Rev 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44
All Saints day
St Barbara’s 01.11.15
Rev Tulo Raistrick
I wonder, who has been an inspirational figure to you in your life? Who have you looked up to and wanted to be like?
Maybe they have been your mother or father, and you have felt, when I grow up, I want to be like them, I want to be a parent like them, or I want to grow old like them.
Maybe they have been a teacher or a coach who really believed in you, who thought you could be the best student, the best tennis player, etc, you could possibly be, someone who has so inspired you that you wanted to emulate them.
Maybe they have been a political leader who has exuded such integrity, vision, courage, dynamism, that you have thought, I want to be like them.
Or maybe a business leader, who has achieved something extraordinary.
I wonder, who has been an inspiration to you in your life?
In pairs, share with your neighbour. Feedback.
Being inspired by others is really important. The example of others can encourage us to think we can do something too.
I remember struggling with a big decision, and then my eye happened to be caught by a picture of Nelson Mandela. I thought of the incredible sacrifices he had made, the incredible obstacles he had to overcome, and it helped me to gain the inspiration to gain clarity on the way ahead for myself.
Our lives are poorer, our lives are more earth-bound, if we do not have people who inspire us to achieve greater things or live better lives.
And so I wonder, who inspires us in our Christian lives? Who inspires us to live lives that hunger and thirst for righteousness, who lead us to want to pray more, to serve more, to grow deeper in our knowledge and love of God?
When we chatted about this at one of our home groups recently I was struck that the people we talked about were not necessarily the most famous people. I think we may have mentioned Mother Therese or Desmond Tutu in passing, but the people who had been our real inspirations were friends, or family or colleagues whose lives spoke to us. Ordinary people but living in extraordinary ways.
I think of a lady called Rosemary, whose prayerfulness at university, whose willingness to choose to step outside the social pressures of university life to give time to pray, inspired me to start praying.
I think of two friends, Ian and Ruth, whose hospitality and kindness, whose willingness to open their home and give generously to those in need, whether it was a bed for the night, a hot meal, clothes, or time spent with them helping them find work or advocating on their behalf, has been an inspiration and a challenge to me ever since.
I think of a friend Jim who took me under his wing when I was a teenager and through patience and perseverance helped me to grow in my fledgling faith in God.
There are many more. People who have inspired me to live the Christian life, who have shown me what it is to follow Christ.
None of them are perfect and indeed they would probably be a bit embarrassed if they knew I had mentioned them this morning, but they have shown me glimpses of what it means to follow Christ.
I wonder who has inspired you? Who do you look to, who has given you a vision of how the Christian life can be lived?
Share in pairs.
Today, All Saints Day, we stop to give thanks for those who have been our inspiration in faith. Some of those saints may be saints from the distant past. Saints from the Bible such as Saint Peter and Saint Paul, men whose lives were full of failings and rough edges, and yet used by God. Some may be saints from throughout the centuries, saints such as the celtic missionaries of Northumberland, Aidan and Cuthbert, or Francis of Assisi, or those who wrote profound spiritual books such as Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Avila. We remember those who were willing to die for their faith, martyrs such as Stephen, Barbara and those of recent times such as Janani Luwum of Uganda, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Oscar Romero of San Salvador.
Some of those saints we stop to give thanks for may be less well-known – saints who touched our lives personally – but have now departed this life: family members, friends, colleagues.
And some of those saints are alive today.
We regularly hear the phrase “They’re no saint!”, as if by inference, being a saint is someone who is holy and perfect in every way. That is not how the New Testament saw it. Indeed Paul and Peter in their letters used the words “saints” and “Christians” interchangeably. All who follow Christ are saints. All who follow Christ can show Christ to the world and be an inspiration of faith.
So now, on All Saints Day, let us do three things:
Firstly, lets just pause and give thanks for the work of grace in saints we know who have been an inspiration to us. Let us pause and be grateful that God has touched us through the lives of others, living and dead. Why not think of one person now that you particularly want to thank God for. Pause.
Second, let us be shaped by those qualities of God those saints have shown to us – whether that is courage, or kindness, or prayerfulness, or hospitality, or perseverance, or holiness, or justice – so that in turn others may see in us something of God’s grace and light, and give thanks. May we be an inspiration to others just as others have been an inspiration to us. Take time now and ask God to prompt you as to what quality he is wanting to inspire and nurture in you this day. Pause.
And thirdly, let us look forward to the glorious day when all the saints in heaven and earth will be united, when death will no longer be a divide, but we will all be together, from across the centuries and across the world, worshipping before the throne of God. The reading from Revelation gives us that wonderful vision of what is to come: “a new heaven and a new earth… when the home of God will be among his people. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Our struggles in this life, no matter how great and challenging, are transitory; the promise of the life to come is for eternity. Let us give thanks to God.