_Lord God, we meet you in the mystery of life, the sudden silences, intensity of presence that makes us stop, catch our breath, lift up heads high to catch the glory of your moment; and then, bow low, lost in the misery of our meagre selves. So small, so weak, so far from you._
_God you are of a grandeur and glory I long after and shrink from._
_Have mercy! In your glory let your pity and understanding touch each one of us._
On Thursday last in Lamlash school we spoke about remembering special people. Who are the people that are, or were special to you? I’m going to ask you to take a moment now and to close your eyes and think about someone who has made a difference to you. Maybe it’s the person who brought you to Christ, the first person you met when you came to Church. Maybe it’s someone who was your best friend, someone you could always count on or confide in. Maybe it’s someone you don’t actually know personally but whose influence and example you have followed. Or maybe it’s someone you don’t like or who has hurt you badly but who has caused you to change direction for the better. Think of them now in this quiet moment. We’ve just passed All Saints and All Souls, the 31st of October, All Hallows Eve and the 1st of November, All Saints and we don’t really pay much attention to it in the Church of Scotland and I think that’s a shame!
In past times there would have been special services of preparation organised. All Saints Day is just what it says, the day when the Church celebrates all the Saints both known and unknown and all Souls Day, the 2nd of November remembers all the faithful departed. Nowadays it is all rolled into one celebration and it has been hijacked, so it’s up to us to claim it back and remember to celebrate this special festival of remembrance. All Saints day, Thursday last, the first day of November heralds the beginning of the Season of Remembrance in the Church. Remember, remember, not just the 5th of November but all of it, the 1st and the 2nd, the 11th, Remembrance Sunday.
And for us today, this feast, this memorial feast. Is that what it is? A memorial to a dead saviour? It used to have that kind of feel to it, with elders dressed in morning suits and black or white ties, sombre faces and communion served only to those who had passed the test set to them by the elders and minister. Do you know your catechism? Has your life been without stain since the last communion? Who could ever be good enough? Very few in fact in the past. Most of the congregation would simply be there to watch the select few being passed the bread and wine. A memorial to a crucified God, a funeral feast in memory of the broken body and spilt blood of Jesus Christ? No, most emphatically. NO! It is rather a celebratory feast of life, life in all its fullness and the invitation is for all, the good, the not so good, the sinners, all whose hope is in Jesus Christ.
I’ve always loved November. It’s full of celebrations for me and it should be full of celebrations for us all, even if it causes us to shed some tears. Tear for lost loved ones, tears for lost years, tears for those war zones still littering our world, tears falling like poppies do at the Albert Hall.
Jesus knew all about tears and loss as we have just heard in the story about the death of his good friend, Lazarus. Jesus wept because he had not been there for those he cared about. He wept with the bereaved and felt their pain and his own. But the raising of Lazarus is a sign and a symbol of real hope. Whatever it is we have lost in our lives we will have returned to us through the love of Jesus Christ who shares all our tears. We never have to face our difficulties on our own whatever they might be.
So today is a time for celebration. Celebration of all the good things that have happened here in this place. A time to remember all the people who used to inhabit these pews, the people who climbed the steps to the pulpit. The people who have kept the church in good order for years and years. Time to remember Saint Molaise and Saint Columba and Saint Ninian, all those who brought the message of Jesus Christ to our shores. These people were just like us. And some of them were not always saint-like. They did terrible things that had to be atoned for. Saint Columba started a war over a book that killed thousands of innocent people. Coming to Scotland was his penance. There is a wealth of gory stories about these men and women who were followers of Jesus Christ. They were not up there on pedestals, they were fragile creatures just like us.
We are God’s saints in this place and at this time. Our lives are a sacrament, a holy thing, and just like this simple meal we are about to share we too in faith and hope can together change hearts and minds for the better.
###A prayer from the Scottish Liturgy of 1560
_Almighty God, we offer unto you most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful graces and virtues which you have manifested in all your saints and in all other holy persons upon earth, who by their lives and labours have shined forth as lights in the world, whom we remember with honour and commemorate with joy. For these and for all your other servants who have departed this life with the seal of faith, we praise and magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord._