All Saints and All Souls – Keith James
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There once was a young homeless girl who spent a lot of time in the West End of London.
She was friendly but people were too busy or preoccupied to notice
She didn’t want their money actually
– just their attention
One evening crowds gathered – for a big movie premiere
Cameras flashed, people shouted as the star of the show arrived – Pulling up in a limousine… stepping out onto the red carpet in a gorgeous dress that was glimpsed through the folds of a large cloak.
The homeless girl wriggled her way through the crowd
and presented herself in front of the film star.
‘This isn’t fair’ – she said. ‘No one ever notices me.’
‘But when you turn up
‘with all your glamour and glitz
‘and everyone crowds around you.’
‘You’re right – it isn’t fair’ - said the film star
‘Why don’t you come with me in the future ?
‘I will carry you in the folds of my cloak.’
‘I’d like that’ – said the homeless girl
– ‘What’s your name ?’
‘My name’ – said the film star – ‘is the story – what’s yours?’
‘I’m the truth’ said the homeless girl
And from that moment on the truth went around wrapped in the folds of the story.
Isn’t that how it is?
The truth can be hard to hear and receive but everyone loves a good story.
And so, for centuries – writers and teachers have buried the truth in stories in the hope that truth can enter – under our defences – and speak.
Certainly, Jesus believed that was the case.
He told many stories, some of them without any sort of explanation afterwards. He would just tell the tale – and let people work it out.
I don’t know if any of you would say that you teachers or storytellers but there is one story that you and I write which we often fail to read and hear …and that is the story of our lives.
The Russian Orthodox bishop Anthony Bloom used to tell the story of a woman who came to see him - wanting his help.
She was a pillar of her local church – regular in worship
committed and kind in so many ways.
She said that in all her years of praying and worship she had never for a moment felt close to God. Why was this ?
Anthony advised her to go into her living room after breakfast, and sit down, light a candle because this is her prayer time and then have a look around the room.
‘Just sit, look around, and notice what’s around you.
And see what happens – for 30 minutes but I forbid you to say one word of prayer. You just knit, and sit in your room.’
Well of course she didn’t think this was very spiritual advice at all, but she did as she was told.
And as a normally busy person – it was a really odd experience but as she sat and knitted she looked around her room at the ornaments and pictures and photographs
and furniture and gifts that she had acquired over her life.
And as she did so she began to realise how blessed she was
in the many signs and symbols of love and friendship that surrounded her.
And gratitude began to well up within her. She didn’t try to pray. She couldn’t help BUT pray and be thankful for that room - for her life – for the people who had touched her life
and whose life, she had touched.
Gradually she realised that God was speaking to her
through the story of her life which she had only begun to listen to - speaking words of love and beauty and grace.
This day – on All Saints and All Souls we also stop and listen to some stories.
We listen to story of the lives of All Saints - the holy friends of God the merciful – the humble – the peacemakers – the courageous – the just – who tell us that this is what matters most …this what God wants …this what is true and enduring
We also remember All Souls those people whom we love but see no longer.
As we remember again the story of their lives we hear words that God is speaking… of how love – kindness and – compassion has touched and enriched – blessed and cheered us in the past and now invites us to trust that the God who story is told in the lives of these beloved people
can be trusted with the unfolding story of our lives too
now today – tomorrow and always.