Sermon given by Fr. Brendan Clover for All Saints Day November 2013

  • Sermon Details
  • Location: All Hallows Easton

Today with our Hindu and Sikh brothers and sisters we are celebrating a festival of light, of the light of Christ in the lives of the saints.

We Christians celebrate God as a God of Light because we believe in a ‘revealed religion’. That is to say that as we look at the darkness and the light and the shade of everyday life, of things as we know them, we believe that God speaks to us, that he has spoken in the past and he will speak again, and in so speaking God reveals Himself. We look at everyday experience, the history of the world, our understanding of things as they are and in particular at our experience of prayer and worship and the sense of need and the sense of not being quite at home in the world, and we look at all that and say, “all these sorts of questions point to an answer that God provides”.

And, in particular, we look at the life of Jesus of Nazareth; we see him in the world in which he was born, synagogue on the Sabbath and the carpenter’s shop in the week in an outpost of the Roman Empire. And we know – because the scriptures tell us so – that the men and women who knew him knew that he was “not just one of them”, that he had revealed something to them which they did not know before, that in his Resurrection which they thought about first, and in his Cross, which they thought about next; and in his life and teaching they had heard the Good News from God. They knew they had been enlightened, where before they were partly in darkness. And they came to call him ‘The Light of the World’, a phrase attached to Him in the fourth Gospel.

And because he is the light of the world we have candles on our altars and in our processions and at our shrines.

So the Christian is a man or woman who believes in revelation, who believes that God is not unknown. God has chosen a way of showing himself – of manifesting his light and glory in the history of his chosen people and in the history of the Church. All this turns on the enlightening story of Jesus of Nazareth.

And today we are celebrating the light of Christ radiating out of the lives of the saints. All Saints Day came into being because there were too many saints to remember individually each day of the year, and now there are hundreds of saints: martyrs, apostles, priests and people. All Saints Day captures them all. They are our guides and inspirations; they intercede for us before the throne of God’s grace.

But in the New Testament it isn’t just the dead who are referred to as the saints: it is also the living. We are called to be saints, to reflect into the lives of others something of the light of Christ.

As we celebrate the light of revelation and as we recognize God’s gift of his life to us through Jesus, we can see that revelation casts its light on the things of everyday. We know that ordinary things and ordinary people mean more than we thought if we look at them in the light of Christ. Look at the person next to you and see the light of Christ in them. Look at Ken and Jessica celebrating 40 years of marriage. Think of that constancy and commitment: it is a sign of the constancy and commitment of Christ.

If we look at human nature: if we look at goodness in men and women or children; or if we look at service – at people looking after others; or if we listen to music; all these things we can understand as being indicators of the life of God within us, because we have seen the light of God in the goodness of Christ.

I’ve chosen these examples, human nature, ordinary goodness, serving other people, hearing the sounds of Heaven in music, because these are some of things in which we can excel. All of these things are pointers to our divinity in our humanity, of our potential to be saintly. The revelation of God’s goodness in Christ Jesus our Lord tells us about the meaning of our goodness. We may be very good, or quite good or very bad, but our bits of goodness are aspects of the light that lightens every person coming into the world.

Imagine if you can a lighthouse on a pitch dark night. The beam of light it sends out transforms the darkness. Imagine a candle in a dark room. Once lit all is enlightened. That is the transformational effect we are called to have on those around us if, like the saints, we can reflect something of the light of Christ without getting in the way of it!