Sermon – 31 October 2004 – All Saints' Sunday

On Friday night this week, I was invited to a banquet.

Such things don?t happen every day and I so I want to tell you a bit about it.

I was invited up to Stirling Castle by the Provost of the City, to attend the Civic Award Ceremony. The dinner was held in the magnificent hall ? a more magnificent space would be hard to find. The prizewinners were spread out at all the tables. There was plenty to eat and drink. There was music whilst we ate and the Stirling Gaelic choir sang at the end of the meal. The prizes were awarded ? for academic excellence in providing new food sources for Asia, for sporting achievement, including Brendal Walsh from this village, for local community involvement and for exceptional volunteers, this year including those who operate the Salvation Army soup kitchen.

All these saints went up to collect their awards to loud applause. And the evening came to an end, late, late into the night, as we were led down through the castle by the City of Stirling Pipe Band and out onto the esplanade where the lights of the town and the whole Forth Valley twinkled before us. The saints, if you like, went marching out.

It was like heaven really.

Well, if you think that there are pipe bands in heaven, it was like heaven. I suspect that the world is divided into those who think that there are pipe bands in heaven and those who think otherwise. However, we will not linger on that theological conundrum a moment longer than necessary ? the question for this morning, is why I thought it was like being in heaven at all.
Well, it had all the ingredients that I think that heaven is about. Good will. Good food. Good music. Good people.

And that is not just my view of what heaven is like ? those characteristics of heaven can be found in many of the biblical writers? ideas about what heaven is like.

And as we celebrate the saints through the ages, we celebrate the experience of those who have brought and who bring heaven that bit closer to hand. Those who make peace. Feed the hungry. Lead us in worship. Make Commuion.

These are the saints whom we recognise today and whom we honour. These are the saints, who surround us like a great cloud of witnesses. These are the saints, with whom we join in the great task ? bringing the kingdom in ? making heaven that bit nearer to hand.

Good will. Good food. Good music. Good people.

Good will? Certainly! Heaven is about the commonwealth of God breaking out amongst all of God?s people. And that means that wrongs will be righted and that justice will be done. That means the world being turned upside down. Bringing that bit of heaven about means loving enemies and being good to the people who hate us. That means living as though God?s topsy turvey kingdom is just around the corner.

If God is just around the corner, isn?t it time to put things right. Isn?t it time to build a better world and bring in God?s will for all humanity?

Good food? Certainly! The idea of heaven being like a banquet can be found throughout the bible. And it is related to the idea that heaven will break out when the resources that God has given us are shared out better. When the poor are blessed with food; when the thirsty are given water; when those who are sad are filled with happiness ? these are the signs of the kingdom, according to our gospel reading this morning. These are the signs that heaven is breaking out. Breaking through into our world.

Good Music? Certainly! Whether your taste is pipe bands at midnight on the castle ramparts, Vienna horns on a Sunday morning or things altogether more funky, get used to the idea that heaven means good music.

Again this is a Biblical idea. Music transports us. There is something about music making which takes us out of ourselves and which makes the world an inherently better place. That process is the building of God?s kingdom, don?t be fooled! It is a kingdom that gets sung into being.

Whether the angels and saints sing along to harps on clouds or whether they come masquerading with pipe and drum or horns and voices, the truth is the same – that God?s kingdom comes when God?s people come together and come together singing the songs of freedom.

And heaven is made up of Good People.

And the truth that we celebrate on All Saints day is that we are all part of that great company of praise. The Lord looked on all that had been made and said that it was good. That means that we are all worthy to join in the hymns of heaven and to make music with the consort of voices who sing God?s praise. Heaven is what happens when no-one feels left out, where all are included and all God?s people come together.

Heaven is an event where everyone gets a civic award at the great banquet. For we celebrate here in this place a God who planted goodness inside us all and redeems all that we do ? snatching our goodness and redeeming us from all harm.

And now, here in this place we begin our year of celebration of a small part of God?s great story. Here in St Saviour?s, be begin now and year of celebration and jubilee. 150 years ago a church was built here in this village to proclaim the good news, that God is love.

And the saints have worshipped here every week ever since.

And the saints go on worshipping here every week still.

Caught up in the heavenly banquet. Proclaiming the news that God?s kingdom is here.

Good will. Good food. Good music. Good people.

God?s will. God?s food. God?s music. God?s people.

Here in this place.

Then and now and on, on into the future.

As the saints go marching in.


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