All Souls’ Evensong, 2010

All Souls 2014.1 Sermon preached by Mr Clive Jackson. When I was in Italy last week I noticed that places would be called a commune - for example Rome is Roma commune, and Naples similarly Napoli commune. My Italian phrase book tells me that the word is the same as our words county, town or city. My mind went back to an earlier trip we made this time to Israel, the Holy Land. Whilst we were there we visited a commune and were taken round to see the many aspects of its life and have them explained to us. In such a group the people agree to live together and have things in common, living accommodation, goods and the like. They each contribute to the good of the community by using their skills for the benefit and well being of their fellows. We saw, on our visit to the one in Israel, how everyone accepted the need to play their part in the community. To make this work they need to communicate with each other so that everything could move forward for the mutual benefit of all. They could be said to be in communion with each other for their mutual benefit. So the commune in Israel and the towns, cities and counties here and in Italy are communities of people living together, sharing thoughts and making their contribution for the well being of all, in short we live in communion. Just as a town, city or village can be seen as a community of humans living together for their common good and hopefully for their comfort, so the Church can be seen as a community of humans who are united in a common allegiance to Christ. But as both Isaiah and Matthew remind us, those communities are far from perfect and we are tempted to ask “Why?” Isaiah gives a blunt, no nonsense, answer which is no doubt accurate “How the faithful city has become a harlot, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.” So Isaiah goes on telling of the word of God revealed to him. As we heard the message is a harsh one. One is tempted to wonder what message our Heavenly Father would pass on to a twenty first century Isaiah. I would suggest that little has changed and has not changed much through history. The situation was similar when those Magi, three Kings, Wise Men or whatever you may call them, knocked on Herod’s door and said, “We hear a new King has been born can we see him we have a few presents for him! Imagine Herod’s fright to hear of any possible competition to his position. He was a very unstable and took great care to protect himself, indeed he spent time and money building a very safe retreat for himself on an isolated hill at Masada not far from the Dead Sea. Incidentally Qumran is not far away where a shepherd boy discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls, now housed in a special building in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But I digress. We all remember how on hearing of the possibility of a rival to his authority arising he took steps to eliminate the rival by having all the babies of Bethlehem of a certain age killed. But the coming of the Magi, may be from Persia, revealed the plan of God. They brought those three gifts, Gold for a King, Incense for a Priest and Myrrh for the embalming of a sacrificial victim – ultimately that baby they came to visit. He who came and comes to show us the only way forward for humanity – love of God and sacrificial love for our neighbours. We know that he died for us. We remember this every time the Eucharist is celebrated. A death which unites all of us who profess and call ourselves Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Non Conformists – we are all one in Christ Jesus. But so are those whose time on earth is now over and are now at rest in God. In a state where they are offered infinite happiness if they are prepared to take it. We all confess this belief when we say, in the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Communion of saints.” The whole company of the faithful, living and departed. We come here this evening to honour and remember in love those departed souls who we have known. Someone once said ” So even in the darkness and blindness of our present existence, our thought ranges abroad … remembering the whole Church of Christ, as well militant here on earth as triumphant in heaven; invoking angels, archangels and all the spiritual host.” A.M.D.G. Collect for All souls Day. Eternal God, our maker and redeemer, Grant us, with all the faithful departed, The sure benefits of your Son’s saving passion And glorious resurrection That, on the last day, When you gather up all things in Christ, We may with them enjoy the fullness of your promises; Trough Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

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