This sermon was given to a mixed congregation of adults and young children, hence the slightly different layout and use of language. It was only my second sermon so, again, I was fairly nervous especially since I had to talk to ‘little’ children (never my forté).
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
This morning we’re celebrating All Saints day, which is a chance for us to give thanks for those who have gone before us who were shining examples of the faith. It’s also an opportunity for us to remember those more recent, modern heroes of the faith. Perhaps most importantly it’s the time of year to remember that all Christians are united in a communion of faith.
Let me begin by asking the question who or what is a saint?
A couple of definitions are:
- firstly, that saints are people who have lived their lives in the service of God and in the service of others.
- secondly, the Bible uses the term “saints” to refer to all believers, people who are followers of Jesus.
Can anyone tell me some names of saints?
Earlier we said together the collect for All Saints which reminded us that we are all called to be shining examples of the Christian life. As Christians we are “knitted together” as a family of believers. Some of those names that we heard lived hundreds of years ago. But there are other more modern heroes of the faith like Oscar Romero and Mother Theresa. We are all part of this Christian family, this communion of saints. It’s through our belief and Christian life that we are united with the hundreds of men and women who have followed Jesus through the ages and throughout the world.
I want to illustrate this by looking very briefly at the story of one particular saint whose name was Aidan, but I’m going to need some help. Could I have a volunteer to come up to the front here.
The story of St. Aidan.
Many years ago there was a man by the name of Oswald. He was the king of a place called Northumbria, and Northumbria was a land filled with people who didn’t know God and who worshiped and believed in other things. Now Oswald was a Christian, he believed in God and he wanted his people to be Christian and follow God as well. So he sent for a priest from the island of Iona, which at that time was the centre for Celtic Christianity and had been founded by another great saint by the name of Columba. Well, the man who came was not very good at his job, and he failed to convert any of King Oswalds people to Christianity, and he soon returned to the isle of Iona saying that the Northumbrians were a rude and barbaric people, and it was impossible to turn them to a more gentle way of life. But king Oswald wasn’t going to give up and he asked for someone else to be sent to minister to his people. So a second priest was sent, and his name was Aidan. Aidan was a wise and holy man with a very different approach to the first guy. King Oswald was delighted with Aidan and gave him the island of Lindisfarne to be his headquarters. Aidan had great succes in converting the people of the land to Christianity. He was well known for giving all that he had to the poor. Aidan lived a life that showed the world the idea of love; the love of God, and love for one’s neighbour. King Oswald died and another king called Oswin took his place. He too was impressed with Aidan and one day Oswin gave Aidan a horse to help him in his travels about the countryside, preaching to the people. As he was journeying one day, Aidan met a beggar who asked him for some money. Seeing the poor man, Aidan was filled with compassion, and immediately gave him his horse with all its royal finery. The king, when he heard about this, was very angry with Aidan, and rebuked him saying, “Have we not many other animals in the stables, suitable for a beggar, without giving him the one I had especially selected for you?” Aidan replied, “Is this foal of a mare more valuable than the son of God?” The king was deeply moved and told Aidan that in future he could give away whatever he wished to the children of God.
Aidan was but one man. But he died believing in the communion of saints, that we are all linked together and united through Jesus Christ. So we have King Oswald who was linked to St. Aidan who was linked to King Oswin who was linked to the beggar and so on down through the ages.
Once there was a little girl who found herself in church for the very first time. She was amazed by the stained-glass windows. She whispered to her mum, “Who are the people in the windows?” Her mother didn’t want to have a lengthy conversation in the middle of the service, so she just replied, “They’re saints.” In the afternoon the girl went with her mother to visit a very elderly lady. She lived on her own and was very poor, but she was the happiest person the girl had ever met. As they walked away from the house, the girl’s mum said, “Old Mrs Brown is a saint, if there was one.” Now this posed a problem in the girl’s mind. She had been told two things: the people in the stained-glass windows were saints, and old Mrs Brown was a saint. The girl failed to see the link between the two. Then she puzzled it out and declared, “Mummy, I know what a saint is.”
“Tell me,” her mum replied.
And the little girl said, “A saint is a person who lets the light shine through.”
Heavenly Father, throughout the ages you have raised up the great cloud of witnesses from all nations and from all tongues. Grant that we, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, may be strengthened by their testimony, to be witnesses ourselves of your power and your peace, to join with their praise and like them to see you one day in glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.