theunfamiliarname

Homily for All Saints 2010

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2010 at 8:31 pm

“Blessed are the cheesemakers…”
… Famously overheard words
from the Monty Python film, “Life of Brian”.

But I want to suggest to you this morning
that there is something redemptive about that slip-up,
besides the fact that we might for second take ourselves a little less seriously.

Cheesemakers have every claim to sainthood
that those long-dead heroes of Christian mythology do.
We need to reclaim the image of saintliness
and sainthood from the pages of history
and the hagiographics of stained glass.

You may have followed with interest
the canonisation of Mary Mackillop,
now known as St Mary of the Cross.
A Saint for Australasia.
A very fitting celebration of a saintly life
lived in the service of God and of the underprivileged.

But kind of hard to live up to,
before we’ve even got
to the need for supporting miracles and all.

We, like any community, need our heroes,
our stories, our ikons.
But we need to recapture the vision
of the very first Christians
who called each other “saints”.
We need, I think,
to rescue saintliness from sanctimoniousness.

Saints, all of them, are and were real people
living real lives in the real,
confused and compromised ages they inhabited.
They weren’t perfect.
Some were probably holier-than-thou at times.
Some were difficult.  Some were inconsistent.

All of them were real, flesh and blood Believers.
Ordinary people,
realising that they – and we –
have it in us to be extraordinary …and godly.

And how many of them,
those big names of sainthood,
would have begun the journey at all
if they knew what people would say about them
in hundreds of years time?
Luckily, they just got on with the business
of making sense of who they were in the world as it was,
and of discovering and revealing God in all of that.
And so, what of us?
What will future generations say of us?
I want you to imagine a church.  A church in a country
persecuted and repressed for seventy years.
There were clergy and monks, yes,
but the Russian church was kept alive
through almost three generations
by the staunch and subtle, subversive even, witness
of grandmothers and ordinary, unspectacular people,
cheesemakers, I’m guessing, among them.

We as a church are not so much persecuted
as ignored to death.  A more insulting, ignominious fate.
But I assure you, this church
– this building and the real Church, the community –
will be here long after you and I are gone.
How will the Church of tomorrow look at us?
Not many of us, I suspect, will have been beatified.
Maybe we won’t recognise the Church of that age.
Probably, we won’t recognise the Church of that age.
Maybe there will still be cheesemakers, maybe not.
But the faith we hold will be passed on.  By us.
For we … are … all … saints.

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