All Saints Day
Have you heard this cry during the pandemic? “Where are all the Christian leaders?” “Where is the Christian viewpoint being pronounced?” “How do we get to hear what Christians believe about the pandemic?” It may be that I am at the time of life when I am looking at obituaries more than some but it appears to me that a lot of our Christian influencers of opinion have ‘gone to glory’ recently.
Billy Graham simply described on his headstone as ‘preacher of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ But he was a giant of the faith in America and amongst the presidents and worldwide too. A whole generation of Brits came to faith after the 2nd World War at Billy Graham open air crusades at Harringay and Wembley.
Jim Packer who in an epitaph was described as someone who ‘never lost the common touch with an exemplary Christian character.’
A few years ago, John Stott who in 2005 was listed in Time Magazine as one of the top 100 influential people in the world.
Just recently in 2019 Michael Green of whom it was said at his thanksgiving service “we give thanks to the Lord for the privilege of being associated with such an amazing man of God and for his incredible legacy.”
Today, on this All Saints Day I want you to remember and join with me in honouring these and other more ordinary men and women of God who are now in glory but have had an influence on your life maybe in coming to faith but also, on your practice of faith throughout your life here on earth.
You see that’s what I think today is all about. I know that Pope Boniface in 609 AD began the practice of All Saints Day when he remembered the Virgin Mary and all Christian Martyrs and we are encouraged today to remember all the Saints with a capital ‘S’ today but the Bible speaks about ‘saints’ in a very different way, as ordinary people.
Saints in the Bible – There are some 70 mentions of the word saints and they are all in the plural. No one individual is mentioned but the plural word ‘saints’ is used as a collective term for God’s people. On many occasions, it is just a word to describe a group of Christians. You guys, God’s people, the saints! And in many versions of the Bible, the word ‘saints’ is interchangeable or even replaced by God’s people.
We notice too, that there are more mentions in the NT than the OT. In the OT, one of the Hebrew words used for ‘saints’ is Qados which means belonging to God, hence distinctive in character, you could say holy. And the other is Hebrew word Hasid, which means loved by God, with his covenant love and so it implies love of God by the individual as well, a two-way relationship.
In the Psalm we had read earlier, Psalm 149, contains the word ‘saints’ 3 times. In v1 the saints gather to celebrate something new, reminds us of other Psalms that start ‘Sing to the Lord a new song!’. In v5 the saints rejoice on their beds! Whether this means they can’t sleep because of their joy or they can sleep soundly because they feel safe, we’re not sure but something has happened that is worth celebrating. In v7, the saints are honoured, in the same way that I am encouraging us all today to honour the saints today. But do you notice that God’s people are called saints whilst they are still living not being commemorated after their death. And it’s the same in the NT.In the NT the two senses that of the word Qados ‘holiness’ and Hasid ‘love’ coalesce in the one NT Greek word for ‘saints’ which is Hagios.Saints in the New Testament.
It is clear that all God’s people are ‘saints’, it is not a term confined to the few, who are a cut above the rest, or distinguished for their miraculous acts or great faith.
- In Paul’s writing he regularly uses the term ‘saints’ in his introductions to the letters
- Romans 1 v 7 ‘loved by God and called to be saints’• Corinthians 1 v 1 ‘with all the saints throughout Achaia’
- Ephesians 1 v 1 ‘To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful’ etc
In the book of Revelation, in the face of persecution in the last days, the saints were ‘those who bear testimony to Jesus’ 17 v 6,who show ‘patient endurance and faithfulness’ 13 v 10 and who ‘obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus’ 14 v 12
Do you notice again, both in Paul’s letters and in Revelation, God’s people are called ‘saints’ whilst they are alive. The verbs used here are all in the present tense. It’s only in Revelation 16 v 6 when it talks about the ‘saints’ who shed their blood and died for the faith that we are encouraged to commemorate the saints.
So be encouraged my friends, as long as you have love for God, bear testimony to Jesus, patiently endure, are faithful and obey God’s commandments, then you are all ‘saints’ now!
One more key characteristic of the saints that I want to focus on and that is their prayer life.
