Category Archives: All Saints Day

In Sympathy with God

Revelation 21.1–6a
John 11.32–44

As for suffering: I believe that there are fewer people than ever who escape major suffering in this life. In fact I’m fairly convinced that the Kingdom of God is for the broken-hearted. — Fred Rogers

We are not theologians because we are particularly religious; we are theologians because in the face of this world we miss God. We are crying out for his righteousness and justice, and are not prepared to come to terms with mass death on earth. 

But for me theology also springs from God’s love for life—the love for life that we experience in the presence of the life-giving Spirit and that enables us to move beyond our resignation and begin to love life here and now. These are also Christ’s two experiences of God, the kingdom of God and the cross, and because of that they are the foundations of Christian theology, as well: God’s delight and God’s pain. It is out of the tension between these two that hope is born for the kingdom in which God is wholly in the world and the world is wholly in God. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God…’ — Stephen Morrison, Jürgen Moltmann in Plain English, Kindle ed’n, loc.323


What is a saint? A man, a Jew called Abraham Heschel once said that a prophet is someone who lives in sympathy with God, with God’s tears and God’s dream for the world in her heart. 

Perhaps we can also say that a saint is someone who lives in sympathy with God.* In particular, a saint is a person who actively hopes in God’s promises, and who cries when God cries.

God does cry at the injustice and madness of the world. Shirley Erena Murray, a wonderful hymn writer from New Zealand, says

God weeps
               at love withheld,
               at strength misused,
               at children’s innocence abused,
and till we change the way we love,
                                                         God weeps.

In each of today’s readings, there are tears. 

In Isaiah: ‘Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.’

In Revelation: ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more….’

In the Gospel: ‘Jesus wept.’ When God becomes a human being, God sheds tears. A person who lives in sympathy with God will cry at what makes God cry. 

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What would make you call someone a saint? (5 November 2017)

1 John 3.1–3
Matthew 5.1–12

I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying. — Nelson Mandela, 1999 speech at the Baker Institute, Rice University, Houston

In the lives of the saints, we see in our own time the qualities that make life possible. — Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year


Last Thursday, 1 November, was All Saints’ Day. So today, we’re hearing the readings for All Saints’ Day. On this day, we celebrate women and men who have been examples of faithful and joy-filled service for us who are still on the pilgrim way.

What would make you call someone a saint?

Now, some of you may remind me that every single Christian is a saint. A saint is someone who is called to be holy. The Apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth — in other words, to the whole congregation. Some of them were living in pretty ethically dodgy ways. But Paul called them saints.

However: today, I’m using the word ‘saint’ in its everyday sense. In an ordinary way. In everyday terms, a saint is someone in whom we see something of the goodness of God. Someone who has some quality of love, or compassion, or faithfulness, or patience that we recognise taps into a very deep well.

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