By Rhonda Pigott Thorndale
I struggled with what to talk about today as we are halfway between All Saints Day and Remembrance Day… So, I went with All Saints.
All Saints Day, celebrated November 1st, is the feast of the known and unknown believers who have go on before us; the people who have made a positive difference in our life. All Saints has been celebrated for centuries. In the ancient Celtic calendar Hallowe’en ends the old year and All Saints begins the new. All Saints Day is a day on which we remember special people who cheer us on and encourage us to live faithfully.
Take a moment to remember those people who touched your life.
Saints are in the past and in the present. The more orthodox churches only recognize people who have passed on as saints, but many other traditions honour those people who are living and touch our lives in the everyday.
Sometimes I can feel them and hear them around me, telling me “I can do this, just show up”, telling me to be faithful, telling me of their God moments… sharing positiveness. Sometimes I listen to them as they share a story or a joke. Or just drop in for a visit.
The saints that reach out to me are my personal saints. They are people who by their actions and words reveal God’s love to me. They are people who strive in theirown special way to be faithful. They touch my life and give me a special gift, always of love, often of wisdom.
I’d like to tell you about some of them. As I do, I want you to think about who are your Saints?
There is a man living here and his partner was in Toronto. They spent long hours working and developing a publishing house – and in doing so lived their faith – showing fairness and love in all they did. They didn’t always use words to express their faith, but faith was shown in action. It empowered me to try new things – things I would have otherwise never considered.
Another saint is a man called Paul; an outspoken Aussie who challenged me and still does by asking whose tough questions. Those questions I’d rather ignore – yet I need to hear.
My parents would be there too, for their constant love and support. Along with my kids and other family members. My husband, who loves, supports, and encourages me from behind the scenes and picks me up when I fall.
Mother Theresa, a woman who dedicated to life to others – who lived in joy in the slums of a huge city in India. St. Columba, has had a major impact of my life. Through my Celtic roots I have gained an understanding of a “green Christianity”. George MacLeod, founder of the present-day Iona community encouraged people to seek peace and justice for all people. The community continues to try to live that acceptance today.
I remember the man who always turned up the thermostat in the church I attended as a kid...
A woman who played the organ and taught children to sing...
A child who filled the church with his laughter...
A teacher who made friends with and defended students that other teachers didn't like...
I remember a fisherman who always gave thanks for all that he caught, and a farmer who did the same.
I remember, and I think of, and at times I am sure I can hear the voices of all these people.
I think of the legacy of the friendship quilt hanging in our church hall. It makes me smile
as I walk by it, seeing those names, remembering those faces, and the positiveness they brought to our church. Go have a look if you like after the service…
I look around our church and am thankful for all the saints here:
· The people who run and support the thrift shop
· Our minister and secretary, greeters and coffee makers, and the choir and their leader
· The people who come faithfully, the people who show up occasionally and our welcomed visitors.
· The people who stock and take care of the Community Fridge.
· And the people who do all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff, to mention a few.
They are all saints to me. A saint is someone who makes a difference, someone, whose life is worth imitating.
Who do you remember? Who showed you a bit of what God is like? Who sought to love their neighbours, and to love God? What makes the difference in how we remember someone?
One of the keys is found in our Gospel reading for today… Jesus begins the Sermon of the Mount and the familiar Beatitudes.
Jesus tells us:
· Blessed are the poor in spirit
· Blessed are those who feel the weight of the world's suffering,
· Blessed are the humble,
· Blessed are those who hunger and long for what is right and good,
· Blessed are those who show mercy and compassion,
· Blessed are the ones who are pure in heart, who don't have any room for bitterness or anger,
· Blessed are those who work for peace and reconciliation in the home, the church, the community,
· Blessed are those who are willing to accept the ridicule and derision of others in order to stand up for what is right and good
The people we remember, the saints in our life, were and are people like that! And I suspect that the people that you remember share those same qualities and characteristics.
We are called to be loving, kind, compassionate, generous, faithful people. This is the way we are created to be, and when we are anything less than that, we diminish our own lives, and we diminish the lives of those around us.
With teaching like this, backed up by his own life, Jesus raised the bar of love to a new height. Did the saints fulfil all these high values? Did they live perfect lives? Is that why we call them saints? I don’t think so!
Saints are not perfect people just as we are not. Even the most famous saints were not perfect. Think of Jesus disciples. Peter was inconsistent. Paul seemed a little arrogant. John and James wanted honour and glory. And the list of defects goes on.
All the saints, as the expression goes, had feet of clay, but they had something worth imitating, something worth remembering.
Are the saints of the Christian story, in spite of our lavish praise of them, really just as blind as the rest of us? Is it a case of the blind leading the blind?
If we look honestly at people who followed Jesus, you will discover they had many black “floaters”, which blurred their vision and held them back from perfection. The same thing applies to all of the saints through the centuries.
The same thing applies to us. Did they have faults like ours? Of course! Some knew the “sermon on the mount” by heart, yet at times they were blind to the way those words should be implemented in their era. They sincerely tried, but they often failed. Their achievement was partial.
With each of the official saints, and all the other souls, including those who have touched our lives, there is some degree of blindness. Is it a case of the blind leading the blind? No. Their flaws did not inhibit the light shining from their lives.
We are right to honour them and try to emulate them. The same is true of those people who touch our lives today; those people who are there for us. They are not superior beings. They are not demi-gods. They are people like you and me, created in love, trying for follow Jesus’s example.
Their faith and love may seem much deeper than ours, but it is the same faith and love. The capacity of their mind and spirit may seem much larger than ours, but it comes from the same humanity as ours. it is not beyond us to learn from them.
We may be small candles rather than a bright lamp, but we are important as small candles. That is what being a saint is all about - making a difference, a positive difference, a loving difference, the kind of difference that gives the hearts and minds of others love.
Each one of us, is called to be a saint, and each one of us is a saint. Each one of us, has a special goodness inside of us. We are called to help create the world as God intends it to be, patterned in love and caring.