Summary: A look at our understanding of what the Feast of All Saints is about and how it can inspire us in our Christian walk. (Based on a sermon I wrote many years ago)

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When our culture transforms a "holy day" into a "secular holiday," it almost always manages to focus on the wrong side of the equation.

Let me explain what I mean.

The number of shopping days left till Christmas is NOT as important as the 12 day period between the Christmas day miracle and the season of Epiphany.

A huge party, Mardi Gras, on "Fat Tuesday" is NOT as important as the forty days of Lent that follow.

Eating all your Easter Eggs before breakfast on Easter morning is NOT as important as rejoicing over living a resurrection faith on Easter afternoon.

Tonight, many around the world threw themselves a spooky, kooky "Halloween party“ and while the majority of the world would disagree with me, this is NOT as important as is the two Holy Days that we began to celebrate yesterday and will conclude on Tuesday — The Feast of All Saints, and The Feast of All Soul's.

But as we come together this morning, do we understand what the Holy Feast of All Saints is about?

The origin of All Saints dates back to 609 or 610 when Pope Boniface consecrated the pantheon in Rome to the Blessed virgin and all martyrs, the feast which accompanied this dedication has been celebrated ever since.

But it was in the eighth century that All Saints was moved to this date by Pope Gregory III, when he dedicated an oratory in St. Peter's, for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect, who are at rest throughout the world".

This is all interesting information, but what does the Feast itself actually mean to us?

All Saints is the day when we remember and pay tribute to those countless men and women who have been recognised by the church through their actions, and their steadfastness to the faith.

But this itself can cause us a problem, because when we think of the saints, all sorts of images are conjured in the mind.

When I was younger I thought of the saints as spiritual giants who were perfect in every way and had always been very good and pure people.

A number of years ago Mikki and I had the opportunity to visit Assisi, and to visit the Basilica of St Francis, to spend time reading about one of the saints who has inspired me, but as I read about him well I was shocked.

In his younger days he was a rich idle brat, who enjoyed war and its spoils! But after being captured, imprisoned, and disgraced, God took hold of his life, and he repented of his ways and became a humble, Christ centred man who was a gentle example of the faith.

St Francis had a care for churches in dis-repair, and for the poor, and was told by God to ‘go and repair my church, which you see is falling down.’ Later St Francis established the order we now call the Franciscans, who are still active in the world today.

Isn’t it interesting how rose coloured spectacles can blur the truth in front of us, and through the haze we miss the point!

St Francis has and continues to be an inspiration to countless people throughout the centuries, but his beginnings wouldn’t have inspired anyone!

A saint is a woman or man who is used by God, they reflect His work in the world, and the love that he has for each one of us.

I would imagine that none of us here would ever consider ourselves to have a saintly potential, but maybe we need to move away from thinking in those restrictive terms, and instead ask ourselves the question, are we open enough to God to be saints ourselves?

It’s an intriguing question!

Sainthood isn’t about sinlessness; only Christ would fit into that category! It’s wholly about our openness to God. St Francis wasn’t perfect; he wasn’t even very good to begin with, he was a human being, flesh and blood, and subject to temptation, just like we are. A man who became open to God and though this experienced the grace of God in and upon his life.

He is just one example of why we celebrate the feast of All Saints, because through the millennia there have been, and continue to be men and women who are open to God and through that openness have touched the lives of countless others.

We give thanks for the way they enrich our lives, through their actions, and the instruction that they received through Holy Scripture.

Our Gospel reading this morning is a good example of this, it is counter-cultural, and it turns the ‘me-first’ attitude of the present age on its head.

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