Who are the people who have been a blessing to you over the years, the people who have prayed for you and looked out for you and guided you?
Key people for me are:
My godmother, Kathleen Peach – who gave me a book of saints when I was 5 years old, which truly inspired me.
George Gill – who taught me RE A-level at school, a man full of faith.
Joy Grieves – who invited me to the prayer group at the House of Prayer at Burn Hall, and who believed in me.
They are the saints in my life. Yes, I admire and have been inspired by the big saints, but I have also been hugely influenced by the little saints, the everyday saints. They have been a real blessing to me. Today is for remembering all the saints, especially the little ones.
I love the way that the Chapel of All Saints behind the high altar has brass plaques to remember the people who died in the first few years of the life of this church, while the first vicar was here. They are among the saints of this church. And so many more have worshipped here and worked so hard and witnessed to Christ in so many ways ever since then, though we have lost their names.
On Friday, which was All Saints Day, people on Twitter, the social networking site, were naming their saints. Here are some of them – they are not mine – but come from various people on Twitter:
- Trevor who was always pleased to see me and gave the best hugs
- Betty who has prayed for me every single of my life
- my Great Aunt Con who was racked with pain but full of Grace
- Nat who hardly knew me but listened to me when I was full of despair
And I am telling you about them because it might remind you of your own saints and the ways that people have ministered to you.
And that’s why you were given the star tags with your hymnbooks today. You can write down the names of your saints on the back and clip them to the tree in front of the altar. If you have room, write down why they were special to you. There are plenty of star tags, so that you can have one for each person you are remembering.
[Let people write their tags and hang them up. Maybe read some out]
It is good to remember those who have been a blessing to us. And we give thanks to God for all of them and all that they meant to us.
I want to ask you now how you can be a blessing to others. How are you going to be a saint to the people around you, to the people you come across?
Back on Twitter, Bishop Mark was reminding people what Thomas Merton said, that “For me to be a saint means to be myself.” He went on to tweet another quotation: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one…God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let Him do it.”
So there is something in there about being yourself, the self that God made you to be. The trouble is, we put a lot of barriers in the way between us and God, and a lot of rubbish creeps in, and what the world ends up seeing of us is a rather distorted picture of who we are. So we need to come clean about the mess we have made of the beautiful person that God created. And then turn to God and let him sort things out.
But we don’t have to wait for all that to happen to be a blessing to others. We start by wanting to be a blessing – not just to the people we care about, but also to the people who irritate and annoy us, the people we don’t like very much. This week, I found a brilliant way of doing this, and I want you try it.
Try saying this silently to everyone and everything you see for thirty days and see what happens to your own soul: “I wish you happiness now and whatever will bring happiness to you in the future.” If we said it to the sky, we would have to stop polluting; if we said it when we see the ponds and lakes and streams, we would have to stop using them as garbage dumps and sewers; if we said it to small children we would have to stop abusing them, even in the name of training; if we said it to people, we soul have to stop stoking the fires of enmity around us. Beauty and human warmth would take root in us like a clear, hot June day. We would change.
Joan Chittister, In a High Spiritual Season
To help you, I have a copy for each of you to take with you. Do try it. It will make a difference. It becomes a prayer for each person you encounter. I tried it the other day, and it did make me feel differently about the people I saw. The trick now is to keep on doing it.
On Thursday when I was trying out that prayer, I went to the hairdresser as I badly needed a haircut. I prayed silently for her happiness, and we got talking. It turned out that she is a Christian and she told me how she often listens to her customers in their troubles and ends up praying for them. That woman is a real blessing, doing her ordinary job, and being a saint.