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Sermon - All Saints 2005

By The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

We are God’s Saints

Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday, All Saints day falling on Tuesday 1 November

In our services we each declare, ‘I believe in… …the communion of saints’ as we use the Apostle’s creed

Last Sunday evening the Bishop said in passing that one of the doctrines he believed in more and more as he got older was the doctrine of the Communion of Saints

We say these words so often, without perhaps thinking of what they mean, and what they imply for our lives day by day

So what is it that we believe in? Who are the saints that are in communion?

It’s normal understanding to use the word saint as a title of honour for those whose lies had exemplified the life of Christ, especially those who had died for the faith, not just in the faith. This was the original context of the word and the celebration of All Saints Day and the understanding that many people outside the church have today

But as the Bishop went on to explain, the Communion of Saints is also about our being part of the body of believers, past, present and future, who confess the Christian faith

All Saints Day is also known as All Hallows Day and in the Lord’s Prayer we pray ‘hallowed (or Holy) be your name

And therefore one of the key concepts that’s inextricably linked with All Saints days and our being part of ‘that great crown of witnesses’ as Paul calls it in Hebrews (Heb 12 v 1), is that of being a holy people, of us being holy

As God calls the people out of Egypt He says to them, ‘…you shall be Holy as I am holy’, and Peter in the NT explains, ‘…as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct’

As God invites us into a relationship with Him through Jesus, He calls us be holy as He is holy. He calls us to be a special people, set apart, sanctified and consecrated by Him for His work

He doesn’t expect us to be perfect - there are lots of saints who are not perfect

He doesn’t call us to be necessarily consumed by activity – although our Christian activity and mission is one of the ways we work out our holiness

He doesn’t call us to be just spiritual - no good being too heavenly minded to be any earthly use

But He does call us to be holy, living in communion with Him as a holy God, and in communion with the saints around us, those who have gone before and those who will come after us

Being holy is something that we are, by the very nature of our relationship with God. It is He who has called us and sanctified us and it is He who makes us holy

Being holy is also something we are called to be as God’s people as we live out that calling in our live

Being holy is about being open to His presence around us, open to be touched and prompted by Him, guided by Him and His Holy Spirit, about our attitude to God and how He can be in communion with each one of us and about our praise and worship of Him as King of King and Lord of Lords

It’s about being open to experience more and more of Him in our lives in our worship and in our service, it’s about something we are and something we need to grow in throughout our Christian lives, a quest we are on

Our experience of God is what makes being holy different from being spiritual. We are spiritual beings but as Christians we experience that spiritual dimension of our lives through a relationship with a God who is all holy

In addition to being called to be holy, being part of the Communion of Saints also calls us to be in relationships, not just with God but with all the other saints, who often seem very different to ourselves

Being holy and growing in holiness is a difficult concept to grasp in some ways, and would probably be difficult enough if there were only us as individuals and God to have a relationship with – as Adam and Eve experienced

And it’s even more difficult when we have to be in a relationship with those around us, our fellow believers, our fellow church members, never mind those beyond

Because it’s often our relationships with others that seem to get in the way of our relationship with God. It’s the way we can feel about others, especially if we feel they have wronged us or are the cause of injustice to us that can hinder our relationship with God and hinder us in our quest for holiness.

There’s a real sense of power and unity in being part of a great crowd, or cloud, of witnesses. I was at a Charity Ball on Friday evening; mainly we all believed and supported the cause we were supporting

I was at Bedford’s match yesterday; and all the home supporters were supporting the same cause and team and we believe that the cloud of witnesses are supporting us and praying for us, for them and us being in the Communion o Saints isn’t a spectator sport, its about participation

God calls us not just to be supporters of a common cause, but to be His holy people and to do that we have to be in relationship with other believers

Letting go of the things that stand between us, letting go of the unjust criticism and unsupportive remarks

As we remember All Saints Day, we remember that we are called to be part of that communion of All Hallows, being in relationship the saints through our relationship with a holy God

As we receive our communion we receive the elements of Christ into our lives. Through Him we are both made holy and made whole

As we receive Him, we receive the touch of a Holy God, who wants us to be holy and made whole

At our service of Prayer for Healing as we openly we receive Him and His holiness, we can also receive His healing and His wholeness

Whether that’s for or relationships that have gone wrong or got off track, for physical infirmities and sickness

On this day of all days, God invites us to come and receive His holiness and His wholeness so that we can take our part in the Communion of His Saints