inspire us to be what in the reality of God we are already.

I want us to take some time sharing the stories of the examples of faith for our own lives this morning. To do this I would like to encourage you to get into groups of no more than 4. Think about people whose faith inspires you and share what it is their faith that has helped you in your faith.

Sharing Time 1

This morning I opened the worship with the words of Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

One of the things that I appreciate and I find challenging about the saints is that this is what they do – they speak of God continuously, in all kinds of places, always ready to articulate their faith in Jesus Christ. For me when the faith is articulated or witnessed in action the kingdom of God comes near.

There is a wonderful Butteflyfish song which captures the hope of the gospel in the words:

I ain't goin' up to heaven in the sky
I ain't flyin' with the angels when I die
I ain't gonna rise up in the clear
Cause I do believe my dear
Heaven's comin' down here

In your groups I want you to have a look at the following pictures and answer the questions

Where can you sense God’s presence might be in this picture?
And secondly, how might that presence be shared?

As people drawn by grace into the life of God in and through Jesus we have been made holy. The question as Bonheoffer so rightly points out is whether or not we will respond or turn our backs on this good news.

The saints, not just the chosen ones, but those faithful people throughout our lives who have taught us faith and drawn us closer to God have been God’s gift to us. We know from their lives following Jesus does not necessarily bring safety and comfort and an easy life, in fact it might be quite the contrary. But in living the beatitudes we live knowing that we truly are blessed people.

Photos Creative Commons

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