30 October 2011 - Sermon preached by the Revd. Ron Ingermells

All Saints

‘Who are these like stars appearing? Of course, they are 11 men in yellow shirts and green shorts! (Norwich City) I thought I would start with that and it will save you wondering when is the boring bit about Norwich coming!!…’

So, ‘Who are these like stars appearing?’– on this All Saints they are the fireworks of God … some great enormous rockets and bangers – those who have had a massive influence and those who change the world…how great these glorious spirits shine…people of love and compassion. The prophets/ the noble army of martyrs those to whom ordinary people look up to in wonder as their light and glory fills the skies! Some have special days… festivals…at Wednesday Communion we often remember lesser known saints…

Then there are the great multitude whom we remember today – all the saints who from their labours rest. Like sparklers they brought light to those around them /their communities and their church…ordinary, named and unnamed/known and unknown or known to only a few. A vast variety and each one different. If you watched Planet Earth this week you will have heard David Attenborough speak about Snow flakes and crystals. Each one having their own formation, each unique. So the ‘sparkling saints’ are each unique, made in the image of God and reflecting something of the love and compassion of God. We do remember them and give thanks for their quiet influence, their love and compassion.

My life was changed by the kindness and love & compassion of one man when I was 10 years old. He came with his wife and son to live with us and at that time I was unable to speak properly –I could not pronounce my ‘or’s’ which meant I could not say prophets, priests and princes – totally unable to say procrastination!! Within days he taught me how to speak properly… he was a very good cricketer and introduced me to this lovely game… he taught me how to swim… nothing religious but made me feel valued. His compassion shone through. By an amazing coincidence when I went to be curate in the parish of Gipson, Leeds (tough parish with much of the housing occupied by people moved from the slum clearance in the 30’s - he was Head of the Primary School – he was so loving & compassionate to these dirty, smelly kids and their nine or ten brothers and sisters.

On Radio 4 on Monday Dawkins, the arch-atheist and the Chief Rabbi conducted a very good debate, and it was not a great battle but it seemed to me that they had respect for each and therefore did not become a slanging match. Although they come from completely different basis (faith and non-faith) they both seemed to recognise the recognised the importance and value and need for compassion in our society.

I was very sad re Giles Fraser and his resignation from St. Paul’s –he is a passionate and compassionate priest – for a long time I have appreciated his radio 4 ‘Thought for the Day’, his sermons and writings, A resignation because he could not in anyway condone or assent to violence being used against peaceful and many of them intelligent and articulate people, deeply concerned about the world being dominated by financial systems which are not concerned about anything other than making money – money for the few and not the many (Chief Exec. Pay 49% increase this last year)

I have come to think, influenced greatly by Karen Armstrong, surely one on the most impressive of contemporary religious writers - that compassion is the hallmark, the major characteristic of the saints we remember with thanksgiving today. Not convinced that there is such a difference between All Souls and All Saints - - Souls may be the time we remember all who were close to us, my bet is that when we put their name on that long list of those whom we love but see no longer, we would be recalling their love and caring and their compassion.

Karen says that what we believe is nothing like as important as what compassion we give to the world. Recognise that belief does influence how we act – Hitler ‘s belief in the superiority of the Arian race led him to do unimaginable things…but it is better to… practice compassion more than struggle and worry and feel guilty about not managing to believe every part of the Christian faith every aspect of doctrine – relax and enjoy the wonder of the world, the love of friends and neighbours, hear the Blessings of God – blessed are the peacemakers, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart – remember, value and rejoice in the compassion of other people, the saints of God.

I finish with a quote from that most compassionate man of our generation - Desmond Tutu from his book “Made for Goodness”

“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God's family.”


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