All Saints Sunday – Sermon 232
All Saints Sunday
10.00am Holy Communion
3rd November 2013
Bible References :
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Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
The Saints – who are they?
How would you describe a Saint?
–Somebody Famous – somebody special – Some body Great? –
Somebody in the Bible?
Paul’s definition of a Saint in our NT reading is someone ‘marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit’ –
Robert Louis Stevenson calls Saints – ‘sinners that keep on going’
The grandparents of a little girl – brought her to the church – to show her the images of the saints in the stained glass windows –when they’d finished – they asked her to describe what she thought a Saint was
Her answer was simple – “somebody who the light shines through” –
being a Saint is about being Christ-like – and Jesus has some very clear ideas about the qualities we would need for that – as we have heard in our sketch –
First Point A new code of practice
In the Gospel reading – we have what we call – the Be-attitudes – teaching from Jesus in simple rhythmic verse – about what it means to put God first – foundation stones – or steps that we need to climb – if we want to Be more like Jesus –
Jesus’ method of teaching is to give his hearers three or four things to remember to do – and three or four things to remember not to do –
Imagine that we are a school teacher in a playground – where there are dozens of youngsters kicking a ball around – and you want to call them together to play in a football team –
Having selected your players – its no good lecturing them on the refinements of the game – the art of dribbling or – bending it like Beckham –
You have to assume they know something about the game because they are all playing together – but playing in a proper match is not the same as playing in the playground –
so what they need is a few do’s and don’ts – to get them started – key points on how to work together for the good of the team and for themselves –
then in the heat of the moment – when they are thinking of what to do next – some of these basic guidelines will come back to them – or you hope they do – to keep them focused on how best to go forward –
Well Jesus – of course wasn’t thinking about his disciples – and hearers – playing in a football match – He was addressing something far more serious than that?
What the people of Israel did have – was a long memory – they knew about God’s activities in history – through to the twelve tribes of Israel – and their descendants – and their priests and holy men had developed a lot of different interpretations of what they should be doing – to please God – which to put it bluntly – were well wide of the mark – but the people were trying to follow them –
Some had ideas about – withdrawing in the desert – some for violent revolution – some for supporting the Romans – and some for following the Law – to the Book –
But Jesus came along with some new rules – He picked – the nucleus of His team – and gave them clear orders on how – God’s work should go forward –
Four promises – and four warnings –
But it wasn’t a code of practice that they might have expected –
It was an up-side down code – to many that listened to it –
Point 2 The Be-attitudes
Blessed are the poor?
How can the poor be blessed?
Being poor – is not a very nice state to be in!
How can those who weep – be laughing?
And those who are hungry be feasting?
Does Jesus actually want us to celebrate when people hate us?
And the warnings – to those who are rich and have plenty – is their comfort – really coming to an end?
What Jesus is proclaiming in these verses fits well with what He described – as His intentions – in His first sermon at Nazareth – at the beginning of His ministry – that Keith highlighted to us last week
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me – because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor – He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives – and recovery of sight to the blind –
To let the oppressed go free – to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’
For those who haven’t had a lot of good news for some time – Jesus is bringing them some –
But for those who are rich and powerful – who think they have made it – and are satisfied with their ‘self’ rule –
“I didn’t get where I am today – by being merciful!”
Their time had come! and of course – to them – Jesus – had become an enemy.
Love – mercy – forgiveness – helpfulness – caring – are to be the prime motivators –
Not greed – prejudice – self-interest – pride –
A new way of living – has been announced – and His twelve and the many that follows after them – are required to play His way – and not the world’s way –
But there’s more to being Christ-like than just obeying a few simple rules – no matter how hard they are to stick to –
In the last few verses of this passage Jesus gives us concrete ways to love our enemies –and He’s not just asking us to think that way – It’s about showing – love – in practice –
Give to everyone who begs from you
If someone strikes you on the cheek – offer the other –
If anyone takes your goods – don’t ask for them back
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
It’s a tough challenge –but unlike the footballers – we are not on our own – we have help – help and support from Jesus – from God and His Holy Spirit –
Point 3 Inheritance of the Spirit
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells us that God wants to give us the Spirit of Wisdom –
A Spirit to support our practical skills – providing understanding – revelation – greater knowledge of Jesus and His ways –
and a power for living – power not as the world understands it – of brute force and strength – but a power of love – seen in humility – service and self-sacrifice
So often in moments of crisis or opportunity –difficulty or challenge – we find ourselves short on power – when we most need it – in such moments – God wants to illuminate us – with His Spirit – so we may know the hope of His calling – and power of the king –
For Paul the greatest display of power the world has ever known was when God raised Jesus from the dead – no one has ever been raised bodily from the dead before – or since –
‘God has put all things under His feet’ – which means that nothing is more powerful than Jesus –
And this power and illumination is there and available for us to use to help us live as God intends us to live –
He speaks too of the Spirit being an inheritance or ‘down payment’ – for the future
Saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus’ ways and nature – not only brings us His power and security – today – but also a foretaste of what awaits us – a guarantee for what is to follow- of the promised future – that has come forward to meet us in the present –
Jesus came to turn the world’s way upside down –
His road to God is paved with love and compassion –His job description – a tough assignment – but we have God’s Spirit and strength to support us all the way –
The Saints are people set apart from the crowd – they know they have a faith of Grace – and that God has done everything in His power to make it possible for us to know – grow –and glow – with Him – and in Him –
So – to be or not to be – like Christ ? Its a question – we all face – The saints before us have responded – How will we respond?