Before the throne of God in Revelation chapter 5, the 24 elders have a golden bowl in their hand which is described as ‘full of incense, the prayers of the saints’ and again in chapter 8, when the 7th seal is opened in v3 it says ‘another angel, who had the golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints’. It’s clear that the saints in the Bible are people who offer up prayers to God. But please don’t think that the saints are necessarily people to whom prayer comes naturally.
Recently I was reading about St. Theresa of Avila. She was a Spanish nun, one of the great mystics and religious women in history. Theresa was a Carmelite nun in the 16th century and author of ‘the Way to Perfection’, one of the Christian classics, the first woman to become a Doctor of the Roman Catholic church and one of her prayers which you may have heard is ‘Christ has no body’ which begins:
Christ has no body but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes with which he looks.
Compassion on this world.
And of prayer St. Theresa said “prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” But for the first 20 years of her time as a nun she is known to have found the hour of prayer in the Oratory a most tiresome time longing for the minutes to pass, and on one occasion forcibly trying to push the grains of sand in her timer through the hole, so that the time might go more quickly!
However, we know Jesus placed great importance on prayer and we are told that Jesus is even now at the right hand of God interceding for us.Romans 8 v 34
Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.Hebrews 7 v 25
Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.And so it was, that as Theresa grew in her friendship with God, her attitude to prayer changed and she grew into a real prayer warrior.My Personal testimony
One of the biggest influencers with respect to faith in my life was my mum. Some of you will know that she died aged 93, a couple of years ago now. It was early on in the pandemic that I really began to miss having mum around to talk to about Christian things. But the thing I missed most was knowing that my mum was offering up prayers to God for me, and Mel and our family, and also, the family of the church. You see every Sunday morning, I knew that my mum was holding her own little church service in her room in the Care home that she lived, and she was praying for our Church Family in Bournemouth. When I got to chat with her on Sunday evenings, she would ask me how our worship went that morning, and how was the sermon received, was the Spirit moving among us and did we meet with God. That’s something I really missed!
But I have come to understand that mum is still offering up prayers to God not from her Care Home but from her home in heaven. She prepared herself for that role whilst here on earth. In offering up prayers she is still following in her Saviour’s footsteps and we all of us are benefitting from those prayers, since when we pray, God acts. I have known that to be true during this pandemic more than ever before.
On this All Saints day, I want to say thanks mum for being the saint that you always were, and let us all give thanks to God for those people who have been so influential in our Christian lives.
For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
A prayer of St. Theresa of Avila
Let nothing disturb you
Let nothing upset you
God alone is unchanging
All things are possible
Whoever has God
God alone is enough
Prayers for 1 November 2020
This morning our prayers are based on the letters A B and C.
A is for America
B is for Burkina Faso
C is for Coronavirus
For the United States Presidential Elections which take place this Tuesday 3rd November.
How can it be Lord, that our prayers this morning, here in Southbourne, can make any difference to events happening thousands of miles away?It is because you promise to hear and answer prayer – it is because you are sovereign over all the earth – over every square inch of all of your creation!We pray particularly for Joe Biden and Donald Trump, that whatever the outcome on Tuesday, these powerful leaders would speak and act with your wisdom. That they would stand for what is right and just, that they would be surrounded with godly judges and advisors – for it is God’s righteousness which exalts a nation.
B is for Burkina Faso
Jeremy is in Burkina until the 10th of November.
Our Father, we acknowledge you as Lord of all, not only of the lives of Jeremy and his African colleagues, but Lord of the nation and its government.There is a huge struggle to limit the devastating effects of Islamic terrorism. There is a new President in Burkina to be elected later this month.Please Lord give great wisdom to the people of this fragile nation as they seek to restrain the forces of evil.
May these men of violence have a life changing encounter with the Prince of Peace.
C is for Coronavirus
We pray Lord for accurate scientific advice that will not only be heeded, but will allow for the safe re-opening of the UK economy, not least to minimise the financial impact felt by many families, especially those with young children.Please give wisdom and divine inspiration to medical researchers based in laboratories around the world seeking to develop a reliable vaccine.And for those of us this morning who are being impacted in some way by the prolonged nature of this virus – either through illness, through isolation or anxiety – may we find relief and recovery as we trust in you. It is you alone O Lord who makes us dwell in safety
And so, as we go through this coming week, may we be prompted to turn to you in prayer for:A – America, B – Burkina and C – the Coronavirus.
Category: Prayers , Sermons , Services