‘All Saints’ – 1st November 2020 – All Saints Day

Resources for this morning's service celebrating All Saints Day can be found below:

Click here for the order of service

20 11 01 All Saints order of service

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The Readings

Revelation 7.9-end

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Matthew 5.1-12

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.


Scripture Quotations are taken from: The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Sermon

by Revd. Sue Hammersley

Today we meet, once again, at a time of uncertainty.
It looks very likely that the Church of England will expect churches to close for congregational worship during this month of even greater restrictions.

But we know that our country, our world, is facing an ordeal which is unlike any we have had to deal with before. We have come to realise that drastic measures are needed to prevent the spread of an invisible threat…

We must pray for those who are seeking vaccines and more effective tests, and that their skill is used for the benefit of the whole world and not just those who have money. If we are learning nothing else it’s that this virus is no respecter of boundaries – it affects rich and poor, young and old – but there is a vast difference in the effect it has on those who have compromised immune systems or access to the most excellent health care.

As has been noted before, this virus is not a leveller but a revealer of inequalities.

Today is the feast of All Saints and it is a day when we give thanks for those who have gone before us who have helped to reveal God’s goodness in our world.

Our first reading from Revelation could speak powerfully to us today, if we let it. It is a vision… Crowds of people have gathered together to praise God but one of the elders asks – who are these people? The response is, “You are the one that knows” And the elder replies, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal.”

Sometimes we don’t need to be given the answers, we just need to be given the confidence to trust our own judgement.

Here is a vision of salvation:
The Lamb will be the shepherd and the people will not hunger or thirst or suffer exposure to the sun;
He will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

This is the vision which inspires the saints, the vision of a better world, the vision that God does not want people to suffer but wants to bring them life and sustain them on their journeys.

Today I want to encourage us, rather than thinking about people who have been named as saints, to consider the qualities which might be considered to be saintly, or blessed.

Each of us has the capacity to open our hearts to God and be blessed or close our hearts to God and reject God’s blessing.
God knows this and this is why Jesus constantly taught us about the dynamic of faith. It is not that we love God but that God first loved us. Go and sin no more.

The revelation that God’s love can make a difference in our lives is what gives us the courage to keep looking for God in our midst.

As we live through rising numbers of infections we are bound to feel anxious, the uncertainty ahead is profoundly disturbing, for ourselves and for those we love who are particularly vulnerable.
When we faced the first lockdown in March we became aware of saints all around us: the neighbours who offered to shop for us, the refuse collectors and bus drivers who risked the invisible virus to keep the residents of our city going; NHS workers of all descriptions: cleaners and porters, nurses and doctors, receptionists and administrators. We made a point of clapping on Thursday evenings to let them and all those who were responding to the pandemic, know how full of gratitude we were for them and their sacrifice.

Who are the hidden saints in our lives at this time?
Who reveals God’s goodness in the world we are living in?
Who are the people who embody Christ’s living presence, the people to speak up for those who have been silenced by the pandemic? The ones who work in care homes and nurseries, in schools and health centres across the world trying to ensure that we continue to educate people for the future which is yet to emerge.

Of course it is good to read the stories of the saints, strange and bizarre though many of them are, but the lives of the saints must point us towards the living God, not an abstract idea but a God who knows our name and calls us to life; a God who understands why we close our hearts and turn away – we are afraid – God knows this and gently reminds us that we all have the potential to be sinners and saints, every moment of every day.

Don’t let’s look to the saints and feel inadequate because we can’t possibly reach their lofty heights, let’s look at the saints and be reminded that they struggled with their own imperfections and doubts because they had a vision of a better world, they could see God at work within it and they wanted to be part of that.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is near. Why might the “poor in spirit” be holy? Surely when we feel poor in spirit we feel that we are letting God down, that we have little faith?
One translation of this verse that speaks to me is, blessed are the poor in spirit for they know their need of God.

As we continue to navigate our way through this time of fear and uncertainty, may we not allow our anxieties to get the better of us. May we recognise our need of God. May we remember those things which have helped us so far – our walks or phone calls, the place church plays in our lives in these challenging times and how we have learned a different kind of prayer.

May we draw strength and courage from those who have had a vision for a better world, a fairer world, a simpler world and may we play our part in seeking peace and pursuing it, in hungering and thirsting for righteousness and showing mercy.

"All shall be well and if, today, all is not well, then this is not the end…"  - Thought for the Day, Lucy Winkett (Wed 28/10)


After finishing my sermon I saw a copy of this week’s Tablet.
On the cover is a photograph of a nun. It reminds me of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring but could equally be a portrait by Rembrandt. It is a picture of beauty.
The nun’s face literally radiates peace and joy.

The nun is called Marie-Ange Chamas and she died recently.
One of the reasons this picture is so arresting is that Marie-Ange was a sister who had Down’s Syndrome.
The article about her, written by Erik Varden, asks all the right questions about possible exploitation but concludes that the Order to which she belonged understood the spiritual gifts of people with this condition.

This is best illustrated by the story of one of the other sisters who also had Down’s:
“One of the nuns had to attend a medical appointment. In the waiting room was a woman in distress who had begun to kick and scream, unable to contain whatever anguish possessed her.
All withdrew in dismay, with one exception. The nun with Down’s stood up, approached the panicking patient, and told her, Tu es belle Madame (Madam, how beautiful you are). She established instant peace, unselfconsciously enacting a parable of humanity resplendent in its applicability to all". Erik Varden

The Prayers

United in the company of all the faithful
and looking for the coming of the kingdom,
let us offer our prayers to God,
the source of all life and holiness.

Merciful Lord,
strengthen all Christian people by your Holy Spirit,
that we may live as a royal priesthood and a holy nation
to the praise of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Bless Pete and Sophie our bishops and all ministers of your Church,
that by faithful proclamation of your word
we may be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets
into a holy temple in the Lord.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Empower us by the gift of your holy and life-giving Spirit,
that we may be transformed into the likeness of Christ
from glory to glory.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Give to the world and its peoples
the peace that comes from above,
that they may find Christ’s way of freedom and life.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Hold in your embrace all who witness to your love in the
service of the poor and needy;
all who minister to the sick and dying;
and all who bring light to those in darkness.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Touch and heal all those whose lives are scarred by sin
or disfigured by pain,
that, raised from death to life in Christ,
their sorrow may be turned to eternal joy.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.

Remember in your mercy all those gone before us
who have been well-pleasing to you from eternity;
preserve in your faith your servants on earth,
guide us to your kingdom
and grant us your peace at all times.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Hasten the day when many will come
from east and west, from north and south,
and sit at table in your kingdom.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We give you thanks
for the whole company of your saints in glory,
with whom in fellowship we join our prayers and praises;
by your grace may we, like them, be made perfect in your love.
Blessing and glory and wisdom,
thanksgiving and honour and power,
be to our God for ever and ever.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here,
is copyright © The Archbishops' Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing