Daniel 7: 1-3, 15-18
In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream:[a] 2 I,[b] Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.
As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me,[g] and the visions of my head terrified me. 16 I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17 ‘As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.’
Ephesians 1: 11-end
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,[c] having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this[d] is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[e] towards all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God[f] put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Luke 6: 20-31
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[d] on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 ‘But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 ‘Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Today we celebrate and give thanks for All Saints.
The word “Saint” comes from a Greek word meaning “holy one” and behind that is an ancient, Hebrew word, “qados” – though because Ancient Hebrew includes no vowels, we only really know it as Q-D-S.
There are two ideas behind this ancient word. The first is one of separation – putting something aside as sacred or holy. For as long as religion has existed, ancient peoples have taken a share of their crops, or a special place, and marked it as different and holy. And people sometimes too, who were set apart from day-to-day work.
The second idea is one of encounter, a meeting or experience of God, of being touched by him. We think of Abraham being visited, or Moses going up the mountain, and coming back, having met with God, his face shining.
Today we celebrate two groups of people, of saints, who have been touched by God, who bear the mark of his light. The first are our baptism candidates. What we do today, acknowledges publicly what has already happened, that they have been touched by God. They are near the start of their journey as Saints. And we will do this with water, to purify and set them apart, and then we give them a candle, as a sign of the light that they have received into their hearts.
And then we give thanks for those who have received and carried this light, and have died and gone beyond. We will place candles on the waters of the font. And in doing so I imagine each of those who have died passing over the great Jordan river, the waters of death, carrying within them this light of God’s presence, to a farther shore, where they are greeted by that heavenly cloud of witnesses, the saints through the ages.
Paul talks often in his letters of the Saints, as he does in today’s reading from Ephesians. He describes them as those who have been marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit, which is to say they have been touched by the spirit of God. And for him, receiving this spirit opens the way to eternal life, to share in Jesus’ victory over death.
For Paul also, the Saints are nearly always referred to in the plural – as a group. But this is not to say that when we join their number we become alike, we adopt the look, the mannerisms, the smile, of the saintly – that kind of group imitation has more to do with religious culture!
No, what I have found, when I think of those who have gone before, is that, being touched by the spirit of God, they actually became more individual, more distinctively themselves.
There are many individuals, many saints, who we will remember here today. I want to pick out just one, who died this year, and who most of you will remember, Gerald. I only knew him properly in the last 18 months of his life. But in that short time I felt he was a good, good friend to me. Supportive, interested, with such a lively mind and wit. Many of you will have different memories of him.
I hope you won’t mind my suggesting that Gerald showed us this fullness which comes from being touched by God. He was fully, brightly himself – touched by the spirit of God, he shone in his full colours. And so I dare to imagine him, as he continues on his journey, where or how is a mystery to us, but I imagine him even more brightly coloured with a unique Geraldishness. That, I suggest to you, is his gift and his calling as a Saint – to be fully and uniquely human and at the same time in the heart of God, who is eternal. It is the journey of all those we remember today. And it is our calling also.